Every year, over two million students aspire to get into India’s premier engineering and medical colleges. To do so, they need to crack tests like the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). But with only a few thousand seats available per college, coaching institutes like Aakash, Narayana, FIITJEE, and others in the town of Kota in Rajasthan have become an integral part of the system.

Over the last 12 months, another company has been quietly laying its foundation in India’s online test preparation space, which is  expected expected Statista Educational technology market size in India in 2020, with projection for 2025, by segment Read more to be worth US$4 billion by 2025. And this is no ordinary player. In January 2021, Big Tech announced its entry into Indian edtech via Amazon Academy.

When it launched, Amazon’s online learning platform offered JEE preparatory resources like mock tests, practice questions, and live classes. Over the remaining year, more offerings were added, including paid courses, NEET prep options, and one interesting partnership: in September, Amazon Academy announced a tie-up with Sri Chaitanya Institute, a 35-year-old brick-and-mortar coaching centre.

Test prep redux

This isn’t Amazon’s first attempt in the test prep space. In December 2019, the tech giant had launched JEE ready. The same venture was later rebranded into Amazon Academy to accommodate ambitions of moving into other industries

Amazon Academy claims to have garnered over a million registered users in one year. That’s still a fraction of the 50 million-plus figures quoted by Indian edtechs like Unacademy and Vedantu, but Amazon Academy is trying to distinguish itself with a no-frills approach. It wants to be considered a serious platform for test prep and stay away from the gimmicky approach of some of its competitors, like teachers  singing and dancing singing and dancing YouTube Abhishek Sir Dance and Ambika Mam Singing Together | Vedantu Cute Moments | Vedantu 9 and 10 Read more during classes. Amazon’s focus is on organising, personalising, and presenting the content better.

“A number of my colleagues who had moved to Unacademy, I saw their lectures on YouTube—the subject matter was missing and they seem to have resorted to gimmicks. The subjects themselves are interesting enough that there is no need for these acts,” said a teacher who recently left a brick-and-mortar institute to join Amazon Academy. They, along with all sources The Ken spoke to for this story, requested anonymity.

Amazon also seems to be taking a very data-oriented approach to building its edtech platform. “While I would be able to float an idea at my previous organisation and they would give me a go-ahead, at Amazon I would need to show the data to make anything move forward,” said an executive who was a part of Amazon Academy’s JEE and NEET team.

AUTHOR

Arpit Arora

Formerly a researcher at CivicDataLab and Pratham Books, Arpit tried to understand and unravel the Indian education system as a statistician. Now he's doing that as a writer at The Ken, reporting on India’s $180 billion education market.

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