The Online Market in India for Education –

It’s been three years since the first chapter of Digital Drives. The one inspirational find that we can’t forget is Ritik from Orchha.

Ritik had taught himself English and Spanish using Google translate. Digital Desh Fellow Arpan Samuel Ramtek said – “ His skills were beyond a basic Duolingo course.”
This is not just a dramatic tale of one internet hero. Ritik was a find 3 years back. Ritik’s father owns a small stall selling memorabilia in Orchha. The town is a tourist destination with an imposing Orchha fort and Orchha temple standing testimony to times and how they are changing.

The tourism economy in India is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 6.9% to ₹32.05 lakh crore (US$480 billion) by 2028 (9.9% of GDP). But Tourism is not the primary focus of our report today. The focus is on how #MiddleIndia is skilling and scaling up for the challenges ahead, online. 

A KPMG report said that most of the student segment studying online preferred laptops to mobiles in India.  That sounds perfectly reasonable if one considers that majority of the online education segment actually caters to the Indo – Anglians and the rest of the 130 MN urban crowd that has adopted English as its almost mother tongue.

2021 Predictions for Education market showing 40 to 505 growth in all sectors.
Stats on how the online education market will evolve by 2021

With 300 MN smartphones in India (2017) that still leaves about 170 MN odd Indians with smartphones and access to education online. Another find is that 46 percent of urban users and 57 percent of rural users are under the age of 25.  The top ten downloaded education apps were an interesting find, but they are no indicator of a direct or indirect involvement of tier 2 or tier 3 segments. It, however, does provide us with the insight that mathematical equations are tough to crack, and make us envious of this generation that gets to camera scan its way through home assignments!

On a different note, the vernacular apps and competitive examination apps gave rather clear indications  – 

  • Bank PO jobs and state bank jobs were popular still – 2015 stats say that the exam
    1,22,18,733 applications,  public sector banks added another 99,53,863. 
  • Languages with state board exams had dedicated app downloads as dictionaries.
  • The Indian mobile internet comprises of two categories of people, those who know English and those who are learning English. The most popular App in Education in India (User Engagement) is an App that lets you learn English from Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Kannada, Bengali, and Tamil – Hello English.
  • IELTS was 13th on the list. A clear indicator of the fact that people are actually emigrating out of the Desh.

    Language Apps –
    All state board examined languages have a dedicated translatory dictionary, but Odia, Bangla, Marathi were on the list of the top 50. Marathi even had an English to Marathi translator app. These were the most widely engaging Android apps as per Indian audiences. (Source: simply web and play store data)

Which made us wonder, why are there no Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam dictionaries in the digital apps engagement section? Even though the Malayalam dictionary has more downloads than the Odia dictionary. (Double the downloads, but we are assuming the 2.2 Million strong population of Malayali emigrants and the state’s literacy rate is contributing to this.) Duolingo featured in the first 40 Apps. The next drive would involve us looking for all these apps in people’s phones and figuring out if data tells the right details.

A fisherman from Middle India stands and explains how digital transactions are a child's play
The Digital Desh Archives – Karnataka

Looking Beyond Education in India –

‘We don’t need no education’ seems to be the mantra when it comes to digital interfaces. On the third drive in Karnataka we had come across Badi Tottaya, A migrant fisherman from Odisha who had learnt how to do mobile banking on his smartphone, he could not even read or write.

The martial arts teacher Mr. Nagaraj who had taught himself Karate using YouTube were all insightful finds. The find is that in this nation of people who use education as a tool to overcome barriers, language learning and casual learning apps and content works.

Why do we call them insightful? These drives help us verify data with stories.
Reskilling and adding skills such as musical instruments are on the rise by the year 2021 it seems that the crowd would have risen by 52%. 


Of the many gaps that formal education creates in the country, one is the industrial requirement and academic learning. Simply put our educated labor is not skilled enough to take over the challenges that come with holding the jobs they undertake.

When Up- Grad came up with courses such as data science and analysis, machine learning, it catered to a huge crowd of people who had formal education and a theoretical background in the subject but no industrial training and practical application.
The urban crowd with access to better educational facilities acquires the education which may or may not lead to defined skills. 

Middle India is brave enough to skip the former. In the last chapter of the drive when we went to a barefoot college, we discovered people who taught themselves Swift and X-code using the internet tutorials. The content makers can be slightly oblivious to the middle Indian crowd while creating educational videos. We assume that advanced learning courses will be catering to working professionals who have a background in the subject and want to upgrade a skill. These re-skilling courses and online certifications when adapted and adopted by the free internet are best served in vernacular or the most widely read/spoken language.

Last year, In Bareily, a class ten girl made news when her notes were turned into a state level curriculum reference book. All she had done was simplifying complex concepts to simple conversational notes. The medium being Hindi, a language she was used to until class eight. When she moved schools, instead of buckling under the pressure of a new medium of learning (English), she decided to translate the classes to conversational notes that are now selling like hotcakes, everybody in Bareilly knows ‘Science Sense’. 

33% of people complained of inaccessibility being the reason they could not adopt online learning, despite wanting to. Language is a huge factor when it comes to comprehension. Perhaps the vernacular style of content delivery needs to be adopted across the board.

37% of people in India still complain of connectivity being a barrier to learning online. Which means that infrastructural inadequacies still have to be met.  

Connectivity and Content together, fixed predict the rise and rise of the online education industry in India. We are trying to know if the $48Bn unorganized sector is ready to adopt this change.

The Digital Drives are headed to Kerala and Tamil Nadu this August. Trust us when we say this data is not half the insights that we will unearth when we get there. Coming up next – Hear our very own Jasminder Singh Gulati talk about how India is the land of opportunities on Sava 100 Crore.

Haven’t checked them out yet? You should!

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