Challenges and roadblocks facing EdTech startups
Sarvesh talked of the struggles of the 1st month of lockdown for the majority of EdTech startups. ‘No physical movement' was an unprecedented challenge, but things stabilized by June. Since then, it has been about what new ideas they can come up with to tackle the explosion of usage – both in terms of number of users and per-user engagement.
Another challenge Sarvesh talked about was that of instructional language(s). With 80-85% users learning in vernacular, every solution needs to be multilingual. Their portfolio company Doubtnut has a large part of its search in vernacular. The focus, he says, is on starting learning with English and gradually covering vernacular content.
Another challenging aspect for every EdTech company is earning the trust of users to convince them to pay. Sarvesh suggested making users understand products by giving them 7-14 days trials or by making products affordable. Achieving affordability by offering bite-sized content, and subscription-based content opens the market (and the product) to a large number of users.
Dhawal said that their career boot camp – Career Camp – took a hard hit due to the decline in both supply and demand sides across the job market. They had to halt their scaling. Also, their newer product, Ninjas Jr., being late to the K12 market meant they had to deal with harsh competition. By the time they launched their product, user-acquisitions costs in India had tripled. Dhawal is still certain about the scalability and profitability in the current scenario, but warns that managing the large number of teachers will be tough.
Sunil emphasized the twin problem of monetization and retention. He reiterated the doubt whether the money will follow the user and usage trends and how much of it can be converted. Since users are already aboard platforms, retention is a problem due to the sheer variety that users have. Why a customer stays on any platform is going to be the defining trait of a company. Creativity of the entire EdTech segment will be put to the test. Personalization of learning outcomes and learning processes will get pushed harder, and that is going to convert. Adapting to the ongoing and oncoming changes, especially considering the National Education Policy, is imperative. A monumental task given India’s lead in the growing EdTech user base, but Sunil holds a positive outlook on India emerging as a leader.
View on National Education Policy’s Impact on EdTech
Zishaan says that the NEP will have no immediate impact except the adaptation to the structural changes. The rate of change in firms is higher than what the NEP mandates. It's mostly problematic for schools to adapt to the change than it is for organizations. Why? Because change is intrinsic to tech companies according to Zishaan. It’s something they chase after.
Sarvesh talks of NEP’s focus on life skills and early learning. It opens opportunities for EdTech companies to make solutions around new, more valuable parameters. While some see hurdles in the NEP, Sarvesh sees innovation opportunities for EdTech companies.