NEP spurs new opportunities for edtech startups; consolidation on cards

Experts say a significant push towards digital would invariably lead to mushrooming of more edtech players in the already crowded-sector, fueling a price war between the players


New national education policy

Samreen Ahmad  | 

With special emphasis being placed on online and digital education in the New Education Policy, there is scope for several new edtech start-ups coming up in the space leading to more competition and further consolidation in the market.

India has around 250 million students in K-12 with students facing different types of problems. Companies solving different problems will co-exist, while companies solving the same problem will consolidate over time, according to experts in the field.

“China has over 15 unicorns solving different types of problems in education and we’ll have something similar play out in India as the nature of problems faced by students in both countries is similar,” said Sahil Sheth, Founder, Lido Learning.

Experts say a significant push towards digital would invariably lead to mushrooming of more edtech players in the already crowded-sector, fueling a price war between the players.

“This is where quality, one of the foundational pillars the draft NEP is based on, will drive value and outcome for the learners,” said Mayank Kumar, MD and co-founder, upGrad.

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The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic created a demand for online learning and with this move, there are new growth opportunities which await the edtech sector. “Edtech players will now look at new paths to expand their learner base, explore new markets especially in Tier 2 & 3 cities. The future holds a lot of promise and is for sure to welcome the birth of new edtech

players,” according to Krishna Kumar, founder & CEO, Simplilearn.

Currently, there are over 300 edtech startups in the country with Tiger Global-backed BYJU valued the highest at $10.5 billion, making it the biggest edtech company in the country.

Talks of mergers and acquisitions have already been rife in the space with some edtech players already sealing deals. Facebook-backed edtech startup Unacademy recently acquired postgraduate medical entrance exam preparation platform PrepLadder for $50 million. This is the Bengaluru-based company’s third acquisition this year apart from programming platform Codechef and exam preparation start-up Kreatryx. There have also been reports that both Unacademy and BYJU’s have made an offer to buy Mumbai-based WhiteHat Jr.

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Under NEP, the government is also setting up an autonomous body called the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning and administration.

Edtech players say technology is the answer to bridging the gap in education. “The 21st century workforce will be way different from today’s. It will be centered around technologies that did not exist 20 years ago and technologies that are yet to be created. We at Toppr are excited to lead this change – whether it is teaching coding to school kids or giving a platform for schools to run completely online,” said Zishaan Hayath, CEO and co-founder, Toppr.

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“The new policy’s focus on providing students flexibility and furthering digital education is timely and much needed. We believe that tech-enabled learning is the best way to achieve scale as well as maintain uniform quality irrespective of geography or physical infrastructure availability,” said Byju Raveendran, founder & CEO, BYJU’S.

For higher education institutions, NEP will lead to policy guidelines on online education and hence further encourage digital adoption, say edtech players. “It will enable top ranked colleges and universities to launch online programmes. In my view, there will be action in the edtech start-up space on the platforms side to enable new pedagogy as more schools and colleges follow a bionic approach to learning. With less focus on high stake exams and a shift to formative assessments, new edtech models will emerge that will focus on learning inputs and not only outcomes,” said Ambrish Sinha, CEO, MeritTrac Services.