India’s edtech sector is on the edge of a precipice. After being engulfed by a funding winter, a slew of negative headlines on
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over the last few months has put even the largest of edtechs on notice to turn profitable.
Thanks to venture capital’s unfettered trust in edtech during the pandemic—it was the third-highest funded sector third-highest funded sector Inc42 With 3 New Unicorns, India’s Edtech Startups Raised $4.7 Bn In 2021 Read more in India in 2021, with a total of $4.7 billion raised across 165 deals—the valuations of companies like BYJU’S, Unacademy, and Vedantu also snowballed. But behind the massive valuations, questions about the effectiveness of learning online have bubbled up.
Under this high-octane, VC-fuelled industry, though, a stronger bedrock has emerged. Fuelled partly by the pandemic and the Indian government’s efforts to bring students online, several low- or no-cost edtech solutions have emerged that are filling the learning gaps left unaddressed by mainstream players. Their goal is to turn the sector into a “public good” and make it accessible.
Like Noida-headquartered ConveGenius, a business-to-business (B2B)-focused company that builds affordable learning solutions. In October 2021, it raised raised Economic Times ConveGenius raises $5 million to launch its conversational AI platform Read more a $5 million seed round to expand its direct-to-consumer (D2C) WhatsApp service for lessons and quizzes. “There are 400 million students in India who attend government or affordable private schools. I believe there’s a market for a low-cost edtech solution there,” says Jairaj Bhattacharya, co-founder of ConveGenius.
What philanthropic capital can do is reverse the order—enable edtech solutions being implemented to look at learning outcomes first. However, this is “challenging and requires a recalibration of how impact is assessed,” says Aakanksha Gulati, director at ACT Grants, a philanthropic fund set up during the pandemic.
Philanthropic capital and a lesson in accountability for Indian edtech
A patchwork effort by Indian philanthropies wants to make edtech solutions for students affordable, accessible and, most importantly, accountable. Without the millions in VC capital, and a complex government system to navigate, scaling a public-private partnership is no easy feat
The VC-backed edtech bubble is slowly popping. Funding crunches, layoffs, and shutdowns have exposed the vulnerabilities of the business model
Beyond for-profit models, though, a new ecosystem of solutions is emerging. Backed by philanthropic capital, these models don’t have to rely on aggressive marketing or ROI demands
Philanthropy, instead, can insist on learning outcomes and link future investment to results from these solutions
But scaling without the millions in venture funding means these affordable edtech solutions need to rely on the government