Where do you see Edtech in India today?
Edtech in India is going to co-exist with online and offline learning. Together, they are going to see a huge demand and Edtech will solve many problems. Indian students will realise that Edtech will eventually solve their issues at different levels and for different reasons.
How have things changed post the pandemic?
Post-pandemic we are seeing that parents prefer a combination of both. During the pandemic, it was only online but now parents want children to learn in the online and offline mode. For problem-solving and tests, they prefer to go online but for ‘learning’ offline does well Like I said before, it is a mix of both which serves the purpose.
Are acquisitions and mergers the path ahead?
Acquisitions and mergers will be one of the important trends going forward. But, I still believe that is not the only option to make your company successful. With the right kind of pedagogy and infrastructure and content, companies can go solo too.
Was India ready to go full throttle online at any point in time?
India was never ready to go full throttle in the online space. There was a lot of acceleration in the direction because of Covid. However, it was not a space India would have barged into with speed. Covid hastened the pace for us and every little activity was forced to go online, but that never meant that India was ready for that push. With offline making a comeback, it is obvious that online was a need-based activity.
What kind of online learning will survive eventually?
Online learning will work best for graduate and post-graduate students. Skill learning will benefit from online in India. Indians these days want to upgrade themselves and are constantly trying to learn things that help in their work or routine activities. This is where online will make an impact in the country.
Is there a formula for success in Edtech?
There is no magical formula for success in Edtech. If you have the right content and have recognised your market, you will get somewhere. You have to solve a problem in Edtech to do well. I think Edtech will see a surge after surface issues see an endpoint.
Don’t Edtech companies still mostly serve an urban market?
Yes, the irony is that most Edtech companies say that they serve the rural market as much as the urban but that is never the case. Even urban spaces are not penetrated as much as they should be. Many are funded and they try to generate revenue as fast as possible and the urban market is easier to target. Many have done well in the urban space but rural continues to be given secondary treatment.
Where does India stand globally in the Edtech space?
India is at a good position. We are selling a lot of creative Edtech solutions, which are often not seen in the international market. Even in developed countries like the US and the UK, we hold a good reputation. If you look at Europe, it has many of our bright minds who are doing the job so we don’t have to bother about our global standing. I would say the world looks at us for creativity in this space.
Is there a conscious effort to get educators/teachers to a level of competency?
Ultimately, it is the educators who will make a difference to an institute and its success. Content delivery is of paramount importance. Companies are putting in a lot of effort to increase efficiency and competency in the market and this may also involve rigorous teaching assessments. A constant feedback mechanism is in place to ensure that educators are not slipping. Training is a constant process.
What has the industry taught you?
I have learnt that quality matters. When I was younger, connectivity in India was an issue. Today, we have 4G and 5G and there is no excuse to not reach a wider audience. Constant strife to impart quality education will make a difference, eventually. There has to be holistic development, learning and teaching, for the educator and the child. There has been a shift from the day when only results counted. Now we are looking for something more substantial and that is what Edtech companies have to deliver time and again. Today, we are giving students the opportunity to learn from the best. There is no restriction of physical space or mobility and if that is the case then delivery has to match the standards.
How do you explain the need for online majors to start offline classes and vice versa?
Like I said before, it will be a hybrid combination that will work for the Edtech industry and learners. Covid has taught people that for a need, online alone serves the purpose but for a fuller solution it has to be a combination of the two modes of learning. The offline people went online to meet the demand and those who were always online realised that offline has its own merits and nothing can match the feeling of being taught by a teacher in a classroom. All players will have to remodel their course structure.
Any analytics from your student bases?
Edtech managed to drive away the gender divide. Earlier, accessibility of classes and timings determined whether girls ventured out to study. Those problems are solved by online classes. We see an equal number of males and females taking courses-be it IIT or others. Since the option is there, students are trying their luck and checking whether a stream works for them or not.
Do devices and internet penetration kept pace with the demand?
Today, 4G networks and platforms are available in the remotest of places and go a long way in keeping connectivity intact. This connectivity keeps learning and teaching alive. This is also helping Edtech to make its presence felt in areas which were not conducive to any kind of formal learning. Online has helped break conventional barriers.
How is your day spent as Edtech appears to be a 24/7 industry?
Edtech is a 24X7 industry. So classes that may have been done for the day in one country, in the other, they are just starting. Also, we have teams divided geographically to suit local needs. It is a matter of correct networking and coordination to keep the machines well-oiled and running smoothly. Since we have large teams, we can keep a healthy work-life balance and enjoy our work.
What are your plans ahead?
We want to make Rao Live one of the most promising and dominating platforms in the county. We are catering to 15-20 million students who are paying us every month through the subscription model. Our foundation courses in Maths and Sciences, which are our USP, are being further worked on. We want to strengthen our international base with the US, Europe, Singapore and the Middle East being our markets. We want to become a unicorn in the next three to five years.