Opportunities & Challenges For Startups In Education Sector

Date:   Wednesday , August 17, 2016

Headquartered in New Delhi, MBD Group is one of the leading education companies in India and specializes in diverse industries such as Paper Manufacturing, Hospitality, Real Estate, Mall Development and E-Learning.

The education sector in India as a whole, and the e-learning sector continue to be on a growth trajectory. This is unlikely to change anytime soon in the foreseeable future. With a high rate of growth in population and a largely young demographic, the requirement for education will continue to increase over the years. The need for re-skilling and knowledge upgradation will also contribute majorly to the growth of the sector which is currently slated to be worth $100. With the government adopting various initiatives to further boost the reach and scope of education, and the focus now also on new education techniques such as e-learning and m-learning, the education sector in India is in challenging yet interesting times.

The developments in internet technology and the increasing reach and ease of access to the internet fuelled largely by growth in mobile internet penetration in India, presents a huge opportunity to the e-learning sector. Today, education is no longer bound within the four walls of a classroom; the e-learning space in India has seen rapid growth and is estimated to be worth $3 billion today. With the number of internet users projected to reach 250 million, rivaling the U.S. and second only to China, India\'s potential as a huge market for e-learning is enormous.

While the basic foundation of education remains reading and writing coupled with the sciences and arithmetic, there emerges a need to widen the scope of education beyond the traditional classroom settings. The predominantly young workforce is constantly looking for skill enhancement, re-skilling and knowledge enhancement opportunities. While pre-recorded contents on compact discs were the initial answers to that need, today it has moved well beyond that and into the realms of the World Wide Web.

While there might have been initial skepticism and even opposition from certain quarters regarding the new trajectory education, that skepticism is now long gone. e-learning has attained universal acceptance as an effective medium for education, right from primary education to niche courses. Today, there is a very healthy competition amongst numerous established publishers and various startups for space in the increasingly competitive online learning market in India. While a bulk of innovations in online learning still focuses primarily on school education, re-skilling and skill augmentation and knowledge enhancement for working professionals is another area that will be a primary driver of growth in the sector.

While the sector is on a path of accelerated growth and has high prospects for future development, there remain several significant challenges in the delivery process and infrastructure requirements that are a bottle-neck to development. One major setback of the Indian education system is the delay in upgrading syllabus. The e-learning tools aimed at the regulated segment are limited by constraints of the syllabus as they necessarily have to be based on them. While professional courses are more in tune with industry demand, syllabi for school education and the traditional three year degree courses which require government accreditation and approval are in dire need of a mechanism that allows the syllabus to be quickly updated as and when required.

While high speed broadband, 3G internet speeds, and now 4G have been in the popular lexicon for quite some time, the reality is that good internet speeds is often hard to come by due to network coverage issues and other reasons. The infrastructure standards are inconsistent and leave much to be desired. An internet connection often stops working or slows down, a slow response time from the browser can and will adversely affect user experience. Today, if an innovation were to happen that ensures a robust and effective content delivery mechanism on mobile screens, one that can bridge connectivity and infrastructural issues, it will make a huge impact on the sector.

The need for players already in the education sector or those intending to enter the highly competitive sector is to develop a strong understanding of the problems faced by various stakeholders in the system. Any product or solution should focus on teacher enablement rather than on obfuscating the teacher. Also, there needs to be clarity on the role of technology as an enabler. Startups should also focus on content along with technology, as content is the king.

The Indian education sector promises to be challenging and rewarding for both investors and educationists alike. While there remain challenges, it augurs well both for existing players and those keen on entering the now very competitive market, to remember that primary focus should be on quality content. Content is king and technology is the capable enabler to the medium. The sector has enough room for multiple players to contribute to and in return learn from each other.