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Edtech - The Next Big Export From India

Education providers need partners who can quickly adapt to this change and help them reach their learners faster and more effectively.

Photo Credit : ShutterStock

A couple of weeks back, I participated in a brainstorming session organised by the Ministry of Commerce about India’s trade imbalance in education. Indians spend roughly $15 billion annually on educating their kids abroad. There is virtually no inward income: overseas students studying in Indian campuses are next to “nil”. The session was about how India can attract more students from African and Middle Eastern countries, and help reduce this trade imbalance.

Vice chancellors of most leading private universities were in attendance. Many good ideas came out in the event, like promoting the theme “Study in India” (on similar lines as “Incredible India”) across major cities in our target markets. While this is a good thought, the biggest factor then can close this deficit is “Edtech”.

Over the last two decades, India became the world’s hub for back-office IT, and that became the popular image of India’s tech domain. The growth of IT outsourcing to India has allowed India’s workforce to develop its digital skill set and grow the global reputation of Indian talent as “Tech” or “IT” people. Today, many global CEOs and technologists are Indians. The success of Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai has only solidified this image.

And now, emerging slowly but surely as the next wave of Indian export is Edtech. There are now numerous edtech firms in India, with many of them becoming global names (Simplilearn and Byju, to name a couple). We can leverage this national strength with the fact that learning is no longer an ‘event’ -- it’s an ongoing process.

Advances in edtech mean that online learning is no longer just watching online videos. Fully integrated blended learning platforms add live virtual classroom instruction, personal interaction with instructors and aides, and hands-on labs and projects. This has increased learner completion rates dramatically, and it applies to all levels of education from K-12 to higher education to professional education.

Professionals require learning throughout their career to remain relevant. Only a limited percentage of people can learn effectively on their own; the majority needs to be taught. This is where Indian edtech players can take the lead in being “reskilling partners” of global working professionals, who number more than 500 million. With an active blended learning model delivered entirely online, Indian edtech firms can train professionals worldwide.

There are other emerging areas. Two noticeable ones are higher education and kids learning to code. Higher education is expected to lead to good employment. Good employment requires skills relevant to the workplace. Most university curriculam do not change fast enough to mirror the changes in the workplace. This is leading to higher education students across the world taking up courses on skilling platforms in addition to their university offerings. There is another emerging trend here: collaboration between leading universities and edtech players.

With Indian edtech players partnering with global universities to offer courses in emerging technologies, many students across the globe who would have otherwise preferred taking a full time postgraduate course might settle for such an offering. This is especially true for digital skills education: learning to code is becoming similar to learning maths or any other language. This expands the target edtech market significantly. Here again, Indian edtech players can take a big global share of spending by parents across the globe.

Where once Indian entrepreneurs chose to start edtech firms in Silicon Valley, now global investment in edtech is moving to India. The availability of talent and the capability of worldwide reach to learners makes the Indian edtech industry highly competitive. Indian edtech firms now have global learner pools that are on a par with other world rivals. The number of new partnerships between Indian edtech firms and universities and corporate enterprises around the world is a testament to the trust academia and industry have in us.

All that I have mentioned is work in progress and does not require much government action or support. However, by providing some encouragement, government policy can definitely help Indian edtech get there faster.

The current pandemic has hastened the transformation of business and education to digital across the globe. Education providers need partners who can quickly adapt to this change and help them reach their learners faster and more effectively. Businesses need digital skills training that is effective and accessible to their workforces that may be working from home for an extended period. Indian edtech is perfectly positioned now to help in both those roles, and edtech is truly poised to be the next big export from India.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Krishna Kumar

The author is the founder and CEO of Simplilearn.

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