Many of you would be surprised by above title since many Ed-tech’s are closer to becoming unicorn now with Byzu’s, Unacademy, Upgrad & Eruditus already on the list. Then why we need to ponder over above question. I will not go much more into details about ed-tech industry in India since there are many open reports by leading consulting firms (Refer to sources).
Let’s analyze why students or early professionals from Tier 3, Tier 4, villages and urban poor are still not ready and unable to study online courses.
Lack of Study space/infrastructure at home-
In urban India most of the lower middle or lower income families lives in 2 or 1 bedroom houses (average). There is no dedicated space where you can just open your laptop or smartphone and start watching videos. Studying from videos requires much more concentration then physical education and it’s not same as watching random you tube videos or reels.
Also those who have studied long hours would know right comfortable position is very important to complete a lesson. In most of the homes we found lack of correct table/chair for right posture. Many of you would say- Are you nuts? but go and talk to psychologist or even normal doctor and they would say in long run these small things play very important role. Thatswhy if we closely analyse data of ed-tech’s (off-course hidden purposefully, ask your analyst friends to leak) majority of the courses are left in middle. With short attention spans, lack of dedicated space and basic infra, users are not able to complete courses.
No Peer/Support groups
Studying anything alone is very hard and lot of dedication is needed to learn something, specially when you have been trained in such a way from childhood. If someone studies student(school or graduation) lives in Bharat, mostly studies are done in groups with friends. Peer group pursues any course in college or even coaching institutes together. This factor is missing in ed-tech where user has to himself complete course all by himself.
No Extrinsic Motivation
In ed-tech courses since nobody is monitoring or evaluating you like in regular classroom, so their is no extrinsic motivation to complete or take up courses. In India because of our colonial education system and evaluation methods, students are trained subconsciously to study for showcasing results or not getting humiliated infront of fellow batchmates or even relatives. Also for early professionals, everybody is aware of poor assignment standards even in top institutes of country like IITs. It’s not like foreign institutes where if you do not complete assignment seriously, it’s a straight D or F. So entire extrinsic motivation is missing which play very important role for Indian user mindsets.
Cost of courses
For school level courses, cost is pretty high as per Indian standards. Regular Byzu’s course for class-level is around Rs 15-20k. It may even get as high as 50k if study material and tablet is included in course cost. Bharat where average incomes are low, households cannot afford this. Disposable incomes are quite low and ed-tech course is still elite concept for atleast school level education. Professional courses uptake is also quite low as many open source options are available.
No placements/Job guarantees
Whatever ed-tech’s may advertise but if you are aware of Indian job market, certification really doesn’t matter. It’s mostly brand names and references which gets you a job. Reasons are many like traditional companies still require you to have a college degree, HR’s or line-managers still don’t understand education of ed-tech’s etc.
And seriously, I want to meet a person who got promotion because of certification. Most a course can do is help you execute your job better or when your company or department is moving into new domain. For example Digital marketing course will help existing marketing teams in developing better strategies or accounting course when any new software comes. In very few cases it can help you in transitioning to a new career like coding for commerce student or bank employee to fintech etc.
Lack of live projects
India is still un-organised market with limited number of white collar jobs. Somebody can easily imagine if even jobs are not there than how can live projects come. So even after course is complete users are not able to apply their knowledge. It further deters them to undertake second online course or complete it. This is specially true for Bharat where there are no MNC’s or even startups who can offer jobs.
Poor culture at home
In low income families, evening atmosphere is not very promoting for students because of rise in alcoholism, rich-poor divides, family fights, work etc. People who have worked in slums, small towns or even if had personal discussion with their domestic worker would understand what I am saying. Others you truly belong to privileged section of society but just read some reports by Oxfam, UNDP or World Bank, you would know where traditional fabric of society or family values are heading in India.
Solutions which can help Ed-techs to capture Bharat-
Creating Physical spaces- Believe me, if some physical space or micro-library is opened in communities and tier 3, 4 cities it will lead to substantial increase in sales, more than atleast millions of rupees spent in stupid advertisements. Students would have some space to study online course and discuss about it with others.
For early professionals dedicated physical space can further bring in business in terms of cafe or food etc.
Micro-financing options- To fund advance courses, micro-financing options should be made available to students. I find this missing in almost all ed-tech companies. India finance stack is great success story and could be easily leveraged to vail services. Also students in Bharat are used to paying tuition fees every month and not at a single time.
Robust evaluation methods- They should provide intrinsic motivation to complete course. Gamification can play very important role here.
Partnerships with HR-tech’s- This can provide employment opportunities to students and early professionals
Peer courses- Course can be designed in such a way that friends together can complete course with group assignments and submissions.
Edtech startups have allowed more and more people to explore new skills, while experienced staff can more easily take on new challenges in the tech industry. If we were to speak to our parent’s generation that was working in India before the 1990s, we could hear stories that would have been almost impossible. But now there is unique opportunity for Edtech startups that can help all sections of society irrespective of geographical location, race, gender to progress together.