“If people in the highest echelons of this country believe in skilling, our future is bright,” said Ashwin Damera, Co-Founder of Emeritus at the conclusion of the GSV Emeritus India Summit 2023. One year, a moon landing, and a generative AI revolution later, we are at the cusp of the ASU+GSV & Emeritus Summit 2024. Has the growth trajectory of the edtech industry panned out as its leaders had predicted?
Let’s look at the highlights from the GSV Emeritus India Summit 2023, in case you missed it. It was a first-of-its-kind event for the Indian edtech industry bringing edupreneurs, academic partners like universities, investors, policymakers, and all other stakeholders to the same platform.
With the theme, ‘All Eyes on India: Driving the Future of Learning’, attendees explored India’s unique advantage in becoming edtech providers to the world and the trends to watch out for in the year to come.
The Platform of Education: Building the Right Models for Learning at Scale
“World over, the biggest challenge is that higher education has been out of reach for a lot of people who need it and also deserve it,” said Madan Pillutla, Dean of ISB, at the summit last year. He summed up one of the core challenges for the edtech industry: the challenge of providing education at scale. Hence, it is no surprise that one of the most prominent topics discussed at the GSV Emeritus Summit 2023 was the right formula or business model that can crack the problem of scaling the learning solution.
How Can Education Reach the Maximum Number of People?
According to the World Economic Forum, 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025 due to technological advancements. So, the core problem is that the number of professionals who need upskilling far outnumbers the physical campuses that can accommodate them. Hence, we must look to online learning to scale without compromising the quality of education.
Which is the Best Business Model to Scale Education?
While choosing a business model, it is pertinent to be aware that edtech, unlike food tech or e-commerce, does not sell a product of instant gratification. You cannot order education online like a meal, and it does not come smoking hot in a cardboard box, ready for you to open. Skilling requires both effort on the part of the learner and patience for results. In essence, edtech is about selling an opportunity and not a product. This distinction is the backbone of any edtech model.
One of the most valuable insights to emerge from the GSV Emeritus Summit 2023 was that in edtech, business models must be built to last. During a fireside chat hosted by Ashwin Damera, Co-founder at Emeritus, Rajendra Pawar, Chairman and Co-Founder of NIIT LimitedIn education, said, “Are you building to sell or building to last? It’s a personal choice. But, if you are building to last, then education is the space for you.”
India’s Own Challenge: Reaching Tier-2 and Tier-3 Cities
What is stopping edtech players from reaching the vast hinterlands of India? Its internet penetration, language barriers, and the question of affordability. So, it is obvious that the model that works for metro cities will not work when it comes to penetrating tier-2 and tier-3 cities. As Sajith Pai, Director of Blume Ventures, put it quite correctly, “What got you here won’t take you there.” Thus, looking for a customized business model for these smaller towns is the need of the hour.
Moving From a Monolithic Model of Education to a Lego-like Model
While speaking of educational structures and models, Anant Agarwal, Chief Platform Officer of 2U and Founder of edX, floated a novel idea that found much favor at the Summit. He rightly pointed out that in traditional education, degrees are ‘monolithic’. He proposed the idea of micro-degree as an alternative to this rather top-heavy system that would allow learners to pick up essential skills quickly.
Why This is India’s Century, Not Just India’s Decade
On Day 2 of the GSV Emeritus Summit 2023, the main theme of discussions centered around India and the unique opportunity it poses for edtech players in terms of impact. India, as a market for edtech, is not without challenges. However, despite the poor internet penetration and per capita income, the demand for education is ‘incredible and insatiable’. Several notable speakers double-clicked on the various factors that favor India becoming a worldwide education brand.
Opportunities For India’s Education Sector
1. A Young Population That Needs Skilling
Micheal Moe, the Founder of GSV, set the context for the discussion with a detailed account of how civilizations ruled the world, starting from the Egyptian dynasty to the American dream. It was now India’s time to shine because it has the largest number of young people in the world, 600 million strong, making it the biggest market for edtech.
2. A Strong Infrastructure of Data
There has been much buzz around the India Stack, which was built on the back records of 1.3 billion digital IDs, 80 million transactions a day on UPI, and 500 trillion biometric matches to ensure matches. A very special guest, Nandan Nilekani, the Chairman and Co-founder of Infosys and Founding Chairman of UIDAI (Aadhaar), who is fondly called ‘India’s CTO’ pointed out that the India Tech stack is an exemplary population-scale digital infrastructure, and all entrepreneurs, in this case, eduprenuers, can build companies of value on it back.
3. Education, a B2C Industry in India
In the global scenario, education is a highly regulated industry. Especially in countries like China, there are stringent regulations for edupreneurs to expand and launch new services. But in India, due to the immense demand for education, it is mainly a B2C industry, giving edtech players a level playing field and plenty of opportunities.
Trend Forecast for the Edtech Industry in India
When you have the best minds in education and technology at the same venue, casting their vision beyond the present is a given. Hence, Day 3 at the GSV Emeritus India Summit 2023 was mainly about predicting what the future of the education tech universe will look like in India. And here are three decisive trends we spotted:
1. The Rise of Indian MNCs in the Global Edtech Space
Are the learning needs of Indian learners completely different from those of global learners? Not really, said Mohan Lakhamraju, Founder and CEO of Great Learning. According to him, adult learners worldwide have similar needs, and whatever differences there are can be managed easily. In fact, Indian edtech players have the opportunity to disrupt the global market with their lower price points!
2. Indian Education Will be a Brand of its Own
When it comes to promoting an entire geography as a brand, every player has a part to play. This brand would not just include the excellence of Indian educational institutions but also the rich cultural plurality that India has to offer. Pramath Raj Sinha, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Harappa Education, expressed optimism that Indian education will become a novelty in the years to come, just like yoga and spirituality have.
3. Hybrid Learning is on the Rise
The trajectory of growth for online education has been a rapid one. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the industry was catapulted into a growth drive that took edtech players at least a decade ahead of the traditional timeline. To its credit, the edupreneurs who were building a sector in its nascent stages caught up quickly. However, as this change happened almost overnight, the differences between online and offline education are still rather stark. The leaders at the GSV Emeritus India Summit 2023 believed that these differences would fade eventually and that the best of both models would be retained in hybrid learning, which would then become the norm.
The GSV Emeritus India Summit had a finale with a fireside chat between Ashwin Damera, Co-founder and CEO of Emeritus, and Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani. The content of this chat was a culmination of everything of value discussed in this 3-day event. The honorable minister spoke passionately about contextualizing education for local experience and the possibility of commerce and compassion going hand-in-hand in a true blue Indian sense. Being a lifelong learner herself, she said, “Learning is a lifelong experience. You don’t need to learn only if you have come from hard circumstances. Those who are celebrated also need to update their skills.”
In 2024, we return with the ASU+GSV & Emeritus Summit with the theme, The Sun Rises in the East. We are eager to witness events as they unfold between February 12-14 in Delhi NCR.
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