Published: 02nd August 2020
Full speed ahead: How the pandemic proved to be rocket fuel for India's EdTech platforms
With increased dependence on EdTech platforms, start-ups and industry leaders leveraged the shift to online learning for its own benefit
Amidst layoffs, shutdowns and closure due to the pandemic and lockdown, one of the few sectors that have seen an upturn is India's burgeoning EdTech industry. Not only have these platforms come to the forefront in terms of its relevance in the current COVID-ridden scenario, but they have also seen tremendous growth over the last few months. With schools and colleges conducting classes online, these EdTech platforms have provided an alternative for everyone from students to young professionals to supplement their coursework and upskill themselves over the last few months.
But just how good has the growth been? That's the question we asked some of India's most popular online learning portals.
Among them is Delhi-based Coding Ninjas, which offers all things tech to its plethora of students. "It has grown almost 200% every year over the last three years," says co-founder Ankush Singla. But it has been in the last one year, when the start-up has seen monumental growth with over 10,000 new students joining the courses in Machine Learning, Data Sciences, C++, Java, Python and so on. The pandemic has also been good with coding courses being much in demand.
Also registering a 200% growth in enrolments is Udemy India. The US-based platform offers online courses in various fields and interests from Communication Skills, Art for Kids to Pilates and is one of the largest online learning platforms in the world. “There has been an immense surge in enrolments in courses related to Communication Skills (606%), Financial Analysis (311%), Business Fundamentals (281%), Art for Kids (531%), Pilates (402%) and Coding for Kids (375%),” says Udemy India’s MD Irwin Anand.
Shreyasi Singh, Founder & CEO, Harappa Education
Delhi-based Harappa Education, a platform that offers courses for personal and professional development also saw a sharp rise in its user base. The EdTech start-up was launched in 2019 and it was able to leverage the lockdown to register a sharp growth. “Since March 2020, we’ve seen a 472% increase in our active learner base and a 314% increase in learners logging onto the Harappa platform each month,” says Shreyasi Singh, Founder and CEO, Harappa Education. The platform also witnessed an unprecedented increase of 603% in people starting a course and 288% increase in completions since the lockdown was imposed, adds Singh.
With MBA, Data Science and Digital Marketing courses seeing the most takers, the Ronnie Screwvala-promoted upGrad too witnessed a growth spurt during the past few months. “While the MBA vertical has grown 82% in terms of learner base, the Data Science vertical, which has always been on a growth trajectory, continues the streak with 60% growth in its learner base,” Arjun Mohan, upGrad’s CEO says. The PG Certification course in Digital Marketing and Communication has also grown by 70%, adds Mohan. What must be taken into account is that upGrad was already on an upswing when the pandemic descended.
Need to upskill
Singla says the growth in EdTech is because upskilling is the need of the hour. "Due to the lockdown, everyone has got the opportunity to invest time in upskilling themselves. Schools and colleges have been shut for a while and since they have now moved to online classes, the acceptance of online as a mode of learning has increased," he says, adding, "What is also interesting is the fact that professionals are aware that they need to be the best in what they do to remain relevant in a post-COVID world. So everyone is now focused on upskilling themselves and that is perhaps the reason why the dependence on e-learning has increased."
A similar sentiment was echoed by Dr Santanu Paul, CEO and MD of Hyderabad-based TalentSprint. “While there was a drop in registrations during the initial weeks of the pandemic, things improved after a couple of months. Young learners and experienced professionals soon realised how the need for upskilling and reskilling has only intensified due to COVID. TalentSprint has had a multi-dimensional growth in the last few months,” Paul says.
The COVID edge
According to Singla, the acceptance of online education has also developed because it is no longer an option. "EdTech would have been more welcomed in a few years but COVID just expedited the process and what would have happened in a few years happened in just a couple of months," feels Singla.
Anand also thinks COVID has rapidly accelerated the growth of EdTech. “We have increasingly seen people opting to learn online for many years now, but COVID has really accelerated that trend. As countries around the world issued stay-at-home orders, we saw incredible surges in course enrolments as learners looked to Udemy to upskill, stay busy, or increase productivity,” he says.
Irwin Anand, MD, Udemy India
Hari Krishan Nair, Co-founder, Great Learning, says that the platform witnessed 5x growth over the last few months. “It is due to the increased interest in upskilling from professionals and college graduates who had to stay at home due to the pandemic,” he says. Great Learning, based in Gurgaon, provides professional courses in Data Analytics, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and so on.
The road ahead
The question that frequently comes up is whether people actually gain much from doing an online course, except an E-certificate and a line to their resume.
Coding Ninjas organises webinars and tests to ensure that their students are well-versed with what they are learning and can effectively utilise the courses. "It is imperative that students have a good experience with an online platform. They usually speak about their experiences with their peers, whether it is good or bad. Positive word-of-mouth has definitely helped increase our students base," adds Singla.
This is also how the start-up plans to have an edge over its competition. "We are also working on several features to make the platform and the content more engaging to the students," says Singla. Coding Ninjas is also working towards inculcating placements in their repertoire. "We want to ensure that once a student completes a particular course, they're hired by the best of companies and receive the best opportunities. We are working to upgrade the courses on the portal," he adds.
The fact that you'll have an Ivy League college degree even remotely associated with your name is a huge draw, though. And that's why all the platform's are rolling out new courses by the bucketload.
Great Learning, which already has partnerships with IIT Madras, Stanford University and Purdue University, among others, plans to offer more tech-based courses in the future. Nair says, “The demand for talent in digital skills is rapidly increasing and this has created tremendous demand for talent in areas like analytics, AI and ML, cloud computing, cybersecurity, digital marketing and so on.”
Mumbai-based upGrad which offered 35 different programmes on its platform plans to offer 90 in the next quarter. Mohan says, “We want to be the Lifelong Learning partner for working professionals, with right program guidance, feedback and career services that shall enhance their employability. There is a monthly start date of all our 35 online programmes from having a start date every quarter to cope with the growing demand.”