E-learning in its most popular format has not been able to address the challenges fundamental to education, that is live two-way interactions at scale, says Vedantu CEO Vamsi Krishna
While edtech is growing fast in developed markets, the industry has not been as fast as expected in India. While there are many startups operating in this space, most of who are well-funded, majority are focusing on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Barring a handful of startups, none of them have a really compelling product.
Bangalore-based Vedantu is an edtech startup that aims to stand out from the crowd, with its online tutoring marketplace for teachers. Here, teachers have complete flexibility to teach according to their convenience, create their own packages and set the cost of each session, and they are free form any institutional constraints. At the same time, students have the freedom to choose a teacher most suitable to their requirements, take one-to-one live online sessions, rate the teachers after each session and change the teacher if the need be.
Last May, the startup got US$5 million funding from Accel Partners and Tiger Global for its innovative product.
e27 recently spoke to Vedantu’s Co-founder and CEO Vamsi Krishna dive deep into their products, their working model and the overall trends in the edtech industry in India.
Here are the edited excerpts:
There are many edtech startups in India catering to students as well as professionals. How is Vednatu standing out?
Krishna: Vedantu is the only edtech startup in India that operates on a true marketplace model of teachers. On our platform teachers have complete flexibility to teach according to their convenience, create their own packages and set the cost of each session.
Our WAVE [Whiteboard, Audio and Video technology] is custom-built to offer the best personalised teaching and learning experience and lets a live online session happen [two-way audio video conversation] seamlessly on even low and fluctuating bandwidths to suit the Indian conditions. This was the biggest challenge given the Indian context and we have successfully overcome it.
Additionally, we have been able to bring the best minds of society back into teaching, something that’s critical for delivery of quality education especially in a country like India where quality and availability of teachers drops significantly beyond metros and tier I cities. We have created a platform for ‘teachers by choice’ who are passionate about teaching. Around 50-60 per cent of our teachers are working professionals, stay-at-home-mothers, retired teachers and students studying at premier institutions such as IITs. On our platform teachers’ earnings have gone up to INR 1 lakh/month (US$16,000). This will further help in attracting bright minds to this noble profession.
Currently we cater to grades 6th to 12th in CBSE and ICSE curriculum. Students from more than 250 cities and towns have taken sessions on Vedantu. We are working towards bringing Vedantu’s experience on mobile phones so that students from the remotest part of the country can get access to quality education.
Despite the fast-growing Internet market, e-learning is yet to take off in India. Why?
Most of the new developments in the realm of e-learning have been around MOOCs, recorded online content and online testing. While these have been really helpful in solving the problem of access to quality content and self-paced learning to an extent, we believe e-learning in its current format has not brought any quantum shift that has completely disrupted delivery of education and has not succeeded in empowering teachers and students to the fullest extent possible. That’s probably the reason that adoption has not been as quick as expected.
E-learning in its most popular format has not been able to address the challenges fundamental to education — live two way interactions at scale. We hope to bring a paradigm shift in the concept of e-learning by making it personalised and democratised.
Vedantu will soon take personalised live online teaching/learning to mobile phones. We are confident that this will exponentially increase the adoption, including in the remotest areas of the country where availability of desktops and laptops remains limited, compared to mobile penetration.
What are the overall trends in the Indian edtech space? Are schools, universities and students realising the potential of e-learning now?
I think in terms of sheer business potential edtech sector holds a great promise. Industry reports indicate that market for online education in India is slated to grow up to US$40 billion by 2017. But more than just the numbers, what’s exciting is the urgency and the earnestness with which key stakeholders want to exploit technology to transform the face of education.
I think all the stakeholders in the Indian education system –- government, universities and other institutions of higher education, schools, teachers and parents — are keen to explore how technology can be used to augment our existing system to improve learning outcomes and more importantly, create increased access to quality education. For example, Indian institutes have launched MOOCs in line with the global trend.
Global edtech companies are entering India to offer content in vernacular languages. Currently edtech companies are mainly focused on four areas: tutoring, test preparation, online content and edutainment which have witnessed varying levels of adoption. The edtech startups are also experimenting with different business models and evaluating what might work best in the Indian context.
While there are many edtech firms, not all have received funding or got an exit? Why?
For investors, each business presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges that they evaluate on several criteria. Generally speaking, they look at nature of the problem being addressed, market potential and opportunities for scaling up, prevailing and future competition, domain knowledge of founders and synergy among the top team. Unless all or most of these attributes are present, investors are hesitant to invest in any business across any vertical.
Traditionally, education and healthcare sectors have known to be much slower compared to other sectors in adopting changes and innovations. The sales cycles also tend to be slower compared to other kinds of business. These factors weigh in too when any investment decision is made.
Is there room for innovation in the edtech segment?
Technology has brought in significant changes in almost every business. Education has been an exception. There has not been any major breakthrough in almost past 100 years or even more that has completely changed how education is imparted. The classrooms of today are not significantly different from classrooms several decades ago.
In this context, the new initiatives that are coming from the edtech startups in the last few years are a positive change. But the education sector is still awaiting a quantum of magnitude change or complete disruption.
At Vedantu, we believe that mobile phones can be the next frontier for the innovation to disrupt this field. After enabling live one-to-one sessions on desktops & laptops we are inching closer every day to offer live on-to-one teaching/ learning on mobile phones. That would be a quantum leap.
What are the key challenges that the edtech vertical faces? How does Vedantu aim to address them?
As mentioned earlier unleashing changes in the education sector can be a slower process compared to other sectors. Secondly, deep understanding of this sector is somewhat critical given its unique nuances and sensitivities attached – for parents, their children’s education is a high priority area and they are often very cautious about any big changes. It is also a highly regulated, complex and fragmented sector. In the K-12 segment there is no homogeneity in State Board Curriculum in different states.
There is also a high number of students who study in different vernacular languages. As mentioned earlier, sales cycles remain long so partnering with the right investors who are aligned with one’s long term vision is necessary. Lastly, edtech companies also have to be cognizant of the fact that force-fitting tech solutions that don’t solve any critical problem of teachers or students or tech solutions that offer only supplementary benefits may face a challenge in achieving scale thereby facing the question of economic viability.
The post This CEO shares with us why tech hasn’t really impacted the education sector appeared first on e27.
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