School commerce: challenges and opportunities for e-commerce in education

2nd Jul 2018
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First showers of the monsoon and schools are back in session, prepping up for another academic year. While school administrators are busy battling the tedious job of uniform and books dispatches, parents, as usual, are traumatized by the long queues, desperate to get over the mundane process of collection of the academic kit and other school supplies for their children. Not much has changed in the last few decades, with schools and parents still following the same ritual year-on-year.

An average middle-class Indian parent deals with multiple constituencies for their children’s learning, education, and development, thanks to the fragmented marketplace that exists at present. From school essentials such as uniforms, books, and shoes to tutors for supplemental and hobby classes, an average Indian parent juggles with multiple vendors and stakeholders to ensure her kid gets the right education. Such is the chaos that most working mothers bid adieu to their careers or scale down their ambitions considerably only to justify their roles as parents and help their kids get the right upbringing.

The big opportunity

With 15 lakh K-12 schools and a student base of 25 crores, India has the largest number of K-12 enrolments in the world, leaving enough room for startups to disrupt traditional problems with tech interventions. Recently, startups such as Bjyu’s, Vedantu, and Simplilearn managed to make a dent in the e-learning space, benefitting lakhs of students across the country besides attracting investor attention, given their robust business models.

However, e-commerce continues to elude this industry, although an average of five crore Indians use e-commerce as a part of daily routine, ordering food, cab services, grocery, clothes, and electronics, among other services. Playing with my niece, I once lent an ear to my sister’s harrowing stories on raising a young child in today’s era. This convinced me further that education is a large space ripe for disruption and that the golden words of ‘accessibility’, ‘affordability’, and ‘convenience’ were a parent’s right, and not a luxury.

The challenges

Affordability remains the key issue that needs immediate attention. The soaring academic fees, along with the high cost of additional learning and development services, burn deep holes in a parent’s pocket, making it difficult for a regular household to tend to their kids’ growing needs. Due to this, children lack access to true education and development, one that leads to creativity and leadership in their personality.

This apart, the mammoth number of options available today is baffling to parents since most of them are unaware of the vast opportunities these learning and development services hold towards strengthening their child’s future. Despite a plethora of options available for kids, such as health and personality assessment, supplemental learning, educational trips, and hobby tutoring, most of these services aren’t easy to access or are considered unaffordable by middle-class parents, leaving them with limited options for their kids.

Despite going online being the ‘go-to’ solution, parents are reluctant to trust new brands in the education sector, given it is their child’s future they are working with. Also, the current education system is heavily tilted in favour of academics where parents would trade high grades in exams for actual learning and development for their wards. This makes them sceptical about adopting new innovations that change the current scheme of things.

Non-digital ways of fulfilling these needs are scattered and the usual e-commerce portals are not primarily focused on children’s education and learning requirements. The need of the hour now is to overcome these challenges through a single efficient platform bringing everything under one umbrella so that the learning and development services and information become affordable and accessible.

The change

E-commerce in India is still in the growing stage, but even the most pessimistic projections indicate a boom. A report by Redseer Consulting predicts India’s 50 million online shoppers will swell to 120 million in two years, with e-tail and online cabs expected to maintain the current growth rate of 25 percent, taking the market to 100 billion by 2020.

The future of the K12 segment in India is quite promising and these numbers are only expected to grow dramatically in the next seven years. This is a clear indicator of the huge opportunity the industry has in store for budding entrepreneurs.

Edu-commerce will simplify the current schooling procedures, making it convenient for parents. Be it the academic kit or school essential supplies, fulfilment of all educational needs will be facilitated through one platform. This will eliminate wastage of parents’ time and energy, reducing the hassles substantially.

One of the biggest changes edu-commerce can bring about is providing information on multiple skill development courses and other areas of learning for all parents looking for such services. It will take institutes to every home, widening learning opportunities for kids and making them accessible to all. Traditional education will move its way into activity-based learning, helping kids develop an insight into various subjects in a fun and playful manner with just a click. In future, recommendations for parents will become intelligent so that children can pursue hobbies and skills based on their innate interests and strengths.

Edu-commerce will further empower parents to ensure that the best products for their child’s education are bought in the most economical manner. Online commerce cuts down on several backend costs, making products and services available at discounted rates. This further makes it extremely affordable for parents, helping them avail a host of options for their kids, which otherwise isn’t feasible. The high cost of education has been bothering parents for long, but a probable solution hasn’t been in place yet. One solution is an EMI option on school fees, which will help parents pay the annual fee over a 10-month period.

This facilitates parents to avoid the one-time payment of fees and use them towards other development activities of their kids instead. However, the biggest challenge is building the initial trust with parents, making them comfortable with the change.

Understanding the end customer’s psyche is vital. During my tenure with DropKaffe, the company I co-founded prior to Edyoo, I home-delivered our products personally in the initial months to understand the true problem of our customers and gain an insight into customer persona. Following the same trend will be crucial in the edu-commerce space as we need to create fruitful bonds with not only the parents but also the educational institutions, resellers, and brands.

The day is not far when our whole education system will be equipped with e-commerce tools, substantially improving the way we make our children not just educated but ‘learned’.

Rakshit Kejriwal is the Founder and CEO of edu-commerce pioneer Edyoo Technologies Pvt. Ltd.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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