Rise of vernacular startups: Next edtech wave to come from smaller cities


Educational lessons wrapped in digital format and delivered through smartphones, saw startups such as Byju’s and Toppr soar to new highs. But a large section of students, who were not comfortable with English, were left out of the digital wave in education.

A clutch of startups, recognising the gap, has started to deliver the content in vernacular languages. A recent RedSeer report suggests that the second wave of growth in edtech shall be powered by the companies which use vernacular languages to ignite the imagination of young minds.

The first wave of edtech companies saw players focusing on high-quality content and live streaming, most often catering to Metro and Tier 1 users and English as the major medium of instruction.

Highlighting the major mismatch in the language of instruction and the language students are comfortable with, RedSeer research on learners across market segments (K12, test prep, professional learning) clearly “shows a strong need for vernacular education- something which most offline and online platforms fail to provide adequately as of now ”

Giving a glimpse of the opportunity that lies therein, platforms like Doubtnut, which target students in smaller cities in 12 vernacular languages, have been able to build a large user base in a relatively short time.

An interactive online tutoring platform where AI is used for image recognition to provide solutions for mathematical questions. The app which was rolled out in 2017, now boasts of close to a lakh video repository catering to students in the age group of 14-19.

Not surprisingly, the major uptake of these videos in Hinglish has come from Bihar and Bengal.

Given the untapped market and Doubtnut’s initial success in cracking it, it has been able to raise $3.3 million in funding from Sequoia, Surge, Omidyar, Waterbridge Ventures and Japanese mobile gaming company Akatsuki Inc.

DoubtNut is also a part of Sequoia’s surge accelerator programme.

Other players such as Adda 24X7, which operates in government job test preparation, has set its sight on 10 million subscriber base by 2020 driving on its popularity among aspirants in tier II and III cities. Adda247’s YouTube channel recently reached over 2.5 million subscribers and 272 million views, in just a span of three years since it was launched.

The Indian online education market, presently worth $247 million is on a growth spree and is estimated to witness an 8X growth over the next 5 years to achieve the growth benchmark of $2 billion by the year 2021,  as stated in a joint report by Google and KPMG.

With the next wave of Internet boom ready to swell the ranks of users, “it’s the next half billion users just coming online who we’re targeting,” stresses Nagori in a media interview.

In times to come more established edtech players are also likely to cater to this vernacular need specifically to rev up their revenues. Thus when a student in the remote village turns to one-to-one tuition at the click of his phone, the real edtech revolution would begin to unfold.

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