Edtech hybrid business model is the new normal in the post pandemic world for all edtech companies to survive the cut-throat competition from offline players in the field of education.
Indian EdTech industry is the second largest in the world and a major part of its growth is owed to the business boom during the Covid-19 pandemic period. However, the growth was short-lived as a major portion of the students shifted back to the physical mode of education once the covid restrictions were lifted.
The post-pandemic era led to the fall in demand and thus a slowdown in business, forcing multiple edtech businesses to resort to cost-cutting measures and a race for solutions to stay in business and be profitable.
Growth and Popularisation of EdTech in India:
Edtech startups in India started cropping up in the mid-2010s, with the first one being Byju’s in 2015. Over the years, the edtech industry saw phenomenal growth with hundreds of them mushrooming in the past year alone.
Online provision of education came as a blessing for lakhs who lived in far-flung areas or had time constraints, or limited access to better educational facilities. It bridged the accessibility gap and provided an opportunity for learners to study at their own pace. In addition to this, edtech startups such as Byju’s, Unacademy, Vedantu and many more expanded their market through vigorous advertisement on all forms of media and lucrative discounts and offers.
Also read: Is India’s EdTech Bubble about to burst?
Despite all this, their consumer base was limited. This problem was overcome during the Covid-19 pandemic when the shutting down of all educational institutions following the covid restrictions led to a sudden and complete halt in the physical mode of education. While the educational institutions were still struggling to adapt to the online mode of education, these edtech startups already had a well-established online presence and easily absorbed the inflow of students. Thus, the edtech industry in India saw tremendous growth during the pandemic years which is evidenced by the formation of four Unicorns in the past two years- Unacademy in 2020 and UpGrad, Vedantu and Eruditus in 2021.
The boom in business for the edtech industry was short-lived. As soon as the covid restrictions were lifted, the students reverted to the traditional forms of education.
A major reason for this was that for most students, the online mode of education was the last resort and not a choice. Further, for a better understanding of concepts, face-to-face interaction between the students and the educators once again assumed the top priority, indicating that online modes of education can only act as support mechanisms but cannot replace traditional classrooms.
Solution: Hybrid Business Model
For these edtech startups to not only stay relevant but also to usher in the next phase of growth, embracing the hybrid model is a must. Hybrid model refers to the coexistence of online and offline forms of education. The hybrid business model will not only benefit the students by providing them with multiple ways to learn and access to quality educators but also help the edtech industry to retain its customer base and be profitable in the post-pandemic era.
Edtech giants like Byju’s has announced the launch of ‘Byju’s Tuition Center’ for students in classes 4-10. The company plans to open 500 centers across 190 cities by the end of December 2022. Last year Byju’s even acquired the Aakash Educational Services Limited, a 33 year-old offline educational institute, in a bid to expand their offline presence.
Similarly, Unacademy began its expansion spree in May this year and opened up offline centers in various cities of the country, starting with one in Kota, Rajasthan- the hub of coaching centers in India. It plans to provide courses such as NEET UG, IIT-JEE and foundation courses.
Another edtech company Jamboree Education, headed by Vineet Gupta already has a strong offline presence across India with 35 physical centers in addition to a robust online infrastructure. This has enabled them to sustain and stay profitable even in the post-pandemic world.
While most edtech companies have limited themselves to the big cities at the beginning of their expansion process, Vedantu has gone ahead and expanded to tier-3 and tier-4 cities. In June, Vedantu launched its first hybrid learning space – ‘Vedantu Learning Center’, in Muzzafarpur, Bihar. It will cater to the students interested in preparing for competitive exams.
Another example is the Gurugram-based Athena Education founded by Poshak Agarwal and Rahul Subramaniam. It provides mentorship and training to students willing to pursue higher education from foreign universities. The students can choose the mode based on their location because so far their centres are located in a select few cities.
From the present state of the edtech industry in India, it can be inferred that the decline in consumer base has led to huge losses for one and all involved. The companies had to deal with funding crunch, uninterested investors, falling valuations, downsizing as well as the possibility of closure. However, the realization of the need of a hybrid business model to remain profitable was quick to come and helped them tide over the situation.