Spending 3 years at Mafatlal Industries as Head of E-commerce and Modern Trade and working closely with Priyavrata, Gagan was closely watching the online learning space as more and more players flocked the field. It didn’t take much time for both of them to zero-in that the market for online learning was burgeoning. The onset of COVID-19 pandemic infused a fresh lease of life to Gagan’s entrepreneurial dream which he had been slowly nurturing. With a strong experience in retail, E-commerce and technology, fuelled by a strong demand uptick for online learning, thanks to the pandemic, Gagan gave wings to his entrepreneurial dream in December 2020 by co-founding Uniform Junction along with Priyavrata, a one-stop shop for all education related products and services. Both of them share a common vision – create the best way to serve schools, parents and children in the K-12 segment.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools are the most affected institutions. In most of the states, schools are the only institutions that are still not allowed to work full-fledged. However, like they say “every problem is an opportunity”. Due to the current challenges schools are adopting technology at breakneck speed. They have realized that the future of schooling is going to be high breed (Tech-enabled offline). School-related technologies like ERP, LMS, and Online exams are witnessing increased adoption. These solutions are also creating a level playing field for less resourceful schools as now they also have access to great teaching talents and courses for their students. We believe this is just beginning and with new education policy coming in, School Tech is going to play an increasing role in democratisation of education in the future.
However, technology players need to understand one simple truth, they are facilitators, enablers, and not a replacement of existing systems. Another very important point is that today’s children are digital natives.
For them digital adoption is like play, they are very comfortable spending hours on digital screens. If learning is made interactive and interesting, they will spend less time watching videos and playing games online. So, if school tech companies can focus on enhancing the learning outcomes through interaction, it will reduce the possible fatigue if any.
With an increase in technology adoption becoming the new normal, it has opened up new opportunities and created new markets. Business leaders need to educate schools about the benefits of technology and make it easy for adoption. This is the best time to convince a school to embrace technology-based solutions for normal times ahead. The solution should not only focus on COVID related environment but the long-term benefits, which are plenty.
School tech companies should start engaging with schools proactively and immediately. Schools are the fulcrum of education in India and will continue to remain so. There are 4 key stakeholders here, school management, teachers, students, and parents. School tech companies must understand the need gap for each stakeholder and define benefits for everyone. School tech firms need to empathise with the fact that all stakeholders have gone through a difficult time in the last 500 days and they will need support to get back and roar again. Therefore, it is imperative to understand, empathise and help.
A report on the growing popularity of e-learning among tier 2 and tier 3 city students indicates a 15% growth in enrolments during March – October 2020 compared to March to October 2019. The report also suggests that students from tier-3 cities such as Bhagalpur, Jammu, Aurangabad, Gaya, and Prayagraj alone contributed to 40% of the total enrolments. One positive impact of technology always has been that it democratises the access equally for all for example, with digital adoption, you can watch the movie in Mumbai and Manawer (a small town in Madhya Pradesh) on the same day which used to take more than 2 months previously Similarly, with increasing internet penetration, global education is now accessible to everyone. Now, a kid in the small town of Nadiad in Gujarat can learn chess from ex grandmaster based out of Israel like anybody else in the world. So, technology is democratising all kinds of learning to the existing generation. Now the kids/parents from Tier 2, 3, 4, and 5 cities are getting exposure to everything. All the world-class learning resources are available on their figure tips. The only thing they need now is the willingness to learn and we do not see any dearth of that willingness. So, it is a huge opportunity for everybody in the learning space.
As learning becomes more and more online, it has also brought with it its share of negative baggage in the form of fatigue. Screen time has significantly increased. Children are also experiencing mental stress which has impacted their mental and physical health. It is here school tech firms can play a significant role in easing the mental stress of children by making learning fun, exciting and engaging. Exciting courses and learning materials like video making, animation, celebrity-led courses like learning from actors on acting, or learning from authors on writing, etc. can not only make learning more fun but also more holistic and futuristic. Such courses/learning materials can also help today’s children gain an understanding of what career options are available for them, the skills that are required for them to make a career in areas where their interests lie.
With increasing dependence on online learning, it is logical to assume that competition in the edtech space is going to be intense. But honestly, the market is too big and extremely under-penetrated to be worried about competition. Education is a trusted business and the only way to build that trust is by creating a powerful positive impact on learning outcomes for schools, teachers, students, and parents. Business leaders should not be impacted by the hype around school tech. It is a marathon and companies will only survive if they can get the basics right. So, ideally addressing the concerns of stakeholders should be the priority and not be worried about competition. Rather the focus of such firms should be on building a library of more exciting courses and learning materials and preparing children to be future-ready.