Today, you can find a 3-year old Indian kid watching his favorite nursery rhyme on YouTube, an 18-year old taking online coaching for medical entrance, and a 22-year old learning a foreign language on his smartphone. The flexible and supple nature of digital education has made learning captivating and interesting.  

The online education sector in India is growing at a staggering rate and is expected to grow to USD 1.96 billion by the end of 2021. This, in turn, has led to investors pouring in money to fund EdTech startups. In 2018, the EdTech sector in India garnered funding of about USD 700 million.

However, just a handful of startups gulped down the lion’s share and left the others tottering for funds. In fact, a large proportion of startups go defunct within the first five years. While some failed to buckle up their business strategy, others lagged in execution and timing. Now the question that arises here is why your venture will not suffer the same fate? In a country where the majority of EdTech startups fail to thrive, what will give your idea a long life?

Well, you need to make a note of the fact that Indian education domain is quite different from that of the West. If your EdTech product is a mere replica of a western product, the audience will bid you farewell too soon. The ‘Entrepreneurial India’ has slightly different terrain, and the following lessons will help you understand it better. Happy reading!

Lesson – 1: India has inertia towards traditional education. Go for innovation, not revolution.

India has not yet given up over its obsession with the archaic system of gurukuls. Despite the blow of digital technology and innovative learning formats, the backbone of the Indian educational system remains conventional. Here, students still go to the ‘chalk-and-talk’ schools to educate themselves. They are driven by the fear of marks, board exams, and entrance exams. Even the employers demand conventional degrees certified by recognized educational boards.

Thus, the most probable way to carve a niche for your product is to complement the brick and mortar system of education here rather than trying to replace it. Your EdTech startup should focus on ways to modify the traditional wheels of the academic system rather than replacing them. It should provide an impetus to the learning standards and complement them. This is probably the best way to build a ground for your enterprise.

Lesson – 2: You can’t make everyone happy in the first go. So, hand-pick your stakeholders.

The Indian educational system is quite complex and intricate with many influencers and stakeholders in the picture. There are teachers, parents, school administrators, school heads, and various other organizations. Every element is crucial for the education empire. And a major challenge that an EdTech startup founder faces is to choose as to which stakeholder his product would be catering to? The success or failure of any product depends on the whims and fancies of the target stakeholders.

As an edupreneur, you must decide as to whether your offering will liberate the students from the shackles of conventional learning, or will it be a messiah to the teachers trying to reach out to a broader section of students? Would your EdTech startup help parents in finding suitable tutors for their wards, or will it assist the working professionals in adding glitters to their resume?

Lesson - 3: There is already a cornucopia of EdTech products. Paint yours with a different hue.

Once you are done with stakeholder mapping, the next step is to find an answer to a very important question - While most of the EdTech startups are already bridging the gap between the learners and educators, what can you do to the shake up the educational industry? How can you compel the buyers into considering your offering?

Merely creating an app is not enough to join the race of monetizing the education sector. Instead, look deeper into the root issues. Your product must address the unmet needs of the stakeholders and provide solutions to their unsolved problems. Here, a market reconnaissance is a must. You must make sure that your product is not a mere simulation of any other product already there in the market. This involves reaching out to the potential clients, interviewing them, mapping their decision-making cycles, and understanding their psyche.

Lesson – 4: Different learners have different demands. Customize your mode of delivery.

There are many layers in the educational system of India. The concept of one-size-fits-all doesn’t apply here. The demands and requirements of different segments are diverse and sometimes contrasting. Also, the average monthly expenditure on education is different for these segments.

It won’t be fair to assume that the same product that caters to the urban dwellers will serve the rural customers as well. As a startup founder, you need to redesign it, redefine it, and reprice it. The customer should see value in your offering and be willing to pay for it. Striking a balance between quality and pricing is the key to succeeding in the arena of education.

Lesson – 5: The system of referral works wonders in India. Let people advertise for you.

India is a country where the system of referrals works wonders. Indians rely more on word-of-mouth rather than blindly trusting a new idea. They are also technophobic as an audience and quite resistant to adopting any new tech product. They look out for reliable standards and testimonials from other people to verify their credibility of modern technology.

In such a system, completely tech-based solutions might not yield fruitful results. You should rather team up with schools and other educational institutions. Collaborating with premier educational institutions and being vouched by them will lend your startup a reliability quotient. Blending online solutions with offline old school learning will make people accustomed to your product and help you tap a pool of consumers.

Lesson – 6: Let Social Media take a backseat. Go for face-to-face marketing.

An innovative marketing strategy is a pre-requisite for the upward trajectory of an EdTech startup and its survival. No matter how cutting-edge features your product has, how intuitively your tools work, or how good your content is, its futile if customers are unaware of it. They should understand what your product is all about and how it can benefit their learning settings.

And the evolution of social media has made it the most cost-effective tool to reach out to customers. However, in India, customers are still skeptical about the validity and credibility of e-marketing. They give more prominence to physical interactions and face-to-face marketing. Physical interactions lend a better and deeper understanding of the product, its contents, its objectives, and its uses. So, invest more in your sales team. They will fetch you the trust of the customers.

Conclusion – Supplementary education is big business in India these days. Learners are looking for flexible alternates to conventional learning choices, and online education has just scratched the surface. There have also been a few moves by the government in this regard. According to the Union Budget 2018-19, it is set to increase digital density in the education sector. So, roll up your sleeves and make the most of this opportunity.


Author: Rohit Manglik, the founder, and CEO of, an ed-tech portal equipped with the ability to provide solutions to students’ various needs, besides being an avid book reader, also pens articles on education, career, and technology. This article is one such of his written efforts.

  Modified On Jul-18-2019 04:50:41 AM

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