scorecardresearch
Download the latest issue of Business Today Magazine just for Rs.49
How Edtech Ventures are Introducing Teens to Management Concepts

How Edtech Ventures are Introducing Teens to Management Concepts

Edtech ventures are initiating teenage students into the 101 of management while arming them with necessary skills and experience to solve real business problems.

Representative image Representative image

Delhi’s Ishita Arora is only 16, but she has already secured a scholarship worth $10,000 from a business school in New Zealand. Gurugram’s Ahaan Chopra is gearing up to present his business idea—to sell fashionable and swanky shoelaces and lace clips— in the first season of Shark Tank India. He is 13. Anish Garg is also 13, but that didn’t stop him from taking his family’s pet adoption business in Bengaluru online during the pandemic.

Prodigies, you say? Hardly. These teenagers are normal kids like any other. They play and hang around with friends—with social distancing—and talk about games and movies, among other things. But there’s a twist. All three, and thousands of other teenagers like them, have been exposed to real-life first-hand experiences in dealing with a business problem and working as a team to find a solution. How? Through the emergence of a strong and buoyant education technology—or edtech—sector in India.

While edtech includes start-ups that offer a wide range of courses, the ones that offer school students a platform to acquire management, networking and communication skills to embark on an entrepreneurial journey or prepare themselves for B-schools are seeing huge traction. And this traction is being propelled by the aspirations of students like Ishita, Ahaan and Anish and their ambitious parents.

Data from Tracxn, a start-up data analytics company, shows that Indian edtech firms have raised $5.77 billion in funding in 2021 so far, of which $99 million was raised by K12 education specialists. The overall number was $10.14 billion in 2020. As for market size, German analytics firm Statista estimates the online education market in India will be around $2 billion by the end of this year, significantly up from $250 million in 2016. By 2025, the size of the overall segment would surge to $10.4 billion, says Statista.

READYING THEM YOUNG

Clever Harvey, a Mumbai-based startup, offers three modules aimed at students in the age group of 13-18. The modules—Junior MBA each in strategy, technology and marketing—run for three weeks or 25 hours and each batch has 10 students. Each student gets to work on projects with reputed companies such as Puma and Samsonite, among others, that give them real business problems to solve. For instance, Puma asked one of the batches to create a social media campaign that resonates with youth. Similarly, Samsonite wanted the teenagers to develop a strategy to increase sales of backpacks among school-going kids.

“Nearly 70 per cent of our country is graduating in arts and commerce. When these students join a company for the first time, they have no idea about what they have to do as there is very little real-life knowledge given to them,” says Madhu Agrawal, Cofounder of Clever Harvey. “We are giving teenagers a sneak peek inside different career options so that they are able to first-hand understand and decide if that is the right field for them.”

The edtech firm is planning to start eight new modules in the coming months as parents and students have been demanding courses in new-age fields like advertising, product management and UI/UX, among others. It will also tie up with eight new companies to offer students a real-world experience. “Collaboration is a very important skill to learn. Teenagers get to understand what really happens in a certain field while getting a chance to build a portfolio of real-life projects for their CV. If a 14-year-old directly approaches a company for a project, he or she won’t get it. We are bridging that gap,” says Agrawal.

Mumbai is also home to Expertrons, which boasts a bank of around 5,000 domain experts from reputed companies and colleges who guide aspirants looking to secure a seat in a top B-school or a big break or a career switch. While these experts help aspirants prepare for B-school interviews, the platform also has a large chunk of users that leverages the experts’ knowledge and insights to better prepare themselves for that big break or switch. “We like to call ourselves the Netflix of careers,” says Jatin Solanki, Co-founder, Expertrons. “We have over 300,000 aspirants on our platform and around 5,000 experts that have provided 100,000 minutes of video content. We have 2,000 partner companies that have listed their openings on our platform.”

The experts who are present on the platform to guide and mentor the aspirants come from some of the most reputed firms such as McKinsey, Google, Amazon, Bain & Company, Microsoft and BCG, among others. “The importance of such industry engagements can be gauged from the fact that we added 100,000 aspirants in just four months to touch the 300,000-mark. It took us 10 months to get the first set of 100,000 aspirants while the next set of 100,000 came in six months,” says Solanki, an alumnus of IIT Bombay. The quality of faculty and mentors plays a key role, especially since online platforms have no limit in terms of reach and are especially beneficial to those in the hinterland, he adds.

INCULCATING COMMUNICATION SKILLS

The husband-wife duo of Aarti and Ishaan Gupta started Qin1 in early 2019 while targeting students in the age group of four to 14. What started as an edtech venture focussing on various course modules soon turned into one specialising in improving communication skills especially of students from non-metro places. While Qin1 has around 6,000 students now, its monthly growth is pegged at 20 per cent and more than 100,000 students have cumulatively engaged with the start-up ever since it was founded.

More importantly, around 60 per cent of the students are from Tier II-III towns where access to good faculty for English communication skills or personality development is limited. “If people speak to two toppers and one speaks in English and the other in Hindi, then they start judging the one who can’t speak English. The language [English] has become very important,” says Aarti Gupta. “Success in the real world is dependent on a mix of things including effective communication and personality skills. Unfortunately, most students from Tier II-III cities do not have access to these skills.”

Incidentally, the expectations of parents and students from the nonmetros are also quite different, says Aarti. Spoken English skills play an important role as they are not typically looking to prepare for an IIT or an IIM but are happy to start a small business or maybe just get a job by showcasing their English-speaking skills, she adds.

In the case of Clever Harvey, too, around 40 per cent of its students are from Tier II-III towns even as the number of students has been practically doubling every quarter.

THE BIG EDTECH BOOM

Education technology as a sector has been booming in the past couple of years both in India and globally. While the number of new ventures being launched has dipped in the current calendar year, the quantum of funding has gone up, which clearly reflects the heightened interest in the segment.

Data from Tracxn shows that in the past four years since 2018, more than 4,800 K12 edtech start-ups were launched globally, of which 1,782 were from India. Further, while India saw the launch of 155 K12 edtech ventures in 2021 (till October 13), over 800 such start-ups were launched in 2020.

Interestingly, if one looks at edtech ventures that help students with preparation for competitive exams like CAT and JEE as a separate segment, these firms raised $5 billion between last year and the current calendar year. “Edtech has witnessed a boom in funding largely because of the disruption that the pandemic has brought,” says Gaurav Singhvi, an angel investor and Co-founder of We Founder Circle. “The emergence of edtech has made quality education and learning accessible for all irrespective of their language, location or age. Thus, the scale at which this sector can grow looks very promising to investors.”

The boom is being reflected in the earnings of these ventures as well. Expertrons, for instance, has seen its revenues grow 57 times in the past 12 months. The company became operationally profitable this January.

The past few months have seen some of India’s large edtech unicorns announcing acquisitions at regular intervals. This has boosted the confidence of both the start-ups and their investors. The belief that there are a lot of inefficiencies in our traditional teaching methods in terms of curriculum and reach has attracted newer ventures and investors to the segment. “The sector is seeing much faster adoption of technology-powered learning and, at the same time, it has witnessed consumer stickiness with very promising revenue streams. We have five unicorns just from the edtech sector and are expecting the number to double in the coming year,” says Singhvi.

There are enough data points to show that edtech ventures have barely scratched the surface as yet, and there is huge business potential. One hopes that would have a beneficial impact on students and on the quality of Indian education as a whole.

@ashishrukhaiyar