EdTech Conclave: BYJU’S, Vedantu, Simplilearn and Toppr decode India’s global EdTech opportunity

The EdTech Conclave, powered by Akamai, featured leaders of the country’s biggest EdTech startups who deliberated on a host of topics — from global expansion and their growth phase to challenges and future roadmaps
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If there is one industry that has grown in leaps and bounds despite the downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is EdTech. The sector is witnessing massive uptick in investments and users. In such a scenario, top players such as BYJU'S are scaling up and making headway into international markets. To further explore how top Indian EdTech players are undergoing a massive growth phase, the challenges of scaling up to meet the sudden surge in demand, and the future roadmap, YourStory, together with Akamai hosted the EdTech Conclave on August 28, 2020, which featured leaders of India’s top EdTech startups BYJU’S, Vedantu, Toppr and Simplilearn.

Moderated by YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma, the digital conclave kicked off with an invigorating fireside chat with Ranjit Radhakrishnan, Chief Product Officer, BYJU'S.

Going global

With BYJU’S recent acquisition of the coding platform Whitehat Jr opened up a vast US market for them. Speaking on BYJU’S global footprint with this acquisition, Ranjit said, “Once we build a platform, it does not limit itself to one geography. Math and Science are subjects learnt universally. If you build a personalised platform, it can be scaled to the world. We are looking for a complete value offering that goes beyond just Maths or Science. In Whitehat Jr, we found a company that could do coding at scale, and it fit in with our philosophy and vision.”

User engagement and building for children

As product builders, Ranjit said we have to understand what children need and the onus of ensuring their engagement and maintaining their curiosity is our responsibility. “Without the hook of engagement, there's no learning outcome”

Scaling up

In two months of the nation-wide lockdown, BYJU’S added over 20 million new users on its platform. The adoption of online learning, which was supposed to take place over a period of time, happened suddenly as schools shut down and students turned to online formats for learning. “As a company we had been scaling rapidly, but the lockdown accelerated that. We saw users spending a hundred minutes on average on the platform.”

Ensuring Learning Never Stops

Following Ranjit’s insights into BYJU’S, Deepa Singhal, Regional Vice President - Sales, Akamai and Aseem Ahmed, Senior Product Manager, Cloud Security - Asia Pacific and Japan, Akamai Technologies took to the virtual stage to deliver a keynote address that stressed the importance for this sector to focus on being able to scale on demand and deploying security measures for every digital touchpoint.

The address touched upon a slew of topics that highlighted how internet consumption and moving-digital strategies for business continuity has changed the way businesses function. This has also brought along with it several challenges that include securing apps and APIs, dealing with large scale DDoS and phishing attacks.

Deepa underscored the importance of Akamai’s globally distributed Edge platform by highlighting how it was able to mitigate one of the most complex and largest DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks that the internet has seen in recent times.

Akamai’s globally distributed Edge platform spans over a 1000+ cities, 300,000 servers, 1,500 networks, 4,100 locations and 136 nations. In India too, the company has 17,000 servers across 31 networks, and in 300 locations. Akamai works with some of the most well-known Edtech startups like BYJU’S and Unacademy among many others.

Aseem pointed out how applications and APIs are left more vulnerable in recent times and web application attacks had increased by over 42 percent, compared to last year. Managing and securing customer identities is another important area of focus that Edtech companies are starting their journey to personalize user experiences. Akamai is in a unique position to help businesses scale, be secured and deliver exceptional online experiences, Aseem said in his concluding remarks.

The knights of the EdTech roundtable

The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion featuring Vamsi Krishna, co-founder and CEO of Vedantu; Zishaan Hayath, Founder and CEO, Toppr and Krishna Kumar, FOunder and CEO of Simplilearn, with the conversation ranging from building a strong Indian EdTech player on the global front to scaling up to changing trends in the market and much more.

The growth phase

All three panelists concurred that EdTech has really exploded in the last few months, aided by both continuous growth and the pandemic-led challenges to normal life. For Simplilearn, the world's number one online bootcamp for digital economy skills training, the amount of time users spend on its platforms has substantially increased. Vedantu, which specialises in live learning classes, saw a 5X increase in traffic and subscriptions. Toppr, the learning app for grades 5-12, saw 45 million users on its platform per month, as compared to just six million last year. The startup also went into product overdrive in the last few months with a slew of new apps for coding, homework help, SchoolOS to onboard schools across various boards to offer live classes and much more.

The global opportunity

While the domestic market for education in India is huge and EdTech startups still have a lot of ground to cover, there is no doubt that breaking into international markets is the next step. While Simplilearn’s Krishna Kumar said that 70 percent of their business is already outside of India, he expects that in the next four to five years, Indian Edtech companies will dominate the global education space, especially in fields like analytics and coding.

Vedantu’s Vamsi Krishna had a more muted outlook. He said that while the platform is live across 45 countries today, their focus is currently on establishing Vedantu as a dominant force in the domestic market. However, having said that, he also saw potential for their newly launched offerings for K-5 students to have global applicability. “The opportunity for going global is huge, and in the long term, I do see India becoming a global teaching powerhouse”.

Toppr’s Zishaan however, was of the opinion that looking to expand beyond India is not necessary for EdTech right now since the domestic market itself is so huge, full of potential and unending opportunities.

Building a successful edtech company

For Zishaan, it is all about engagement. “For kids, taking up learning on their own is generally not their first preference. So, if you can drive engagement for them, the rest will follow.” Krishna took a more introspective route, “Ask yourself: why and how would you like to learn something new?” Vamsi, on the other hand, suggested focusing on a few key areas instead of trying to do too many things. “Student-centricity is the most critical part. It is very easy to get lost. So my key advice is to keep the learner at the centre.”


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