The Indian EdTech Market — 240+ Startups that are Building the Future of Education
Education transforms lives but what’s transforming education? Education Technology or Edtech. Startups are now focusing more on overall skill, talent, and personal development and not just test prep (for standardized exams like SAT. GRE, JEE, NEET and so on) and tutoring.
I’ve been following the Indian startup ecosystem for over seven years, and it is exploding with mega funding rounds. In 2017 Indian tech startups raised nearly $10 Billion in funding — That’s a record-setting number. While our unicorns get all the attention, there is no way/medium to keep track of early-stage startups and paint a landscape. YourStory articles and shitty reports from Tracxn won’t help either. So, I wanted to create a series of stories where you can understand what’s happening in the Indian startup ecosystem. So this story is about our Edtech startups.
Now, to understand what Indian startups are doing in the Edtech industry, I researched and analyzed over 240 startups to give you answers to these questions.
What has happened?
What is happening now?
What will happen?
I’m going to try and answer these questions with data and help you make sense of Indian Edtech industry. Then, we’ll look at some of the unique startups in the industry and the market gaps that hold great potential.
So, what has happened?
Let’s start by defining what Edtech startups are — Companies and startups that are working to replace or supplement traditional education for students and teachers.
Between 2013 and 2015, investors have consistently increased their investments in the global Edtech industry, and it hit a record high of $3.44B in funding in 2015. In 2016, the number of deals in ed tech decreased by 17% globally with a 32% reduction in funding value globally.
Indian Edtech startups share a similar story. The chart below clearly shows that we hit a record number of deals in 2015 and then a dip in 2016 through Q2 2017.
Well, the 2016 dip was caused by the ripple effect of the market uncertainty at that time due to events like political instability in the USA (because Trump won the election), Brexit, China’s slowdown, Demonetization in India to name a few. This ripple effect might have affected the investor’s risk appetite.
The Q4 2018 empire state building in the funding activity chart’s reason is BYJU’s — India’s ed tech unicorn. In fact, here is another chart of the top-funded Indian Edtech startups.
I like this chart as it clearly shows the difference between our unicorns and the rest of our tech startups. Almost all funding surges are driven by companies that are valued at $1B+ while every drop in funding can be attributed to these unicorns getting less attention.
This difference is becoming more evident with every round of funding, and Indian Edtech industry is the best example. It makes me wonder do we have a robust tech ecosystem or is the growth limited to a handful of companies like BYJU’s? I mean it’s like these unicorns have a funding economy of their own.
Now things are changing (a bit) as early-stage startups are getting more deal shares as you can clearly see in the chart below.
The average deal size is on the rise, but that data usually gets skewed by these unicorns, but the median deal size is increasing too. So, that’s a good sign.
Now, one thing is clear.
Indian Edtech Industry is not as nascent as it was before and the stage is set for innovative startups to grow.
So, What is happening now?
After analyzing over 240+ Indian Edtech startups, I sorted them into eight categories, like K-12 to Language Learning to Test Prep.
Companies on the market map offer a broad spectrum of services, From personal development to upskilling to connecting tutors to local students.
Not all of the categories in the map are mutually exclusive. This map is not meant to be exhaustive of companies in the space.
The map illustrates the following Edtech categories
K-12 Learning — This category includes companies like BYJU’S (Honestly, everyone thinks BYJU’s is the successful Edtech startup in India, but I think the company is hoarding money and talent while the results aren’t that rosy. If you want me to write about it, Let me know in the comments.), Vedantu and Genius Corner which tutor kids and school students with high-quality videos focused on academic curriculum.
Broad Online Learning — This category includes most widely known startups like Unacedemy, Udacity, and startups that host educational content covering subjects ranging from math, science to music production and photography.
Network, Communication, and Portals — Startups like Kriger Campus provide a platform for students and educators to network, stay in touch with other students and find mentors. While startups like MeetUniversity helps students find colleges and portals like JustDakhila helps users compare schools.
Tech for differently-abled — While researching, I came across some startups that are trying to help differently-abled learn with tech. Startups like Project Mudra aka Thinkerbell Labs, a BITS Pilani Edtech Startup that develops handy devices and interactive content in Braille. Innoflaps is another startup that offers tech products to help children with stammering and speech delay.
Well, now the next question is, What will happen next in this industry.
So, What’s next?
To answer this question, we need to look at the data from a different perspective.
So, I used the data (Like funding, momentum, customer adoption, media attention, and competition intensity) to evaluate tech, products, and business models against market maturity and adoption to come up with a graph that will help us find the next trend.
These are trends that are seeing a widespread industry reach and market adoption. If you are an incumbent or a new entrant, you should have a clear strategy and initiatives for these trends.
Test Prep, K-12 education, and online learning categories have the most industry adoption and market strength. Though there is a lot of competition, we will see a lot more companies entering this space as Indians spend a lot on tuition ($23.7 Billion in 2013) and preparing/cramming for standardized tests.
Sadly, we won’t see a lot of OpenCourseWare like NPTEL and IGNOU anymore as the barrier for entry is high (You’ll need high-quality content which usually comes from prestigious universities for OCWs like MIT and Harvard OCW and EdX. Our IIT’s OCW is NPTEL, and we got IGNOU too. So, I don’t see any other universities that caliber of content). Instead, we will see more startups working on freemium gamified apps for language learning and more niche online learning platforms.
These are trends that have significant market growth forecast and unusual investment activity. Early adopters have embraced it, and these trends are on their way to gaining widespread industry and customer adoption.
Boot camps are a promising trend. Generally, a classroom-based training institute would conduct a course for around 30–40 hours, and you can’t become a good developer with that theoretical knowledge. Bootcamps are intensive 100+ hours of hands-on programs that generate better results — startups like GreyAtom, School of Accelerated Learning are some of the exciting startups in the boot camp space.
Niche Online Learning is another promising trend. One of the startups riding this trend is LearnApp (an Indian version of MasterClass for finance). Skill Lync is another online platform for mechanical engineering students to learn skills that aren’t taught in universities. We’ll see an increasing number of niche online startups as the barrier for entry is low with higher market demand and lower industry adoption.
Financing is an interesting trend. We’ll see a lot of fintech and startups entering this space helping students with microloans, interest-free EMIs for boot camps/online learning platforms, and access to scholarships.
Counseling startups like Leverage Edu use AI/ML to help students find programs and colleges they are best suited for and then match them with a panel of mentors. This is a novel idea, and this trend is gaining some momentum these days.
These are trends that are in the conceptual or early stage with a few functional products/services and minimum market adoption. These trends are either gaining media or investor’s attention with a lot of Poof of concepts in motion. Personally, I’m excited about everything that happens in this quadrant as this is where actual innovation happens.
AI in Edtech is shaping up nicely in India with companies like CarveNiche Technologies, eDreams Edusoft aka Funtoot, and Genius Corner Educom (also Leverage Edu) are hard at work coming up with AI/ML-based personalized education for students and professionals.
AR/VR is another trending experiment that is slowly seeing gaining some momentum. Companies like SkillVeri, iAugmentor, PAL Genie Technologies, and Simulanis have working products and services to help create an immersive and interactive learning experience. AR/VR should gain a lot of traction in the future as the wearable tech grows. The use cases are endless, and so are the opportunities — I’m super excited about this trend.
Classroom Tech is basically using tech to enhance the learning experience, and companies like SRJNA and Experifun Learning Solutions have come up with hybrid (Real and Virtual) tools and tech to help enrich the learning experience in classrooms and add a personal touch too. We will see new startups competing for this space with more novel solutions soon.
High Tech Labs are something I wish had when I was at school. These are startups which help kids build prototypes with 3D printers. Companies like 3Dexter help students develop good visualization, problem-solving and critical thinking techniques while acting as a platform to unleash their creative energies. The success of these labs will be instrumental in setting the foundation for the future of education in India.
These are trends that see adoption with an uncertain market. As these trends mature, we’ll see more opportunities and categories.
Information portals are easy to build and maintain when compared with other startups in this space. Ideally, these portals are meant to bring clarity, visibility and the level of choice that people have in their hands right now when it comes to selecting a school/course/university. Companies like MeetUniv and Minglebox help find universities, courses and get unbiased reviews and advice from peers, mentors, and industry experts.
High-quality Course Materials are hard to find, and startups like Prozo help students get their hands on notes, books, and other course materials. Democratizing course and study material will have a massive impact on how students learn and prepare for exams. I see trends pointing to more market adoption for these startups and marketplaces in the next few years.
Collaboration and management tools and admin tools are critical for next-gen schools and universities. Startups like Linkstreet Learning provide video-based learning and collaboration tools for organizations, and eShiksa is another management portal that helps educators manage, analyze, and report extensive data while saving time by eliminating repeated data entry. I’m predicting that these startups will grow into a new age niche Learning Management systems, but this is a very nascent category.
Now that we have a clear bird’s eye view of what’s happening in the Edtech industry. Let’s look at the market gaps.
Now that we have a landscape of Indian Edtech Industry Let’s look at the gaps/grey spots. From the 240+ startups, I see a few market gaps that hold immense potential.
One category that is missing is Badging and Credentialization. Let us say you have a bunch of certificates from edX, Udacity, and attended some boot camps and then you did some cool projects with the newly learned skill. Now, where will you showcase it? Will it be verifiable and credible? Startups like Accredible lets you upload and receive digitally verified certificates and badges so that anyone who looks at your profile can be 100% sure that you’ve learned what you say you have.
But this is a partial solution — Credentializing your reskilling and upskilling initiatives. But the bigger problem is most jobs still demand a conventional educational degree recognized by a designated board, and most startups don’t have recognization from these boards nor the awareness to be widely accepted and valued. So, either Edtech startups have to fill this gap or our government should create a framework for this problem.
Next up, high tech labs and AR/VR.
In the most famous Ted Talk, Sir Ken Robinson points to a most glaring point — “…children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise that’s been on parade for the past four days, what the world will look like in five years. And yet, we’re meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary.) Yes! So true. The least we can do is bring cutting edge tech to students with these high tech labs and AR/VR. I found just a handful of companies that work in this space and the gap is wide open.
NextGen Schools — Alternate to traditional education experience. We have a win here! Cuelearn aka Cuemath, a Chennai based startup offers a supplementary school for mathematics. AltSchool in the US is trying to provide personalized education by tailoring curriculums and adjusting each student’s learning style. Altschool got funding from billionaires like Zuckerberg, Thiel and Andreessen Horowitz but unfortunately, it is burning cash too fast. The gap is wide open on this one.
I’ve heard people blame our education system, (I blamed it too), some blame goes to colonial rule and our society’s obsession with engineers and doctors. Personally, I feel NextGen Schools might fill that gap even redeem our education system (Over-optimistic? Ya. At least I got that even after getting crushed by the system).
I wrote this report with one thing in mind — A whole new world of innovation is happening yet so-called unicorns steal the attention, money, talent and skew everything. So I wanted to shine some light on it, paint the landscape, call out companies that are doing really well. I hope I managed to do that. Let me know what you think in the comments below.
I originally wrote this on Medium before starting this website.