Akamai-YourStory eLearning roundtable: New solutions for edtech startupsSneha Maselkar
Akamai and YourStory organised an eLearning roundtable on November 5 in Bangalore. The event was attended by over 20 startups and young companies in the rapidly evolving edtech and allied services space. What ensued was an interactive session with Akamai’s in-house and industry experts, which in turn led to a lot of brainstorming, idea-sharing and intense interaction over the biggest challenges and emerging trends in the eLearning industry.
eLearning is an area of sharp focus in Akamai’s portfolio of service offerings. Srinivas Padmanabharao, Director Product Marketing, Akamai, introduced the company, which not many know, carries 15-30% of the web traffic. Akamai has more than 1,000 people working in its Bangalore office, and over 5,000 worldwide, catering to 5,000+ customers globally. Apart from pure-play eCommerce, Media & Entertainment and other traditional sectors, one of Akamai’s big focus area now is eLearning, owing to growing demand in this rapidly developing space.
Nakul Srinivas, Media Product Marketing Manager, Akamai, walked the participants through the company’s media products, outlining how they were vital to the success of any eLearning business. He talked about how success in the space boils down to users getting a TV-like viewing experience irrespective what device they use, while ensuring smooth delivery and security of content streamed over the internet.
Amit Kumar Rathi, Director, Unitus Capital, provided a VC perspective, talking about how the K-12 population is now 450 million students, making it a great opportunity for eLearning businesses to tap. He strongly advised that an eLearning startup, when pitching to a VC, needs to clearly showcase the distinction the company offers and if there is a market available for their solution.
“If the entrepreneur is able to show his distinction, a market available for his offering, the learning outcomes, while depicting how his business has never been stagnant, showing a good steady growth rate. And lastly, if it can show recovery collections, it stands a good chance of getting funded by a VC.”
Suresh Rao, Executive Director, Imarticus, a business that aims to bridge the gap between basic education and professional courses, highlighted a key challenge facing the industry today – completion rates are abnormally low. Only 10% of students complete online courses they enroll for. “This is something the e-Learning industry must focus on and set right,” he said. His advice is to make a conscious move to focus on quality and value, work on the content strategy to make it intuitive, move towards a blended learning model, i.e., using a combination of online and offline modules, and ensure powerful service delivery to the end-customer, right from onboarding to the completion of a course.
Imarticus provides training and intuitive learning courses in financial services, investment banking and analytics.
A fireside chat between Srinivas and Chaitanya Ramalingegowda of YourStory covered global trends in the edtech industry. “A lot of it is currently based on how well a company sets up a business keeping in mind the democratization of learning, fragmentation of learning experiences and using different dimensions of new technologies,” Srinivas elaborated, adding, “There is an urgent need to develop technology enabled solutions to satisfy the growing user expectations.”
The need for such bandwidth at affordable prices and with flexible usage options was underscored by Ajay P, CTO of Certwin, an online assessment company providing online proctoring services said, “The Akamai Media Delivery Solutions Suite, where startups can leverage the infrastructure on an on-demand basis and get billed as per usage, is a great option. This way, we can avoid the fixed costs or minimum usage restrictions.”
Chaitanya added, "The YourStory-Akamai meetup of education startups in general, and eLearning startups in particular, was a very informative session that was tremendously valuable for such entrepreneurs. The sessions and panel discussions provided insights on what technology backbone to pick, considerations to protect IP, and how to provide a seamless learning experience and scale rapidly. The post event networking was the icing on the cake. It allowed entrepreneurs to brainstorm on collaboration and partnership opportunities.”
Suresh of Imarticus felt the event helped bring out different perspectives on eLearning across the spectrum from K-12 to professional training and extending to corporate training business opportunities. “It also helped in learning new perspectives on content design with video content capabilities,” he added.
For Akamai, the eLearning roundtable proved to be a great opportunity to interact with an exciting set of new-age companies that are laying the foundation for transforming corporate and personal learning paradigms in India and globally. “As eLearning companies bridge unprecedented gaps in the education sector and seek out new opportunities, Akamai looks forward to partnering with them to help make the learning experiences fast, reliable and secure for the end user as they scale nationally and globally,” Srinivas explained.
He also gave participants an open invitation to visit Akamai’s offices in Bangalore to explore the company’s superior Internet technology first hand. “You can see what the Internet looks like here, and you will be amazed,” Srinivas promised.