Namah Chawla

Creating a personalised learning experience remains a challenge for edtech space, says Vedantu’s Maninder Bali

The edtech player's latest ad films talk about teachers' pivotal role in a student’s life. A chat with the head of brand marketing.

A passionate Biology teacher, ‘Vani Ma’am’ (as her students fondly call her) seems to have dedicated her life to the profession. She has managed to touch the lives of hundreds of students across India.

Dr Vani Sood Dhindsa teaches the NEET-CBSE course at online learning platform, Vedantu. What makes her special is, she always makes extra effort to give important life lessons to her students that go far beyond the syllabus. She tells her students to become not just a doctor, but a good one too.

No wonder her students say, “When we grow up, we wish to become like Vani Ma’am.”

We all must have encountered a few Vani Ma’ams in our school or college lives. The ones who ended up teaching us more than what was written in our textbooks.

Vedantu’s recent campaign titled ‘Zindagi Ka Syllabus’ talks about the importance of such teachers. The edtech brand believes that to become successful, in not just academics but life too, children need teachers who go beyond academics. Teachers should add not just life to lessons, but also lessons in life.

Conceptualised by Vedantu’s internal team, the ad films are directed by Akanksha Seda. The campaign is based on real-life stories of how Vedantu teachers inspire and impact their students, no matter how far apart they are physically.

Speaking to afaqs! about the campaign, Maninder Bali, head of brand marketing, Vedantu, says that many brands talk about customer-centricity. They tend to share their future visions and missions in their campaigns.

“It is the opposite with Vedantu, as the edtech brand is trying to communicate its brand story through what is already happening. We want to talk about who we are and what we do, and not about a possible future outcome.”

According to Bali, the campaign’s insight was based on moments of inspiration. Vedantu wants to convey the message that any teacher will be able to teach you, but only a few will be able to inspire you.

“We are not a COVID company and this is not an idea born out of necessity. The intent of the campaign was to impact every child and ensure that he/she does not get a good teacher by chance. It has to be a choice for every child. There is no way to reach every child without an edtech model. However, what becomes tricky is this: how do you inspire a child from across the screen?”

Vedantu spoke to its teachers to get inspiration for the ad films. The student journeys depicted in the ads that feature actor and brand ambassador Aamir Khan, are inspired by real-life stories at Vedantu.

Bali says that the best thing about Khan is that he can’t do anything superficially and has to invest himself in the project. Khan, in fact, spent hours with Vamsi Krishna and Pulkit Jain (co-founders, Vedantu) just talking about the brand.

The media plan includes television - top entertainment news and movie channels; and digital media - YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and other websites. As part of phase one, two out of four commercials are currently live on air. The films will be shown in seven languages, including Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Bengali.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Maninder Bali, Vedantu</p></div>

Maninder Bali, Vedantu

In a career spanning 16 years, Bali has worked with agencies like Publicis Singapore, BBH, and Open Strategy & Design. In August 2021, he moved on from Leo Burnett to Vedantu.

He describes his journey with Vedantu in one word: fulfilling. “I have always been quite fortunate, but I have never had a sense of gratitude, until now.”

Vedantu’s team is very passionate, says Bali. “This is the reason the team chose to look inwards, instead of looking out of the window, for the new campaign.” The team realised it was sitting on a goldmine of ideas and it was time to take its story to the world.

Talking about COVID, Bali says that edtech companies like Vedantu existed way before the pandemic hit. “The aim of any edtech organisation is to reach out to students in the remotest corners of our country. Today, 60 per cent of Vedantu’s students come from Tier-III and IV towns. This is not a function of COVID. The reopening of schools might take the tailwinds of the business out, but the baseline will survive.”

"Today, 60 per cent of Vedantu’s students come from Tier-III and IV towns. This is not a function of COVID. The reopening of schools might take the tailwinds of the business out, but the baseline will survive."

Talking about the future, Bali says, “It (the campaign) has laid the foundation for how the brand believes to be radically different from any other company in this space. In the word edtech, ‘ed’ precedes ‘tech’. ‘Tech’ in a service of ‘ed’, and not vice versa. We want to keep the students at the heart of it all and tell inspiring stories to make a difference.”

Bali points out that in India, the income elasticity for education is 0.9 and for healthcare, it is 1.95. In simple words, this means that in our country, at any income level, people tend to spend more on education than healthcare.

In our country, at any income level, people tend to spend more on education than healthcare.

Vedantu competes with the likes of BYJU’S, Unacademy, WhiteHat Jr, Classplus, to name a few. Speaking about the competitive edtech sector, Bali mentions, “Competition is an extrinsic factor. The important metric for us is retention, i.e., how many kids who took classes with us, believe in us and want to stay with us for the long term. We don’t work on timetables and lesson plans, but our teachers are available even at 3 a.m. We don’t have time for competition and aren’t obsessed. We believe in what we are driven by.”

As per him, the evergreen challenge of the edtech space is that though all the players want to operate at a large scale, creating a personalised learning experience online, is tough. No player has been able to crack massive personalisation. Vedantu aims to scale personalisation through its algorithms so that every student feels like a first bencher.

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