But as schools and offline tuitions are gradually opening up, will e-learning platforms continue to be relevant? Vedantu’s CMO Shivani Suri talks about this and more…
We are nearing the end of this year, most of which was spent indoors due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-induced lockdowns that started earlier this year, forced educational institutes, businesses and corporate offices to shut, wreaking havoc across markets. When most businesses were limping due to the market slowdown, the need for e-learning solutions fuelled the growth of edtech platforms.
Byju’s, Vedantu, Unacademy, Toppr and other online tutoring firms clocked massive growth due to the rise in the demand for digital learning models in the absence of offline tuitions and schools. According to reports, online education offerings across Classes 1 to 12 are projected to increase 6.3 times by 2022, to create a $1.7 billion market. There has also been a 50 per cent increase in the time spent, which has gone up from 60 to 90 minutes.
As per the BARC-Nielsen report, there has been a 128 per cent growth in digital ad spends by edtech apps during lockdowns. While Byju’s released several ads featuring brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan during this period, Vedantu, the online tutoring platform which was founded in 2011, has just released a campaign with actor Aamir Khan.
‘Samajh Aayega toh Maza Aayega, Maza Aayega toh Samajh Aayega’, a set of six ad films conceptualised by The Script Room, is in line with the brand’s earlier campaign. This time, however, (Aamir) Khan plays the role of a ‘progressive’ Indian dad. Directed by Prasoon Pandey, who is known for directing advertising films, the ads are targeted at both kids and their parents, Vedantu’s chief marketing officer Shivani Suri tells afaqs!.
“We are trying to appeal to the parents’ logical mind and the children’s emotional quotient,” she says. Suri elaborates that parents are the decision makers for early graders. They are worried about how engaging the edtech platforms are, and if the screen time is being utilised fruitfully. Hence, it’s important to connect with them. The child in the ads, who is shown having fun while learning, aims to appeal to the children.
Suri joined the Bengaluru-headquartered platform in August 2019 as CMO and category head. In her prior stints, she has worked with Flipkart as senior director for over two years (2017-19), eBay as director marketing for around five years (2012-17), Reliance Communications as DGM – brand and marketing for over six years (2006-12), and Sony Entertainment as manager marketing for over five years (2001-06).
In her career span of around two decades so far, she feels ‘fortunate’ to have been ‘in the right place at the right time’. She says, “When I was a marketer in the entertainment sector, broadcasting industry was growing – the number of TV channels and reality shows were growing rapidly. When I moved to telecom, affordability was growing and it was penetrating manifolds in the Indian market. I worked with e-commerce when people were adapting to the idea of online shopping. Now when I joined edtech, although the pandemic is unfortunate, we are seeing e-learning becoming a way of life. I did not think it would be such a rapid growth journey.”
She says that as a marketer to be able to create that shift in consumer behaviour in the way people live their life is empowering and enriching.
Since March this year, when the pandemic initially broke out in the country, Vedantu saw an increase in its user base by 220 per cent, as against the regular growth rate of 25-30 per cent. The number of subscribers grew to 2.7 million. Collections and revenues grew by 80 per cent. Suri mentions this growth came from across the sectors of the society.
She also opines that edtech platforms were quick to respond to the crisis, and turned it into an opportunity.
“Initially, the growth largely was in the higher grades, mostly because they were in the middle of their examination when the COVID spread in the country started. Once the schools resumed in the online format, we saw growth from lower categories as well – mainly from grade six to eight,” she shares.
From the market perspective, the initial growth came from metros, Suri mentions. A lot of new users from Tier-II and III markets are now joining the platform. “It’s only where Internet penetration is weak and where affordability of Internet enabled device (especially having a second device for children) is an issue that we suffer.”
In the pre-COVID world, the biggest hurdle for edtech platforms was the trial, she says. However, the acceptance of e-learning platforms has come largely because of the pandemic.
Before the pandemic fuelled the growth of the sector, the task was to drive category awareness because people did not understand what edtech was, Suri points out. Now the task is of penetration. “People are aware about the technology. We have to get them to try, adapt, and tell them how we stand out.”
To cater to the increased demand at the beginning of the pandemic, Vedantu scaled its master and live classes. It also introduced free classes for all grades within the first week of the lockdown. As per the brand’s data, the engagement on the platform increased. The average stickiness of free users was 42 per cent, as compared to 54 per cent (paid user). As of today, each student spends over 18 minutes per live class daily.
Schools and coaching classes in some Indian states are now slowly resuming. Unlock 5.0 will permit more schools to partially open in accordance with COVID guidelines. So, will the edtech platforms continue to be relevant?
“The key is that parents have realised that they do not have to send their kids to offline tuitions, or miles away to another city to get quality education. They now know it is available in the safety and comfort of their homes,” Suri says.
“Our proposition is that we make learning fun. Our results speak volumes for us. The pandemic has made it clear to both the parents and the kids that outcomes can be achieved from such platforms,” she added.
Of the six ad films, three have so far been released. Ranging from 20-50 seconds, these have been released on television across 46 channels, as well as digital and OTT platforms.