There’s nothing outwardly remarkable about Rani Pandit’s career as a coder. The 20-year-old developer began her career working for a relatively well-known pregnancy and motherhood tech startup—a pretty run-of-the-mill job. Factor in her background, though, and it becomes more impressive.

Pandit is from Kishanganj, a small town in Bihar, and is the daughter of a mason. With limited access to computers and coding, her coding chops are the result of a residential coding programme called NavGurukul, which she joined at the age of 18, straight out of school. The year-long course, fully funded by donors, was founded in 2016 by Abhishek Gupta, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and Rishabh Verma—a self-taught programmer. It began a whole two years before WhiteHat Jr, India’s most popular coding startup, was founded.

While WhiteHat Jr eventually became the poster child for coding education in slick urban settings, NavGurukul believes the real opportunity lies in the Indian hinterland. It and other relatively smaller edtech companies, such as CuriousJr, Coding Ninjas, and StayQrious, are looking at markets in which users don’t always have access to tech and computers, much like the one that Pandit hails from.

Coding education in India is in the midst of a boom. The  addressable market addressable market Eduvisors Student Coding Landscape in India Read more is pegged at ~20 million students across the country. Even the National Education Policy 2020, formulated by the Indian government, envisions teaching coding to children from class-six onwards. But increasingly, coding education has also hit a wall in the country.

For one, the space is filled with incumbents like WhiteHat Jr. and CampK12, and other large edtechs like Vedantu that have added coding to their repertoire. Not only do these companies have a firm hold of the market—WhiteHatJr, for instance, has a nearly 50% market share, according to a senior edtech executive.

The courses aren’t very different from each other either. “All live learning coding platforms are broadly the same,” says a former senior executive at a coding edtech company. “There is not a lot of differentiation in product, curriculum or pedagogy.” The executive and others The Ken spoke to requested anonymity as they did not want to be seen publicly commenting on their profession.​

Similarities in coding course offerings by WhiteHat Jr., CampK12 and Toppr Codr.

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Take, for instance, the one-on-one live class model. Not only do many of the large edtechs follow this, but quality can also be a concern. No matter how much money you can throw at the problem, there are only so many qualified teachers.

If saturation and a lack of differentiation are one side of the story, the other is accessibility.

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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