Pushkar Verma, Director, Cloud Wizard Consulting: ‘Edtech industry is going through an upheaval which is both risk and opportunity’

He also adds that skills for the future need to be upped

Lajwanti D'souzaUpdated: Thursday, October 06, 2022, 08:29 PM IST

Tell us about yourself and Cloud Wizard.

Cloud Wizard is an IT training organisation focused on delivering Cloud-based training. We are headquartered out of Noida and started our business operations in 2015. We have been working as an AWS-authorised training and consulting partner. We serve quality AWS training to both individuals and businesses. We cover the Indian subcontinent as far as AWS training services are concerned. 

As the Director and Founder of Cloud Wizard, I am responsible for the overall strategic initiatives within the company. I have worked in diverse roles in sales, marketing, and business development across different geographies from India to the UK. I decided to establish Cloud Wizard after seeing the potential in the Cloud industry early in 2014 and seeing a gap where quality AWS training was unavailable to individuals. I have been associated with AWS Training and certification for the past eight years. We started this association in 2014.

Where do you see Edtech in India today?

Edtech in India has grown phenomenally in the last few years, specifically during and after the pandemic. In the current scenario, the private sector is playing a key role with the public sector acting as a facilitator. India’s education sector saw a boom in Edtech funding during the pandemic and the industry continuously growing. Edtech will coexist with both online and traditional learning in India and after the pandemic, we are observing that customers favour a mix of both.

Mergers and acquisitions ruling the space now?

I don't think acquisitions and mergers are the paths ahead. As of now, when a larger organisation acquires a niche one, my personal opinion is that this move cancels a lot of individuality that the initial organisation had built on. Larger organisations will have to develop new ways of thinking and ensure that they do not wipe out learning or methods which were working initially. Smaller organisations offer flexibility in learning approach to the customers. The organisation that acquires this business will need to ensure that the unique ways are not overlooked.

What ‘kind’ of online learning will survive eventually

Online learning provides an alternative to traditional methods of learning. It is flexible and sometimes cost-effective too, but it comes with its limitations. Online learning is NOT a substitute for learning with an experienced instructor. Learning is a journey, where you experiment with thoughts and processes and then your brain accepts a version of things after this. With online learning as the only option, there is no debate which is crucial to actual learning. We cannot replace real-life experiences in technology with a theory and video session. You cannot learn surgery without actually performing it. Online learning can only succeed when Edtech companies find a way of supplementing the same with real-life learning or practicals or hands-on activities.

Is there a formula for success in Edtech?

Over a long-time, organisations that can provide a blend of theory plus hands-on experience will have better customer satisfaction and success.

The urban preference is apparent?

This is potentially true to a great extent. The Edtech companies can only service an audience which has an understanding of the importance of skilling. The audience also needs to understand what technology/tool they need to learn and upskill themselves on. Additionally, the audience should have access to devices such as laptops, mobiles, high-speed internet, etc. As of now, I don’t think the majority of our population has access to the infrastructure which is necessary for quality education. We are making great strides with respect to the penetration of the internet. Low-cost mobile devices are now available across the country. It will be a little while before we can provide all these to the majority of our population and then it will take some more time for us to make people understand what tools and technologies they need to up-skill on.

Where does India stand in the global field concerning tech?

We are the home of technology and services. Our software exports now surpass oil imports. When it comes to technology, I think Indians have a natural flair for it. The past few decades have witnessed India playing a decisive role in serving as an innovation powerhouse globally. The Indian tech ecosystem, too, has gone from strength to maturity and subsequently earned global recognition. The Global Innovation Index 2021 recognises India as the top innovative country in the central and South Asia region, with a growing presence of its tech industry in over 100 countries. That's largely due to India's focus on technology and service delivery, world-class infrastructure, favourable demographics, a vibrant startup ecosystem and a vast pool of digital talent. Going forward, India, on the back of its young, diverse and digitally-skilled pool of talent, will remain integral to the world's innovation and growth.

Is there a conscious effort to get educators/teachers to a level of competency in the industry?

We lay a huge emphasis on educating and up-skilling our trainers. An Edtech organisation is as good as the instructor it employs. Our customer satisfaction depends on the quality of learning imparted by our trainers. For modern-day learners, the need for educators to evolve is imperative. Breaking away from the archaic methods, teachers have identified the importance of finding unique and innovative ways of facilitating learning which is not only impactful but also experiential. The adoption of technology has witnessed new-age instructors resorting to tech-enabled solutions where a robust learning management system (LMS) is at the heart of imparting knowledge, enabling seamless interaction, constant feedback and prompt assessment to monitor the growth of the learners. As students and even working professionals strive to acquire the in-demand skills to enhance their career growth, the onus will be on the educators as much as their pupils to consistently improve and evolve pertaining to their training methods in the ever-competitive digital era – something Edtech firms have been able to provide effectively.

Which are the courses or the kind of learning, which will survive and why?

Ever since the dot-com boom, the IT sector has witnessed exponential growth. With digital transformation becoming the need of the hour, modern-day enterprise businesses are embracing technology to streamline their business operations. Regardless of the industry or sector, more and more organisations have realised the importance of cloud services as opposed to developing the IT infrastructure in-house. With a significant dependency and subsequent growth of cloud services, it's quite evident that the future will witness a rise in the number of courses related to cloud services such as the ones offered by AWS. 

Similarly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), too, have emerged as game-changing technologies that are transforming the world. Modern-day businesses are harnessing the power of AI and ML to improve both performance and productivity in their bid to stay relevant and competitive. As more and more firms leverage the applications based on AI and ML, there is already a skill shortage which has led to the growth of courseware about these technologies as learners try to equip themselves with the new, in-demand skill sets required by employers in the modern world.

How do you explain the need for online majors to start offline classes and vice versa?

The global pandemic was at the heart of facilitating significant changes across industries. The education sector, too, was crippled by the pandemic-induced protocols which, in turn, paved the way for digital learning. As stay-at-home became the new normal, a huge emphasis was placed on online education and learning to solve the new challenges. But, after two years, the return of normalcy has sparked a debate around the need for online learning, especially with the resumption of offline classes. 

While online education did play its part during the pandemic, restricting the learning model to learning fostered on tablets, computers and other mobile devices was found ineffective over some time. This, in turn, has led to a lot of online majors extending their services to offline classes. Whether it's online or offline classes, the onus is on the market players in the Edtech space to ensure that the pedagogy is complemented by technology in a manner that ensures high engagement and learning efficacy rates.

Do devices and internet/ penetration keep pace with the demand for Edtech in India

A major factor driving the adoption of Edtech and the “smart classroom” market in India is the increasing penetration of mobile devices. Currently, the biggest barrier impacting access to education is connectivity. Access to electronic devices is not equally distributed, and there is a lack of dependable, high-speed Internet, which has a detrimental effect on opportunities, successes, and the widening of educational inequalities.

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