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COVID 19 Impact on Edtech

30 March 2020

The edtech learning platforms can help students access quality education remotely during times like these, amidst lockdown, bandh and pandemics. March-April is the exam season across India and schools shutting down during these crucial months can highly impact students’ academic growth. During these stressful time, a wide-scale move to online learning will be a financial boon across the entire education industry. But one main thing that remains to be answered is the current short term demand for online mode of learning and education, which should be further converted to long term goals for schools, colleges and academics institutions. So as dated back on November 8, 2016, digital payments companies became mainstream in India overnight after the government suddenly decided to demonetise two high-value currency notes. Similarly, now the education technology (edtech) firms are also hoping for an encore in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The edtech market that is currently ₹3,900 crores ($557 Million) could be several times larger in a relatively short period of time, especially considering the majority of the population has yet to come online and the school-going population itself being over 250 million. The OECD estimates that over 421 million children are now being affected due to school closures in 39 countries. And as schools and colleges are forced to shut down, most institutions have made the shift to online learning. The problem is, online educational initiatives haven’t yet seen wide-scale adoption. So a push is required for edtech to get it further into the mainstream and henceforth the present scenario gives the industry the perfect forum to deliver the goods to the customers. China for example similarly after the outbreak of SARS took steps to boost distance education leading to innovative, transformational uses of online tools. The students in Hong Kong also have started learning at home via interactive apps. In China, 120 million children now have access to learning material through live television broadcasts.

Students certainly can benefit from the EdTech boom too, which is bound to happen in the middle of the crisis. Aside from gaining obvious perks, like not having to commute, being able to study at their own pace, and utilizing a quieter working environment, they can gain extremely useful skills, such as IT, adaptability, and a greater sense of working within a digital space. According to The Future of India’s $2 Bn Edtech Opportunity Report 2020 by DataLabs by Inc42, the first wave of technology adoption in the education sector started off 20-25 years back with the introduction of smart boards and ERP software. Currently, the Indian education system is going through the third wave with the artificial intelligence (AI), deeptech and gamification coming into play. Today, edtech is not about teaching from one textbook, but about making students learn better and grasp concepts through personalised lessons. Several startups like Byjus, Vedantu, Unacademy, Toppr, Educational Initiatives, UpGrad and Lido Learning have decided to offer free online courses for the time being during the present period of crisis. Coronavirus has been a bonanza for online education companies. With hundreds of millions of students prevented from attending school, a voracious appetite for online lessons is swelling digital enrolments, boosting share prices and increasing the capital available to “edtech” start-ups. For example, there is an increase in number of people downloading the edtech apps by 88% since the lockdown in India. All these events and build-ups would certainly provide the impetus for the industry to grow in the future.

Author Prateek Bebortha
© SAATRA Capital Advisory LLP

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