It took Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) some time, but its edtech D-day is nearly here. Embibe, the little-known, nine-year-old edtech startup that the oil-to-telecom conglomerate acquired in 2018 for a 73% stake, is gearing up for a mega relaunch in January 2022, The Ken has learned.

The AI-based edtech is at the centre of Reliance’s “no child left behind” dream, one that Isha Ambani, daughter of chairman Mukesh Ambani, presented with great fanfare at the company’s annual general meeting in July 2020. Reliance had made it clear that it was entering every possible digital business opportunity. It wasn’t going to be left behind in a sector that had garnered almost $2 billion in funding—from in-class instruction and TV broadcasts to improving teacher quality, Reliance would have its finger in every pie.

Since the acquisition, Reliance has piped in funds to the tune of Rs 590 crore ($78.6 million) to revamp Embibe’s video library and analytics and help it acquire a litany of smaller edtechs to beef up its offering. The Ken has also learned that the team is putting final touches on the product, especially a new “customised” testing feature. The edtech company launched a smaller beta in April 2021.

Building in semi-stealth mode since it joined Reliance’s sprawling empire, Embibe is going for the jugular—schools. According to information sourced by The Ken, Embibe is aggressively hiring an on-ground sales force to sell its online platforms—website and app—to schools.

“They’ve tried to poach almost every sales agent from our company,” says a sales executive of an edtech company that also caters to schools. The executive, edtech investors, and others in the industry The Ken spoke to requested anonymity as they were either not authorised to talk to the media or did not want to be seen publicly commenting on the company. 

The plan, says the executive, is to offer the product to schools at heavily discounted rates, going as low as Rs 500 ($6.68) per child per year. The industry average is Rs 3,000-4,000 ($40-53). It’s a very Jio-like strategy. Reliance Jio, RIL’s telecom arm, famously bulldozed into the sector by offering free data and voice calls when it was first launched in 2016.

Catching students in school also gives Embibe the opportunity to infiltrate the after-school market. Through a learning app for students or a parent app, Embibe can potentially capture a larger wallet share without the high customer acquisition costs (CAC) that rivals like Byju’s, Vedantu, and Unacademy bear. 

“A Byju’s product can only help a student with learning concepts after school, on their own. They haven’t really focussed on the in-school market. But if Embibe can connect what you’re being taught in-school with what you need to work on after school, it gets rid of the dissonance,” says the sales executive.

AUTHOR

Olina Banerji

Based in Delhi, Olina writes about mega-trends in urban mobility, education, skilling and the environment, with a focus on how institutions and innovations can help cities grow sustainably. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and has worked previously with India Today and global non-profit Ashoka.

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