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Everything must change. Again. 🔁

From education to cricket to gifting. The second and third order effects roll on.

This is edition 382 of Beyond The First Order, a premium daily newsletter that demystifies the hidden models, incentives and consequences of the most significant events across India and Southeast Asia

A 🔒 paid newsletter that demystifies the hidden models, incentives and consequences of the most significant events across India and Southeast Asia. Someone sent you this? Subscribe to BFO

Good morning,

For over two years now, we have brought you the second and third order effects of the world shutting down due to the pandemic. But as the world opens up, what can we expect? In the world of cricket, it means a rivalry between India’s cricket governing body and the global cricketing council. In matters of education, China’s clamp down on the tuition market has lessons for India. But most importantly, rich parents’ power to say no to in-person schooling can impact schools’ future.

The Rich Parent “Veto”

Last June, as the first of the Covid-induced school closure waves were just a few months old, Indian parents in some states started a campaign called #RightToLearn. They wanted governments to do away with the ban on online schooling because it “curtailed their freedom to choose the way they want to educate their children.”

As schools stayed shut, governments gave and allowed online schooling. In the process, India implicitly allowed a widening of the learning gaps between children from more affluent families and those living in cities versus those from poorer ones and living in villages.

We wrote about this yesterday, and how this strengthened the divides that separate children from different socioeconomic levels.

Now, a subset of the parents who demanded the right to online schooling are implicitly wielding a veto against the complete opening up of schools. Many parents are refusing to send their children to school because they feel online schooling is safer for their kids. In the process they’re forcing already stretched schools and teachers to teach in “concurrent mode”—meaning with kids in classrooms as well as online. I even heard an example of numerous children from a well-known international school in Bengaluru attending online classes while being in the US, where they have decided to temporarily reside with their affluent parents.

Managing attention, learning, and feedback with young children is hard enough as it is in an online environment. Imagine how teachers must be trying to do that while also having children sitting in the classrooms with them.

There is also the zero-sum nature of this veto. The more parents that wield it, the fewer children in classrooms, and the emptier and harder it is for teachers, schools, and other students to make regular school work. Schools are forced to keep mothballed critical facilities like buses, cafeterias, and sports because the economics of running them for only a subset of enrolled students doesn’t work out.

Tempting as it is to think of this as a problem that only affects affluent schools, the problem really is our unwillingness and inability to address the issue of school resuming.

A long-time reader wrote in to say this, which I agree with. “If we had never allowed online to be the default, kids would have gone back, and parents would have forced schools to open. Now, wealthy parents are exerting an invisible veto over schools opening because they feel online is safer. But online only works for one very minuscule section of this country that has gotten wealthier and more powerful over the pandemic.”

India needs a #RightToSchool campaign. But those who do, unfortunately cannot run Twitter campaigns.

It’s BCCI vs ICC in cricket’s big media rights battle

It’s the Indian Premier League (IPL) season in India. And that usually brings with it a lot of drama and excitement on-screen, as the world’s best cricketers compete to win the most popular cricket tournament in the world.

But there’s a lot of off-field drama also going on at the moment.

On Tuesday, the IPL’s governing council, which is made up of former Indian cricketers and members of the Indian cricket board (BCCI), had a meeting. The council announced two key decisions following the meeting:

  1. The last two matches of the season, before the playoffs, will be played concurrently—a first for the IPL.

  2. The IPL media rights tender for the 2023-2027 cycle will be released later this month, after the announcement of two new IPL teams on 25 October.

It’s the second decision that’s the more interesting one. Because the current five-year IPL rights cycle doesn’t end until after the 2022 season. The BCCI is basically releasing the tender at least 17-18 months before the next cycle starts in March-April 2023. For context, the tender for the 2018-2022 cycle was released in July 2017, just eight months before IPL 2018.

Why is the BCCI in such a hurry?

One plausible reason is that the BCCI wants to capitalise on the buzz of two new franchises being announced later this month. Prospective bidders for both, the new franchises and the media rights, might be willing to pay a premium given the buzz around either bid. 

But it appears there’s another reason for this rush. Recent reports suggest that the International Cricket Council (ICC), which governs world cricket, is planning to release the rights tender for its next eight-year cycle (2024-2031) as early as December 2021. That’s more than two years before the cycle actually begins. 

The ICC had released its previous rights tender for the 2015-2023 cycle in July 2014—a reasonable time period. Star India reportedly paid $1.9 billion for the eight-year cycle. Then, in 2017, the broadcaster paid a whopping $2.55 billion for the five-year IPL rights. 

Following these periods, the IPL’s next rights bid should have been scheduled for mid-2022, while ICC’s would be a year later. But it appears the ICC wanted to pip the BCCI by advancing its rights bid by nearly two years, hoping to make at least $3 billion this time. Perhaps it thought that broadcasters would not be willing to pay that much if they had already coughed up $3-4 billion on the IPL rights. After all, the world is just about recovering from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

The BCCI’s official announcement of an advanced IPL rights tender, then, is a classic case of: anything you can do, I can do better. The ball is now in the ICC’s court. It’s highly unlikely that it will be able to squeeze its rights tender into the calendar before the IPL’s. Will the ICC now shelve its December release plans and go back to a conventional time period of a few months before the next cycle begins? 

It’s not an easy decision. After all, the IPL is not the only premium property that the BCCI holds. The rights cycle for the Indian cricket team’s home series also ends in 2023—just like ICC’s. Star India had paid around $944 million for the five-year rights in 2018. The BCCI is yet to announce when the tender for the next cycle will be released. 

Expect more off-field drama in the coming months. For all you know, all three cricket properties might end up going to three different broadcasters and not one, like previously. As I reported in a story for The Ken, Reliance Industries, India’s largest conglomerate, has set the wheels in motion to disrupt the sports broadcast industry. It’s now a three-horse race between Reliance, Star India, and Sony Sports, which also holds some international cricket rights. 

The two sides to tutoring

The absolute clamp down on China’s edtech industry has been swift and brutal for the edtechs who had IPO-shaped dreams in their eyes. At the micro-level, tutors dependent on this $120 billion industry have seen their sole incomes vanish overnight. As EdSurge reports, VIPKID, a Chinese English-tuition platform risks losing over 100,000 tutors based in the US, as class sizes dwindle and weekend/holiday tuitions wind up. 

American tutors were paid generously—enough for them to put down mortgages, buy new cars, and put their own children through school. Now, most of them are turning to US-based tutoring businesses, or some more adventurous teachers are even signing up for Korean platforms, though the pay and platforms lack the seriousness of their Chinese counterparts. 

The punt doesn’t end there. Tutors who are leaving VIPKID-like platforms have even considered going underground with one-to-one tuitions for their Chinese pupils, with parents willing to pay extra to have specialised attention for their kids.

Things couldn’t be more diametrically opposite here in India, where an online tuition industry is thriving.

All types of teachers—after school tuition, in school lessons, specialised coaching—are now getting online via apps like Teachmint and Classplus to set up their own apps or websites. These tutors don’t even need to be attached to an edtech platform like Unacademy or Vedantu anymore—they can own their space online, and create different lesson plans and bundles at different rates. The possibilities are endless.

“The report also says that the top five states leading the adoption of online teaching overall are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh. However, private tutors have adopted digital modes of learning countrywide-from Srinagar to Port Blair. According to Teachmint, online classes are no longer a pandemic triggered compulsion, but are fast becoming mainstream thereby establishing that personalised instructor-led edtech is a large opportunity in India.”

Teachmint alone claims to have onboarded 1 million tutors in the last year—huge if you consider the company started only in April 2020. But just like VC money might divert its attention to India, will beleaguered tutors from the Chinese market also look across the border for opportunities. Two things are definitely going to stand in the way: 1) Language barrier; 2) Cost barrier (Indian tutors are part of the cost arbitrage for players like Whitehat Jr and Cuemath, which have operations abroad).

The challenge on the horizon though is not going to be one of business models. It will be the old, familiar sceptre of regulation. The after-school tuition market is still largely unorganised in India. Putting it online isn’t going to change that. So can any tutor charge what they want? Will they be incentivised to push for more classes over weekends and holidays? Will online tuitions have a minimum quality bar? And what about additional issues of online safety and privacy?

Let’s open this Pandora’s box with care.

Why you should start making gifts this year

This is a newsletter about the second and third order effects of events. 

Beyond The First Order was born to explore the second and third order effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the virus spread across the world, the world shut down, everything changed. For nearly two years, we’ve been talking and writing about this disruption and how it has impacted all our lives in ways big and small, often through systems thinking. 

Today, at the end of September 2021, once again, the world is again feeling the impact of things thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, but with a key difference. 

This time, the disruption is not due to a global shutdown, but due to a global resurgence

Let’s start with China, which is currently going through one of its worst power crises in history. Over 20 provinces are affected, and the outage has affected industrial output, with factories shut down. Railway companies are working around the clock to desperately ferry coal to local power and utility corporations to meet the demand. 

Then there’s the global shipping crisis. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but ships all over the world are stuck at sea unable to dock to unload their container cargo. Rents in Southern California warehouses have skyrocketed, and railroads carrying containers from the ports had to temporarily restrict shipments into Chicago. 

Things are now so bad that retailers all over North America are expecting products to not be available in time for Christmas. As The Wall Street Journal noted, Santa is going to be late this year. 

In India, as Amazon and Flipkart gear up for the biggest sales of their year, and with Diwali around the corner, it looks like things are going to be a lot more muted. 

Economics is all about demand and supply. Usually, when there’s a crisis, the demand side shuts down, which ripples across the world. The reason why it’s different this time is not because of demand, but because of supply. 

But the crazy part is that if you are expecting a single big reason for the crisis, the answer is that there isn’t one. 

The list of reasons why this is happening is long. Worker shortages. Local Covid-19 outbreaks. Scarcity of flights. Ships getting stuck in the Suez Canal. Local governments in China are trying to meet emission targets. And in India, a ban on Chinese-made goods. 

All of these are part of a system. 

And right now, the system is in shock. 

It’ll recover soon, and things will go back to normal, but until then, maybe make your loved ones a greeting card or something this year. 

Thanks for showing BFO your love. Have a great weekend.
[email protected]

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