How will partial re-opening of schools impact ed-tech brands?

Industry experts discuss whether ed-tech apps, who are some of the most active advertisers on TV today, will be fazed by educational institutions' decision to let students visit schools for guidance

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Sep 21, 2020 8:39 AM
online learning

At a time when most companies were reducing their marketing investments, the ed-tech category was jolted into action. Except for brands like BJYU'S, most ed-tech players, till last, year focused on digital advertising, but COVID-19 saw them take the TV screens by storm. They saw a gap with schools and colleges shutting down, owing to the pandemic and were more than eager to fill the void. But with the educational institutions partially opening from today, where students from Class 9-12 have been permitted to voluntarily visit the schools for guidance, will that window of opportunity continue to be wide enough for the ed-tech apps who are some of the most active advertisers on TV today?

For upGrad, one of the IPL sponsors this year, compared to Q1, in Q4, their MBA vertical has grown by 63% in terms of revenue and 82% in terms of learner base. Talking about whether the relevance of ed-tech apps will continue, Arjun Mohan, CEO-India, upGrad says, “The demand for online learning is not momentary, but is here to stay and will continue to rise in the future, equipping India for a more competitive world. In India, online education has proved its robustness as compared to the offline institutes that have been shut for an infinite period. Owing to its flexibility and feasibility, learners in the coming times would prefer to take up online programs from the comfort and safety of their houses. Also, as the trend continues, with more and more renowned universities adopting e-learning and investments reducing in infrastructure, the cost of education will substantially be reduced.”

Another ed-tech app, which launched its first TVC during the pandemic recently, almost seven years after its launch in India, has a similar view. Hari Krishnan Nair, Cofounder, Great Learning says “We felt that this is the right time to amplify our brand message as we have seen a 5X increase in the learner base on our platform. Thus we partnered with Virat Kohli, the captain of the Indian cricket team as our brand ambassador for the TVC.” He adds, “The pandemic has given students studying in schools and colleges the opportunity to experience and benefit from online learning. While students will start going back to physical classrooms, their involvement and participation in online learning will continue because it provides everyone with access to high-quality learning. Even with the educational institutions that we work with, there are clear indications that while they will slowly resume physical classroom sessions, their belief and confidence in online learning continues. We are confident that impactful online learning is the new normal and will be adopted by learners and educational institutions even as physical classroom sessions commence.”

On the future of the ed-tech platforms, Debraj Tripathy, Marketing Communication and Advertising Consultant says, “I don't think ed-tech platforms will die once schools and colleges reopen. A firm belief is that a new hybrid model will emerge where both physical/ face to face education and remote/ online delivery of education will co-exist. For ed-tech platforms, continuing to invest in building their brand is crucial. The ones that have been able to build a brand and also continue to invest in building saliency, once schools and collages open, will be the biggest beneficiaries of the new hybrid model.”

Another ed-tech brand that launched with a bang recently, getting on board Ranveer Singh as their brand ambassador in their first TVC perhaps was slightly late to the party but is just as confident that ed-tech apps are here to stay. Akanksha Chaturvedi, Founder and CEO of Eduauraa says, “We see Eduauraa being used as a supplementary education and a reference guide for students after school hours to access the study materials like the lectures and e-books we are providing. We were never trying to replace schools but to act as a credible source of education at affordable prices. We believe that once education is being supplied at the right price, we will have a substantial number of students who will start referring to this on an everyday basis. The bottom of the pyramid is very large and we aim to supply good quality education to every child.” Talking about whether they will reduce investment on advertising once schools re-open, she adds, “Launching the product at a large scale with Ranveer Singh allowed us to gain credibility for the audience making sure that just because it’s at a lower price it does not correlate to low quality. We will continue to use digital as well as an overall holistic approach for advertising, it will not be limited to only television.”

Talking about the ideal way forward for these brands, Ronita Mitra, Founder & Chief Strategist, Brand Eagle Consulting says, “The last few months have strengthened the business case for the ed-tech brands, which they should harness to further expand their offerings and make a difference to the lives of youngsters or anyone seeking to expand their knowledge and skill base. While the brands may think that advertising aggressively will catalyse growth, in the space of education, nothing would be more powerful than creating well rounded, successful students.  Therefore the quality of product and service will be the ultimate determinant of business growth.”

Mitra adds, “However the real difference that the ed-tech space can make is by going beyond plain vanilla academics. The space of education means much more than academics and encompasses a vast arena including brain-stimulating games, soft skill development, analytical thinking, extra-curricular activities, preparation for competitive exams, job interviews, etc. If the ed-tech category defines the learning space as one that comprises holistic education and learning, then the opportunity is huge and would ensure long term sustenance and growth.”

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