India faces digital infra challenge
India faces digital infra challenge

New Delhi: Online education is growing fast in India as candidates take the e-route to gain new skills but poor digital infrastructure and low completion rates are the top challenges facing this sector, say experts. 

A large number of entrepreneurs are venturing into this space and this space is expected to see an uptrend in the next 3-5 years thanks to the Digital India campaign, the cultural importance given to education and falling mobile data prices. PE/VC firms are also keen on investing in this sector as the potential is large not just in K12 segment (kindergarten to 12th grade) but also in open online courses, where people from India are the second largest consumers. 

Among the top investments in the edtech sector in 2017 was Byju's raising about USD 30 million from Brussels-based family office Verlinvest in March 2017 and about USD 40 million from Tencent in July 2017. 

Other top deals include Coursera raising USD 64 million Series D funding led by GSV Asset Management; CueMath, run by CueLearn raising USD 15 million in Series B round of funding.  Online learning platform Unacademy also raised USD 11.5 million in its Series B round of funding led by Sequoia India and SAIF Partners; and Eruditus Executive Education, a provider of executive education programmes, had raised USD 8 million in a series-B funding round from Bertelsmann India Investments.

"As half of the population is under the age of 25 and the number of internet users expected to reach 500 million by 2017, the future of education in India heavily relies upon online learning," said Ashwin Damera, Executive Director, Emeritus Institute of Management.

According to a report by Google and KPMG, the online education industry in India is poised to grow eight times to become a USD 1.96 billion industry by 2021 as an increasing number of students consume content through e-routes. This sector, however, faces high drop-off rates as many online courses are self-paced wherein there are no points of engagement, which in turn result in lower completion rates. 

"In addition to the poor digital infrastructure, sustained engagement with candidates who don't see value beyond just skills learnt is difficult, leading to a high drop-off rate," said Rahul Belwalkar, CEO, SecUR Credentials. 

To increase engagement and decrease the drop-off rate a number of learning apps are gamifying the whole process. Divya Gokulnath, Director and Teacher at BYJU'S, said the BYJU'S app leads every student on their own personal journey where, if one goes wrong, he/she is taken on different paths till you learn and succeed.  

"The feedback received is also gamified to ensure that if the student is unable to complete a test or learn quickly, they don't feel disappointed, instead are motivated to push on to complete it," Gokulnath added.  According to Ganesh Kohli, IC3 Conference Chair, edtech sector is fragmented and there will be buyouts and consolidation in the coming days. 

"In any specific application area, there cannot be more than a handful national level players and either the rest of the players will disappear or will be consolidated with the larger players," he said.