Indian startups ecosystem has been reeling under the umbrella of retail, ecommerce and other aggregated services, however EdTech is expected to be the top startups trend for 2016. Based on interactions with the venture partners, institutions, funding agencies and mentors, there are strong headwinds that will redefine the EdTech landscape for the coming year. It is EDUGILD’s belief that numerous edtech entrepreneurs possess the potential to bring about a revolution of sorts in the education sector. This would include everything from streamlining time-consuming processes like record-keeping, to creating an interactive learning program, or beyond. The future of education, it seems, rests in the able hands of creative edtech entrepreneurs.
EdTech being defined as mainstream
For a long time, EdTech has confined itself to the definition of online learning, tutoring, test prep, K12 domains to name a few. Come 2016, EdTech will be redefined with more impetus on corporate learning, assessments, self-calibration and measurement tools, creativity discovery to name a few. New streams will be get associated with EdTech namely fintech and healthtech to create a diverse offerings to students and educationists alike. This will be coupled with engaging enhanced diversity in edtech starups – to include more women, lesser represented minorities and lower income students – to reduce their cost of discovering education and use of effective learning in science, technology, engineering and maths(STEM) streams being a major focus. The evolution in elements like coding will gain learning traction in vernacular languages like what is being done very effectively by Guvi.in. Imagine that a graduate is offered 10-12 campus placement opportunities and he/she has no way to assess the chances of success in them – come Gradopedia, an EdTech initiative which does a psychometric testing and creates the job profile virtually for the student. Now, the student has a focused interest approach and attempts only half of the company interviews with better preparation and chances of cracking the same.
The redefinition also includes strong technology play in creativity and cognitive skills development, as being done by Fundamentor – increasing early state aptitude in school children and Nayi Disha, who are involved with designing educational computer games for preschool children to make learning fun and more engaging, with the use of motion sensing technology. Their games are based on Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences. Such initiatives also excite the investment ecosystem, as captured by Harshad Lahoti, CoFounder of Ah! Ventures who quotes that “Till date, ah! Ventures has invested in total 6 Edtech startups – 3 in 2015 itself. Also, in 2015, we also secured our first profitable exit from our first EdTech venture Harness Handitouch within 2 years of its investment. We look forward to supporting many more Edtech startups in 2016.”
Digital tools strengthen ways for students to gain creativity, express themselves, and develop self interface EdTech content
India is now the third largest population of internet users and fast expanding. The buzz word in EdTech will move on from creating to curating. It is a well established fact that the www has more content than what learners can consume. A pause will appear in content creation and curation of the same will be stronger. Alongside, discovery by platforms to connect learners to their learning interest will be a strong proposition. This sentiment is also voiced by India’s leading and established edtech company Liqvid, co founded by Manish Upadhyay. As per him “Edtech has remained a perpetual sunrise rise industry for far too long, it is now finally dawning to enter into the growth phase primarily driven by three major drivers – Firstly- the emergence of new age approaches – Free MOOCs, Flipped models, Learning analytics, Personalization secondly -increasing penetration of affordable smart mobile devices, and most importantly the proportion of digital and online is increasing in all spheres of our life. The new generation is rightfully called “Digital Natives” and for them digital is the way of life. Education is no different for them. They will demand more and more digital and online experience as a part of their learning as well. Be it rapid exchanges about a concept on Twitter, project based learning on social platform such as Facebook, ever evolving encyclopedia in the form of Wikipedia or sharing of YouTube videos which led to Khan Academy movement, all of it is online education in some form and should be welcomed and accepted as a transformational educational and societal change. India in particular is seeing a burgeoning young entrepreneurial class driven by relatively wealthier parents in the metros and bigger cities. The parents are providing the seed capital and allowing their kids a free hand till the age of 30. This will surely result into a creation of more indigenously-made EdTech products and contextual solutions that will work for local audiences as well and ultimately leading to some truly India based global product companies.”
Consider a company like Open Paathshala, that has transformed Sanskrit learning by using technology to reach new age learners. Alongside, Learning consumers are now willing to go after propositions that help them develop creativity and digital literacy. A hangout of hobbies becoming serious learning will be the next level success for EdTech in 2016. Look at a company named ClassBoat, which helps learns to connect to all forms of creative development other than academic pursuits. Traction for such initiatives will always have more demand than ever. This goes from age 3 to 100 and everyone is a learner for such EdTech startups.
Assistive technologies will become the tools for bridging learning needs of students with special abilities
It is encouraging that the EdTech sector has now begun to see a spurt in innovative solutions directed towards the differently abled. This is the time for A-Tech (Assistive Technologies) in the classroom which supplement the learning and development of specially abled people. One such example is ‘Let Me Hear Again’ – a technology solution helps differently abled users to communicate with others who do not know Sign Language. The app has been recognized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was also awarded the title of ‘App of the Month’ by MIT App Inventor. The software systems and technology products will always have a challenge to deliver a uniform experience of solutions to a diverse human population with evolved, natural or subdued needs. Edtech ecosystem stands to benefit if they can ensure that products and services are designed to facilitate differently-abled students for the same access to learning as others. India always lacks professional sign language educators, and Helen Keller institute for Deaf and Deaf Blind can give first hand feedback on the same. It’s not that people don’t want to learn and support, the issue is that technology is yet not facilitating do it for me learning anytime anywhere for sign language courses and learning programs.
Ask Vivek Mehra, Managing Director & CEO, SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd and he believes that 2016 will be a defining one for EdTech startups provided scalability issues due to lack of understanding of the Indian education space and/or how content is consumed are taken care of . Vivek also sees a lot of copying of western models and sometimes not see enough of copying.
It is expected the EdTech focus will pivot on strengthening the students and ecosystem communication, using technology as an enabler. Discovery of better content will be the call for the day and not creation of content, specially abled will be well benefitted by EdTech in its new phase and assessment/feedback/review based services will gain traction. The factors giving impetus to the story will be learning by personalization , Gamification and use of more user interface ready technology – this coupled by strong numbers of Smartphones and fast penetrating internet will make the viability real.
As the companies in EDUGILD will demonstrate, EdTech is here to rise and shine. “India’s education technology market will grow to 40 Bn US$ in 2017 from the current 20 Bn US$. With EduGild starting off in 2015 and the Edtech market seeing a flurry of sections , this under-served sections will come into its own in 2016.” Says Apurva Chamaria, Vice President & Head – Brand, Digital , Content Marketing & Marketing Communications, HCL Technologies Ltd Corporate Office .