Shubhada Dayal Basuray is an Engineer and MBA with 20 years of experience across industries and functions. She is the founder of Brainologi, an educational technology firm that works in early education. Brainologi has created a step-by-step, self-learning book+ app combination for 5-12-year-old that aims at building a child’s inner capacity beyond the school curriculum.
“How am I going to be different?” There are very few client meetings where I have not been asked this question. As per Tracxn, there are 9034 edtech startups in India as of December 2021. And last year these edtech startups raised a whopping USD 4.7 bn. Edtech was India’s third most funded sector. Yes, that is a lot of firms and a lot of funds sloshing around. The consumer has never been more spoilt for choice. And they don’t even need to pay for some of this.
So, if you are on the hot seat thinking, how am I going to be different, you have your work cut out.
Learning, especially early learning is a unique category. In the sense that for a large number of children- the actual user of the product-the consumption is forced. The child has little motivation to watch a learning video or attend a class. It is not relevant to their world. And in my view, that is the biggest gap that we see in the creation of a lot of learning products. I would say that engagement and user drop is the big elephant in the edtech room. Of course, there is an effort to build engagement. Cartoons, stories, games, and so on. But not enough to cut through. And therein may lie the opportunity for new firms to trump the market. I always tell my clients that they have to imagine themselves being in the business of entertainment. Else, the product will fall flat.
And entertainment also runs on science. Therefore, you must answer the kind of questions that OTT platforms ask. Such as, what is the ideal length of the content? This is highly relevant for children, as their power of concentration and ability to sit in a place varies by age. For a young child, it may be no more than a few minutes. Look at your consumption pattern data. For example, a platform like Netflix analyses when you pause, rewind, fast forward, or leave content. This is the kind of granularity that will soon become de rigueur.
And if the above does not convince you, here is the most important case for why you should focus on engagement a lot more than you think you should. Boredom has a direct impact on academic achievement. That would mean a direct impact on the efficacy of your learning product. There is a quote by Jal Mehta, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in one of their blogs that sums up this article perfectly. “We have to stop seeing boredom as a frilly side effect. It is a central issue. Engagement is a precondition for learning, no learning happens until students agree to become engaged with the material.”