According to experts, the Indian government’s push for digitization is expected to boost the EdTech industry. It’s a sign of positive change and will give the sector a much-needed impetus, said Zishaan Hayath, co-founder of Toppr, one of India’s fastest-growing EdTech startups. Earlier this month, the government approved a Rs 1.13 lakh crore ($17 billion) plan to digitize various aspects of its economy as it looks to boost manufacturing, control inflation, and create jobs. The plan includes e-governance, digital payments, smart cities, and skill development initiatives.
“It’s a sign of positive change that our country will continue to embrace technology and digital advancements,” Hayath said in an email interview with Tech in Asia. “We are looking forward to seeing more people getting access to technology which will allow them to learn better.”
Hayath believes that digitizing education materials will also help students with limited access to resources. “As more classrooms go digital, we hope that more students will be able to get access to quality education at their fingertips,” he said. India is going digital, and so are the schools. The Indian EdTech industry is set to witness a growth of $3.5 billion by the end of 2022.
The report also mentioned that the country’s EdTech market would be driven by increased internet penetration and access to low-cost smartphones. These factors are expected to increase the number of EdTech users in India from 6 million in 2016 to 43 million by 2021. The study suggests that there will be an increase in the demand for vernacular content and digitized learning solutions, says YourStory.
Google India’s marketing head Sapna Chadha said: “Digital content will become more interactive, intuitive and immersive over time, with more emphasis on user feedback, thereby making it more personalized. With new technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI), it would be possible to create engaging content experiences for all age groups.”
Says KPMG’s partner for media and entertainment, Ranjana Roy Gawai: “We expect that digital content will continue to grow at a rapid pace in the near future, driven by factors such as growing internet penetration, affordable data plans/rates and an increase in smartphone/tablet penetration. The government’s Digital India initiative is also driving increased access and usage of digital content in recent years. With the vast majority of Indians accessing the internet via their mobile phones, we expect mobile to be the main medium through which people consume digital content over the next few years.” According to industry estimates, there are more than 700 million internet users in India today, with around 55% using it through smartphones and tablets. At this growth rate, India is expected to have over 900 million internet users by 2025 (of which around 70% would use it on smartphones or tablets). The Government of India’s Digital India Programme, which aims to transform the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy, and the Smart Cities Mission, which aims to build 100 smart cities across India, will positively impact the EdTech sector. According to a report by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), with these initiatives, the EdTech sector in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of about 19% from 2015 to 20. The government recently approved the establishment of 10 new Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) as on-campus centres under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model. This is also seen as another positive move for the EdTech industry.
“We are very optimistic about this year as it will be a year where we will see many positive changes in the market,” said Pradeep Pappachan, Director – Product Management, One97 Communications Ltd., one of India’s leading digital goods and services companies. “It is a sign that has been waiting to happen.”
The education sector has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing students to shift to online classes. According to Venture Intelligence data, this has fuelled the growth of EdTech startups in India, which have raised almost $900 million across 216 deals in 2020. The government’s move to launch a digital university and expand PM eVidya one class-one TV Channel’ programme will help EdTech startups grow further in India.
The new digital university will help create more employment opportunities for EdTech startups. According to a study by industry body FICCI and EY, the number of active online learners in India is expected to increase from 5.6 million today to 51.4 million by 2022, with the share of paid users rising from 11% to 29%.
The government’s move is good news for startup investors and homegrown startups such as Byju’s, Unacademy, Vedantu, and Toppr, who are set to benefit from the new announcements. The startup ecosystem has been eagerly waiting to announce education reforms, and their wish seems fulfilled. With 200 additional channels dedicated to providing supplementary education, students will easily access regional language education packages through their smartphones and television sets.
The country is investigating the feasibility of having one dedicated channel per state to provide educational content in the local language. “We can have one satellite channel per state, which will be like a classroom,” says AS Soin, who is in charge of providing digital infrastructure and services for education. “It can be a lecture-based program or a podcast. We are exploring all possibilities.” America has set up a similar system called PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), which runs educational programs on hundreds of channels across the country. “This is an excellent initiative, and we should do it,” says Dipak C Jain, dean of the INSEAD business school in Singapore. Giving a boost to India’s EdTech sector which has grown exponentially over the last two years, Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday announced plans to launch a digital university built on a hub and spoke model to provide education in different Indian languages and formats. “A digital university will be established to provide access to students across the country for world-class quality universal education with a personalised learning experience at their doorsteps,” Sitharaman said in her budget speech. “The best public universities and institutions in the country will collaborate as a network of hub-spokes,” she added.
The finance minister also announced that the government would expand PM’s “e-Vidya” one-classroom-one-TV programme to 200 TV channels. Sitharaman said that the development of the eVidya programme would enable all states to provide supplementary education in regional languages for classes 1-12. This acknowledges that technology can play a crucial role in bridging learning gaps and bringing quality education to people across India at affordable prices. It is also an admission by the government that ground schools are still unable to do so due to a lack of resources, infrastructure etc.
What are the new initiatives:
The Indian government has decided to open up higher education, including top universities, to foreign players and EdTech firms, which will now be allowed to offer degrees. While it was earlier expected that the government would allow only a few universities in the pilot phase, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said all universities had been included in the initiative. “This will enable access to top-quality education for students across India who can study remotely anywhere from the best institutions in the world through online courses and earn a degree from these institutions,” she said while announcing the move. Further, Sitharaman announced the launch of the DESH-Stack e-portal, a digital ecosystem for skilling and livelihood that will skill, reskill, or upskill people. This online training provides trusted skill certifications based on an application programming interface (API) and payment to identify related jobs and business opportunities.
The government said that the new portal would be launched with tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Wipro, TCS, Infosys and others. "Under this initiative, we would identify skill gaps and assess them through an API-based platform," Sitharaman said. Sitharaman also talked about how the government would help register for social security schemes at the time of joining any new job through a 'job seeker kit'. "This kit will also be available on the Umang app," she added. The App is developed by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) and the National e-Governance Division (NeGD).
“Opening up of key universities and democratising access to their research will be a shot in the arm for tertiary education beyond the immediate hinterlands of these top universities. EdTech startups are best positioned to not only provide the infrastructure layer but also co-develop digital content that works and thus act as tech catalysts to facilitate the spread of knowledge and skills across India,” said Rajan Anandan, managing director of Google India. “It is a very powerful program because it helps people who have never even considered higher education,” said Prasad. He is also chairman of the board of governors at IIT Kharagpur. “This is an opportunity to bring back into the mainstream students who dropped out after school.” Prasad said he would like to see more American universities join the initiative. “I want them to offer their courses free,” he said. “I’m told that’s a problem because they need money from students. But you could offer free courses and charge for certificates.” She also announced the launch of a national research foundation to fund, coordinate and promote research in relevant areas for India’s economic growth and social welfare. The foundation will act as a “one-stop galvanising platform” for institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR).
“India has very credible research institutions, but they have not been able to work collectively. And this is something I intend to do with the National Research Foundation,” Sitharaman said. The finance minister also announced that the top 100 universities would automatically admit international students. Further, she said, some sectors will now be opened up for 100% foreign direct investment. The focus on upskilling comes when India faces acute skill shortages across sectors such as manufacturing, IT-BPM (business process management), construction and agriculture. Sitharaman also announced that the government would embed vocational training into school education to attract more children to the blue-collar sector.
“We will soon launch a new scheme of apprenticeship embedded degree/diploma courses in engineering and other fields in collaboration with industry and our higher educational institutions,” Sitharaman said. India has the world’s largest demographic dividend, but its youth unemployment rate was 12.5% in 2017-18, according to data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt. Ltd (CMIE). In comparison, China’s unemployment rate among people aged between 15 and 24 years was 11% in 2017, according to World Bank data. “The EdTech startups will play a key role in taking this initiative forward,” said Sitharaman. At the same time, EdTech companies like Byju’s and Unacademy have raised capital amid a crisis-like situation, which has led to an increase in the demand for online learning. As per a report by the Indian School of Business (ISB) and Bain & Co., Covid-19 has accelerated the growth of EdTech players in India by five years. Further, it is projected that the Indian EdTech market will reach $2.95 billion by 2024, up from $1.8 billion in 2019.
“The budget seems to be heavily focused on skilling and digital education but misses out on elements that could help build world-class universities that can produce global citizens,” said Ashish Goyal, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) at Myly Technologies.
We prove that positive things don’t always have to come from the US or Silicon Valley. This digitisation push by the Indian government has offered a shot in the arm for education technology in India, and hopefully, this momentum will continue in the coming years.
This is a positive sign for India’s EdTech industry. With the government looking to open its doors to more international companies and enough domestic giants to choose from, the drive to digitise Indian education is bound to attract plenty of attention. The broader question is how this will affect the more comprehensive education system—but we’re optimistic that it will only be a positive force.
The EdTech industry has been struggling in India. It’s a nascent industry that is yet to cut the mustard. There are many frameworks, initiatives and even products for the industry, but market conditions have not lent themselves to encourage such investments. But things may change soon as the Indian government plans a concrete blueprint to promote digitisation in education.
The Indian government’s push to digitise the country’s education system can dramatically affect how quality education is provided to millions of students. Sprinkled across the various details of the announcement are all kinds of information that, when combined, amount to a revolution in online education that will be available to people worldwide.Of course, it’s still early days for blended learning at schools in India. But the government’s move is promising, and there’s a lot of potential on the horizon. Even though EdTech companies have an uphill battle ahead in one of the world’s most populous countries, it’s not a fight they need to back away from voluntarily.