In India, despite the fact that there are over 19,500 different mother tongues, many languages other than English—spoken by only 10% of the population—are often overlooked.
“Even today, we are asked if by teaching students in vernacular languages, we are affecting their employability. ‘Aren’t you taking them back in time?’” said Balamurugan SP, co-founder of edtech platform Grab Your Vernacular Imprint (GUVI).
In September, the software-services major HCL Group acquired a 51% stake in GUVI, which was valued at Rs 120 crore (~$15 million) at the time. It offers over 30 courses—in machine learning and programming languages such as Java, C++, and Python—in five regional languages.
Bala believes that an acknowledgement on the government’s part can validate vernacular learning and help remove learners’ apprehensions.
The government is clearly aware of the issue. In December, the education ministry’s University Grants Commission (UGC) formed a panel of international publishers to bring out affordable textbooks of undergraduate courses in Indian languages over the next year.
Companies like GUVI are also offering learning and upskilling courses in regional languages to fill a learning gap in the country.
The education ministry’s U-DISE U-DISE U-DISE It is a database about schools in India. report for 2021–2022 revealed that there are ~250 million students registered in India’s primary to higher-secondary schools—pursuing education mostly in regional languages. And companies like GUVI see a scope here.
“… [the opportunity] is bigger now than ever in the vernacular space. Edtech entities should also learn to capitalise on it,” said Bhushan Patwardhan, senior academician and former vice-chairman of the UGC.
Despite the sizeable market of learners, vernacular edtech in India is yet to make its mark. But GUVI—which started as a free YouTube channel for engineering aspirants in southern India—might be ready to make a breakthrough.
In 2022, the edtech bigwigs faced a funding chill. The overall funding in India’s edtech market dropped to $2.6 billion from $4.1 billion in 2021—50% of which came from a single deal involving the edtech giant Byju’s—according to data provider Tracxn.
The year was a difficult one for most edtech startups. Thousands of employees were laid off by the likes of Unacademy, Vedantu, and LEAD, among others. Startups such as Lido Learning and Udayy shut down. And the government started inquiries into the ethical practices of companies such as Byju’s.
Despite this bloodbath, companies in the vernacular-edtech space were relatively immune to the turmoil.
Moreover, 2022 turned out to be the best year for GUVI—it acquired more users and subsequent business. As its revenue charts were climbing, it attracted the attention of deep-pocket investors.
“We have been consistently doubling our revenues.