Author: Sanjay Purohit, Founder, iProf (India)
India is one of the largest education markets in the world with an estimated one million schools and more than 15,000 higher education institutes. With higher education institutes of repute being less and competition increasing everyday, every good course is opting for entrance tests. When we talk about entrance tests, preparation centres can’t be left behind. In the 90’s, there was a trend of class room coaching and postal coaching to cater to the needs of students. These courses were run by local teachers who had gained experience through years of teaching for tests.
Slowly, the advent of computers and internet changed the way we lived and studied. The new millennium brought with it the IT revolution and everything went online. Unlike the entrance tests of yore, today all major entrance tests are conducted online. With that, even the way we prepared for them changed and learning became digital.
The online test preparation industry is seeing a huge investment from technology start-ups who want to cash in on the need of student for flexi learning at lower costs. A lot of advantages make this mode of learning popular:
- Removes physical barriers for greater reach and can target larger masses. The far rung areas where the student does not have access to coaching benefit the most with this mode of learning.
- Affordable for every student. A traditional system charges anywhere between INR 50000 to INR 2,00,000 for their courses whereas an online or digital mode can offer these services at a third of cost.
- Flexibility in studying. Online and digital courses are downloadable, can be accessed anytime, anywhere and allow a student to multitask while studying.
The Indian online education market stands at $20 billion today and is estimated to grow to $40 billion by 2017. This is a huge opportunity for businesses. Let us look at what the industry provides:
- Coverage of education: Many regions in India still lack basic education infrastructure. With internet penetrating even the remotest areas, these areas can be targeted for services.
- Youth targeting: Indian youth is technology savvy and looking for ways where they can study while earning or doing other things. The student doesn’t want to be confined to the four walls of their house but have an option to study anywhere.
- List companies: Companies like NIIT and institutes like IIM’s offer online courses which draws more and more students each year. With content being the king, a company focussed on student needs can succeed in the market. Even foreign universities are showing an interest in tying up with Indian universities now.
- Untapped market: The online test preparation industry in India offers coaching for competitive exams like CAT, IIT-JEE, GRE, GMAT etc is currently at $1.6billion and still has a lot of untapped regions. As per the CLSA Asia Pacific Market report, the computer based learning market was speculated to grow to $750 million by 2012. We are already past that and still a long way to go.
- Exams going national: Earlier, each state used to conduct their own exams for entrance but with the exams going national, online test prep players can formulate courses for a whole nation’s audience instead of local focus. Centralised product development with high quality materials benchmarked with the latest requirements will help compete in the big market.
There are many companies trying to tap the digital education market, one of them is iProf, emerging as one of the fastest and largest growing digital education company. iProf started a pioneer in serving digital content on Tablets in 2009 and now elaborating its canvas with the newly launched India’s first m-learning marketplace android app- iProf Study Buddy with offers more than 40,000+courses in more than 200 streams which students can study on their smartphones. iProf app is particularly getting famous for helping students in preparation of competitive exams like IITJEE, AIPMT, CACPT, CAT, IAS, BANK PO and many more.
Despite the excitement that these opportunities bring, it cannot be emphasised enough that like every business, entering the online test preparation industry is also not a cake walk. It poses many challenges which have to be curtailed to get a foothold in this industry. Some of these challenges are listed below:
- Lack of awareness and access: Inspite of the industry’s growth, there are millions of students who still lack awareness about these courses. Players like Aakash and iProf have introduced tablets and digital courses but many regions in India still lack computer and internet connectivity.
- Change in learning methodology: Our school systems have always emphasised on learning within a fixed period of time and our intelligence calculated on our speed of learning. With online learning, the system has reversed. It is the expertise and skill that makes one intelligent irrespective of the time taken to study. We still need to warm up to that idea and it may take a lot of effort.
- Competition with traditional preparation centres: Though online test prep industry is gaining acceptance and popularity, a major chunk of market share is retained by retail networks like TIME, Career Launcher etc and Local stars who have been dominating their cities for ages. The popular mindset still considers traditional coaching where they can see a teacher and interact physically to be better than a virtual teaching mode where a student practically studies alone.
Inspite of the challenges, the future of Indian online test prep industry seems bright. One thing seems clear- it is here to stay.
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