By Mahadev Srivatsa - VP Marketing & Brand Strategy, Practically
August 6, 2021 7 min read
In what has probably been the biggest change in EdTech marketing, today every player wants to be a ‘Brand’ and more importantly behave like one! With the pandemic firmly establishing the trend of blended learning, this decade is looking like the decade of EdTech in India. Hence, to ensure differentiation, thrust and investment in branding was a change that was imminent. To understand how and where it all began, let’s rewind a bit to pre-quarantine days.
EdTech today is not what it was 3-4 years ago and the pandemic has proven to be a watershed moment for the sector. The impact that demonetisation had on e-wallets is similar to the impact the pandemic is driving in e-learning in India. Earlier, the biggest barrier for EdTech was adoption. The fact that online education could be beneficial and effective, especially amongst kids, was not easily accepted amongst parents. Most incumbents in this space focused a majority of their energies on driving adoption and communicating the effectiveness of online learning. Considering that tuitions, test preps and cracking government exams were the most sought after offerings, a lot of companies developed solutions that would cater to these needs, apart from the regular ones that catered to only e-learning.
There were not many companies and especially brands that people knew about on a national level. Hence Print as key medium, was used to drive credibility, alongside TV. Radio, OOH and Digital also had their own importance in the marketing scheme of things. Barring the first mover, spends were majorly in single or smaller double digits in mass media. This was also due to the smaller market size of $735 Mn in 2019 compared to $3.4Bn today (according to the Education Technology (EdTech): A USD 30 Billion Opportunity in India Report by RBSA Advisors) and lack of investor interest to fund large scale marketing efforts.
As the pandemic hit, the critical adoption barrier crashed as Indians were almost forced to adapt to online learning. With schools shut and coaching/tuition centres impacted, learning from the safety of home became the new norm. This is what primarily fuelled the pace of EdTech growth in India. A number of players mushroomed and almost overnight there were players offering everything from e-learning tools to financing to school management and many more niche solutions.
This also led to massive startup funding. According to the same RBSA report, India received $2Bn investments in EdTech in 2020 alone, the highest in the last 5 years! The biggest beneficiaries of this disruption were the incumbents. Backed by serious investments and consumer demand, some of the incumbents grew at an exponential rate. They also sensed the need to have a well-rounded, comprehensive solution to further attract investments and propel growth. This has now kickstarted early consolidation in this sector which will be a trend as the sector matures.
The biggest impact was seen in the world of advertising. Since most players have similar offerings, it became clear that the only strategy to survive and grow in this cluttered space was to differentiate through branding. With the market projected to be a $30 Bn industry in the next 10 years, according to the RBSA report, companies sense an opportunity to position themselves not only as national brands but also as global Indian EdTech brands.
This kickstarted the media spends race. The incumbents today are spending in heavy double and triple digit (INR crores) across mediums with the focus being TV and Digital. Other mediums have taken a backseat, partially because of their effectiveness getting impacted on account of the pandemic. The race for GRPs and intent to dominate consumer mind space resembles the telecom sector from 6-7 years ago. Most high impact properties in sports and entertainment are being lapped up by EdTech companies. And yet we see a hunger to promote more and dominate the advertising space.
Most players are signing up top celebrities as brand ambassadors. Multiple cat-A influencers are seen promoting the same product. Innovative advertising formats, integrated campaigns during events are also a norm these days. From telecom to e-commerce to EdTech, it looks like the media baton has truly been passed on!
Consumer is truly king in EdTech, since everyone understands that unlike other industries, the chances are high that a consumer once lost will not come back at least for a year or more. To add to that, given the unique consumer-customer paradigm in K-12, companies today are doing all it takes to break the clutter and quickly acquire customers.
This brings us to the current trend that will dictate this sector for the next decade. Today, an EdTech company needs to establish and drive itself as a ‘Brand’. It should be able to generate awareness, successfully build trust and drive credibility in its offerings and services and keep doing that till the consumer is delighted. An e-lesson in branding most players in EdTech are now imbibing to survive the cutthroat competition! This also makes EdTech amongst the interesting and preferred sectors of the day, for marketers to learn, innovate and succeed.
The article first appeared in BW Marketing World on 26 May 2021
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