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Indian ed-tech may rake in $2 billion next year with a lot of help from entrance exams

Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

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India’s ed-tech sector is poised to touch $2 billion in revenues by 2021, and more than half of that will come courtesy school and college students.

Together, K-12 (kindergarten to class 12) education and test prep, for competitive exams, will rake in $1.3 billion next year, according to research by DataLabs by Inc42. In keeping with this trend, the most remarkable ed-tech startup born out of India is BYJU’s—a company offering online lessons to students in classes 4-12.

The nine-year-old startup stood as the “top-funded ed-tech startup in India for five years straight” between 2015 and 2019, DataLabs found. In 2018, BYJU’s became the world’s most valued ed-tech company. After its most recent funding round in January 2020, when New York-based Tiger Global pumped in $200 million, the Bengaluru-based firm’s valuation surpassed $8 billion.

Starting small

Between 2014 and 2019, 4,450 ed-tech startups launched in India. Although a quarter of them have shut shop since, plenty of stars have emerged, too.

After K-12, test prep platforms were the second-largest category, with the likes of Unacademy, Toppr, and Simplilearn, preparing students for college admissions exams like the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) and Uttar Pradesh State Entrance Examination (UPSEE) for engineering, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for medical courses, and the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) for American universities.

Beyond schools and entrance tests, India also offers opportunities for reskilling, skill development and upskilling since the country’s working-age population comprises 67% of the total of 1.3 billion people.

“More than half of India’s workers will require reskilling to meet the talent demands of industrial revolution 4.0 by 2022,” DataLabs noted. “The emerging skill requirements are primarily focused on areas such as technology-led design and programming, complex problem solving, reasoning, ideation, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and analysis.” Firms like Udacity are plugging this skills gap.

Even the government has recognised the potential of online education. In the budget for financial year 2021, presented on Feb. 1, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the top 100 institutions in India are allowed to offer degree-level, full-fledged online courses.

“We believe an initiative like this can play a disruptive role in making quality higher education accessible across the nooks and corners of this country,” Mohan Lakhamraju, founder and CEO, ed-tech firm Great Learning, said.

Appearing online

Flexibility, convenience, and low costs, courtesy of the rampant use of smartphones and the internet, continue to play a big hand in helping online education gain traction. Especially with the share of video consumption by India’s internet users slated to rise to 77% in 2022, up from 58% five years ago, DataLabs said.

Aside from more established mediums like YouTube and Facebook, companies such as Gradeup, Vedantu, Toppr, and Vidyaguru have even partnered with Chinese short-form, video-content platform TikTok to penetrate smaller cities.

The #Edutok programme, an initiative to democratise learning for India’s digital community started by the Bytedance-owned company in October 2019, has so far garnered over 56 billion views.