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The Next Edtech Unicorn in India is Here. How?

The Next Edtech Unicorn in India is Here. How?

Hear me, brethren, if you are thinking about disrupting the Indian education market with your revolutionary Edtech start-up idea! Are you aspiring to be the next Edtech Unicorn?

Let me tell you, the time is ripe, the time is right, the time is now, and the now is you! A great problem, a great idea first thing first, every great idea, every great start-up needs a problem to solve, right? Education is irreplaceable, no matter whatever happens that’s a fact and it’s not going to change ever.

But the conundrum here for us to solve is to make the existing educational model extraordinary. We all can agree schools and colleges play a significant role in imparting knowledge to society at large but the skills that are taught aren’t always equally useful or relevant. In our fast-changing world, students need to upgrade their skills frequently to keep them on the radar otherwise getting a degree isn’t going to help them much. This is the problem; this is the pain of millions of Indian students and parents.

The Times Are Changing…Fast

All the leading Edtech companies of India are transforming the scene of education in the country by providing the best possible solution. They are redefining the process of learning by delivering best-in-class educational services. Technology-driven learning apps are using gaming elements such as point-scoring, interaction with others, personalization, and data-driven insights to enhance the learning process for students. This contributes towards a glorious future for Indian students and youth.

Edtech start-ups are evolving as the prominent business industry in India. The recent patterns in India’s Edtech industry, whose rapid growth has been further propelled by Covid-19 disruptions. India has a total of 5 Edtech unicorns, out of which three emerged in 2021. The future of the Indian Edtech industry’s valuation is assessed at US$30 billion, backed by rapid digitizing markets as well as the pandemic uncertainties. In the education sector, India permits 100 percent FDI under the automatic route of approval.

Market Research - No Lies Detected!

According to Statista estimates, the present market valuation of the Indian Edtech industry is US$2.8 billion and is expected to reach US$10.4 billion by 2025. There are around 9,043 EdTech Start-ups in India now. This pattern is additionally expanded by factors like India’s rapidly growing internet economy, which recorded a total count of 743.19 million internet subscribers (as of March 2020). In India, there were approximately 700 million smartphone users in 2020.

EdTech firms like Vedantu and Byju’s, Toppr, and Unacademy have seen a substantial rise in traffic share during the pandemic-caused lockdowns. According to a joint report by BARC India and Nielsen, since the lockdown, there was a 30 percent growth in the screen time on education applications on smartphones.

Further, it was accounted for that BYJU's added more than 33 million new users to its platform to reach a 75 million user base, while the user base of Unacademy significantly increased to 40 million users by January 2021. Toppr recorded a 100% user increase in the paid services segment.

The Dark Side of the Moon

All this looks good, right? But there have been reports on some Edtech companies’ tie-up with schools and forcing their courses on students as if projecting them as mandatory. What if a poor or middle-class family couldn’t afford these highly expensive courses when they’re struggling to pay even the fees during these hard times. Just imagine how hard it will be for a parent to say to his kid that they can’t afford it. Just imagine how painful it would be for that child when he feels left alone in his own class. Are these expensive online classes becoming a status symbol too? 

In 1951, the first IIT was established by India's first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru with a vision to contribute to India and the world through excellence in technical and scientific education and research; to serve as a remarkable resource for industry and society and remain a beacon of pride for all Indians.

Obviously, the great man had a dream, a big dream for all the Indians to get the highest standard of education possible. This momentous event came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Indians, joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But the question here is, have we achieved what we hoped for? Why the number of IITs and IIM along with countless other prestigious institutions have grown but not the count of our noble laureates? Not the count of disrupting inventions? What happened to all the great Indian minds? Let us explore.

Steps and Missteps

Seven decades later, in India education still is not free. Can you believe that? Seventy years later, the dream of a disadvantaged Indian student is still sadly crippled. Seventy years later, the poor student with a dream of becoming a doctor, to serve his fellow Indians still struggles to find a coaching class that he could afford to pass an entrance examination. Is this the freedom we fought for? Are we free? What happened to the big dream? 

Yes, our public schools offer free education, that’s magnanimous! yet I don’t understand why parents, not only the rich even the working-class families are flocking to private institutions, standing in long queues, ready to pay lakhs in fees taking loans, still, find it extremely difficult to get an admission. This baffles me! Why people are turning back from free education to burn their pockets. Why would anyone say no to something free! Ever wondered? What happened to the promise – of ‘Quality Education for All’?

My head’s spinning around just to think about all this, but still, I refuse to believe this dishonourable state of our educational system. I refuse to believe this because our government has allotted around 1 lakh crore for the education budget for 2022 which saw a rise of Rs 11,054 crore from the previous year. Now, that’s a huge chunk of money if you think about it! All this looks aspiring, ambitious, and audacious, but what went wrong?

Guns, Germs, and Steal

The crime rate (crime incidence per 100,000 population) in India increased from 383.5 in 2018 and 385.5 in 2019 to 383.8 in 2020 according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The whirlwinds of anti-social forces will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of educational enlightenment.

Hear me, there will be neither rest nor tranquillity in India until every student is granted to pursue the education of their choice not of anyone else so that they can evolve to become better human beings. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s monthly time series data revealed that the overall unemployment rate in India was 7.6 percent in March 2022. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient jobs in the great vaults of opportunity of our nation.

All this looks disappointing and scary, right? But let us not wallow in the valley of despair. My friends, I say to you today, that there is hope! But don’t look up or around, look inside in the deepest realms of your conscience, speak with your past, speak to the student in you, and now speak from your heart!

The Real Unicorn!

To all the young and aspiring entrepreneurs out there, I want to make something clear. I’m not against your desire to be the next big thing or a unicorn in the business world. Let me tell you I’d be the first person to cheer for you. But let us not use education as the means to our ends. We are here only because of the education we were fortunate enough to have had.

Now that’s what we must give back, don’t you think? The greatest education is possible for everyone. This should be our purpose and promise if we are going to rule Edtech. Our highest achievement is not to become a unicorn, but to create unicorns like Albert Einstein, Abdul Kalam, Steve Jobs, etc., If our Edtech can create great minds who could change the course of human history, what’s more, wonderful than that?  You can do this, your Edtech start-up can do this. It’s real, it’s possible.

Now is the time to make all the promises of our democracy, real. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of equality in the Indian Education system. 

I have a dream that one day every child shall be able to pursue studies in its field of interest without any limitation or inhibition so that they could become what they want to be – A Doctor, Engineer, Teacher, and so without any discrimination and all this shall be made possible, and the glory of our great nation shall be revealed, and all eyes of this world shall see it together. And if India is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom of education ring when we let it ring from every state, every city, every village, every street, and every house, we will be able to speed up that day when all the children of India, poor or rich, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of our national anthem with the true sense of freedom: World-Class Education, For everyone. Forever!

That is my big dream. It should be yours too!

About the Author

Arun Rajiah is a serial entrepreneur, a start-up guy, with multiple industry experiences and building business from scratch. With over 18+ years of experience in IT, Retail, Finance, and Venture Capital, Arun is currently leading a group of companies ventured into 4 countries and grooming next-generation leaders in his organization and focusing on helping at least 10k start-ups in his career.