How EdTech Is Empowering the Indian Economy

Every pandemic is unique, which makes measuring the repercussions of any crisis more challenging. There simply aren’t many examples that compare to the worst-case estimates of something like COVID-19. With the sudden spread of this virus all over, the whole world went into a complete lockdown. Everything got shut, from schools, colleges, offices, industries, etc., all were closed, leading to massive damage to the economy. And despite exceptional policy support, the baseline forecast envisages a 5.2 percent decline in global Gross domestic product in 2020, the deepest global recession in eight decades. Although initiatives adopted by the government, consumers, and enterprises to minimize social interaction have been crucial in reducing the spread of the virus, but the economic activity was dramatically disrupted in the first half of the year by losing a significant share of private consumption involving social interaction, leading to a loss in production. With that, restrictions on travel and human interaction decreased labor supply, leading to operational challenges for companies causing the production, delays in input deliveries, and limited access to finance, compounded by increased reliance on global supply chains. Thus we could say that the secondary sector was very severely affected by this pandemic. In addition, when coming to the tertiary sector, one of the most crucial areas under it is the educational institutions, which has impacted over 900 million students from its shutdown. But with time, when all industries were struggling to get back to their position, few industries were gaining profits in this pandemic. Edtech (Educational Technology) was one among them that saw a boom in sales and user penetration.

The goal of EdTech companies is to adopt hardware and software technologies in a way that complement the learning and teaching processes. It facilitates learning and improves students’ performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources. A decade ago, EdTech only comprised learning videos wherein it mainly complemented offline learning with more engaging multimedia content. Over the last few years, EdTech has started to offer a complete learning experience with much greater interactivity. During the current pandemic, as the dates for reopening of schools and colleges keeps getting extended, most institutions in India realized they needed to switch their teaching models to online to continue the education of students. And this leads to increasing demand for EdTech, which personalized the learning experience by trying new approaches to reach the scale of education in unimaginable ways. Indian companies like Byju’s, Unacedamy, Vedanta, UpGrad, Toppr, Camp K12, Coursera, etc. already existed as online learning platforms with moderate sales. But after the Indian government enforced lockdown in early 2020, most students had leisure time and they enrolling on these Edtech platforms, which led to an increase in the revenue for EdTech companies.

Boom of EdTech

The EdTech segment in India is divided into Pre-K, K-12 and test preparation, higher education, continued learning, and B2B EdTech categories. And about 92 EdTech startups had mopped up investors’ money in 2020, out of which 61 businesses got initial investment. Recent research has shown that India’s EdTech sector has seen an investment of USD 2.1 billion in the calendar year 2020 compared to USD 1.7 billion in the entire previous decade. In the first quarter of 2020, Byju’s raised $400 million while Unacademy wasn’t far behind at $398.5 million. The investors are willing to bet on these EdTech based startups to prove their worth during the current pandemic. Since the lockdown, Byju’s added over 33 million users to its platform, while Unacademy’s user base had tripled to 40 million users by January 2021. Even from the recent LinkedIn study, time spent on online learning shot up roughly 63% of professionals during the lockdown period. Seeing its rising demand and need, the government had initiated and funded programs for digital learning that would likely boost the development in the EdTech sector. Currently, there are around 4,450 EdTech start-ups operating in the nation catering to various segments, including K-12, vocational, professional training, schools and colleges. The platforms available in Indian markets are looking to conquer the global audience in the coming decades. There will be offline institutions and colleges; however, from a merely market-share perspective, the amount of education content that will be learned through EdTech will be multiple times the learning that will happen on the campus.

Growth of EdTech Is Creating Ripple Effect in Other Sectors

Increasing demand for EdTech tools, courses and program ramps up job openings, thus somewhat reducing the unemployment in the country. Thus, we could say that other than helping the enrollers to develop new skills and upgrade their resume to get a good job, EdTech sector is creating employment opportunities to both young and experienced graduates. This increasing demand for EdTech and people relying more on online mode of learning leads to the growth of few other industries like data connectivity, laptops, smart phones, furniture, software, and cybersecurity.

As accelerated digitization becomes the norm of the day in the new normal times, India struggles with its data privacy and cybersecurity infrastructure. According to some sources, the Indian cybersecurity market is set to grow from USD 1.97 billion in 2019 to USD 3.05 billion by 2022, registering a CAGR of 15.6%, which is 1.5 times the global growth rate of cybersecurity expenditure. With the widespread remote working trend, corporate, businesses, and educational institutions have quickly adopted cloud-based software services and applications. Apart from allowing ease of access & storage of data, cloud services also demand a specialized & robust data security system to protect the hub and the connected network devices. Cloud computing is thus going to be one of the fastest drivers for cybersecurity. Due to the hazards of data breaches & cyber-attacks, the cybersecurity sector is set to grow at a massive pace, ensuring the actual benefits of emerging technology adoption can be enjoyed by the masses.

Socio-economic Drawbacks from EdTech

But with all these social and economic benefits from EdTech, the most affected and vulnerable groups are the children, youth, and adults living in rural areas. Due to a lack of study materials and gadgets, there has been an increasing inequality in learning among children between cities and villages. While middle class and wealthy families can still educate their children during the pandemic and finish their academic year on time, the poor have to wait until everything is settled. Closures of educational institutions in certain places hinder the provision of essential services to children and communities, including access to nutritious food in the form of mid-day meals, affect the ability of many parents to work, and increase risks. It increases the financial burden on parents to pay children’s school fees in the middle of a pandemic-induced economic pressure and forces many kids to drop out of school.

The online learning during the pandemic has negatively impacted peer-to-peer learning, which usually encourages students to work hard and learn social skills. Research shows that less social interaction among children and teens may lead to some physical and mental health disorders. Students studying from home get easily distracted from online learning, and there is no teacher physically present to look at what the student is doing during the class. EdTech cannot ensure the growth in learning for a student until the student is interested in learning.

But with all these drawbacks, we can’t say that there is no scope for EdTech to grow further in the future. The effects of COVID-19 pandemic are here to stay for quite a few years, thus EdTech and online learning will help most students to complete their courses, academic year or graduation on time. With EdTech taking the lead in the global business landscape during 2020-21 and investors making significant bets on established and larger companies in this sector, we might see more tools and methods to attract viewers and users, leading to the overall growth of the companies as well as the individual learning.

– Aishwarya Soman (Student of MA in Applied Economics at Christ University, Bengaluru)

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