Since Amazon first unveiled its plans a year ago to foray into the Indian EdTech sector, indigenous startups Byju’s, Unacademy, and Vedantu have been strengthening and diversifying themselves.
January 13, 2020 marked a crucial moment in India’s EdTech sector as Amazon India launched the Amazon Academy which aims to empower students preparing for the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE), the All-India examination to get enrolled in the country’s top engineering colleges. However, it is the rebranded version of the earlier JEE Ready App for IIT JEE which Amazon India had come up with in 2019. This newest venture of Amazon is aimed at stepping into India’s lucrative EdTech sector which is currently valued at $180 billion.
The app is currently running in Beta mode and is available free of cost on its website and Google Play Store. This, however, can change in a few months as Amazon Academy reserves the right to terminate access to free content at any time. “The online preparation offering will equip students with in-depth knowledge and practice routines required for the JEE, through curated learning material, live lectures and comprehensive assessments in Math, Physics and Chemistry,” the company said. The test preparation platform has been around for some time but it is only now that Amazon India has formally announced the Amazon Academy and its future plans.
Why the e-Commerce Giant has Stepped into India’s EdTech Space
If the 2010s was e-Commerce’s decade, the 2020s could be EdTech’s. The EdTech sector has risen to new heights due to the rapid adoption and penetration brought on by the pandemic. While 40% of Indian startups were on the verge of shutting down owing to the pandemic, EdTech startups in India have not only managed to keep the shutters up but have also thrived in attracting investments from global investors.
India’s EdTech sector is the third largest in the world only after the US and China, and amid the pandemic saw investments up by 300%, hitting the hockey stick curve. The trifactor here helping the sector happens to be its Flexibility, Convenience and Low Costs. These can be attributed to the excessive use of smartphones and the internet in India which is on the rise.You will find more infographics at Statista
In contrast to 2019 when the Indian EdTech market had acquired just $553 million in funding, in 2020 it rose to a significant $2.22 billion. According to a report by the Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (IVCA) and PGA Labs, India’s education sector is poised to grow from the current $117 billion to $225 billion by 2025. Also, India’s EdTech market is expected to grow 3.7 times over the next five years. And now, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wants a piece of this cake.
Byju’s, Unacademy, Vedantu bracing themselves
Since Amazon first unveiled its plans a year ago to foray into the Indian EdTech sector, indigenous startups like Byju’s, Unacademy, Vedantu, Toppr and upGrad have been strengthening and diversifying themselves leading to a series of acquisitions and investments by foreign players. Valued at $12 billion, the world’s biggest EdTech startup Byju’s is aiming at one of the biggest EdTech deals in the world to acquire the brick-and-mortar test preparatory services institute, Aakash Educational Services for a whopping $1 billion. Byju’s has also acquired the code learning platform WhiteHat Jr for $300 million.
An EdTech dark horse that recently ‘acquired unicorn’ status, Unacademy is now topping at $2 billion valuation after closing a secondary transaction worth $50 million from Tiger Global, Dragoneer Investment Group, Steadview Capital and General Atlantic. It had previously secured $150 million from SoftBank in September last year. Likewise, Vedantu, another Indian EdTech giant has raised $100 million as part of its Series D funding led by the US-based investment firm Coatue. This happens to be Vedantu’s third round of funding in the last 12 months and with this making it the third most valuable player in the EdTech space only after Byju’s and Unacademy, reaching a $600 million valuation.
Other major players in this space include Toppr and upGrad. Mumbai-based EdTech startup, Toppr has seen 100% growth in paid users monthly and has raised INR 350 crore by the Gulf-based investment firm. The funding was led by Foundation Holdings, Kaizen Private Equity. upGrad, started by famed entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala, has also acquired the Gate Academy for an undisclosed amount and has onboarded 100+ colleges. It also has plans to invest INR 100 crore in test preparation business.
The Threat posed by Amazon Academy to Domestic EdTech Startups
EdTech startups like Byju’s, Unacademy, and Vedantu have achieved milestones in the EdTech sector creating brands, which is not easy to come by as between 2014 and 2019, 4,450 EdTech startups were launched in India and quarter of them have shut shop since. So, creating a fresh brand overnight is extremely difficult in this space.
With the arrival of Amazon into this sphere, there is lingering hysteria about the survival of domestic startups in the EdTech sector. Amazon not only endangers the small or marginal startups that have been struggling to acquire funds in this pandemic, but also poses a grave threat to unicorn companies like Byju’s, Unacademy, Vedantu, and even Toppr and upGrad. Amazon will be foraying into India’s EdTech sector flexing its muscles because it has got the pockets for it. Moreover, the fear also extends to the prospect of Amazon acquiring an already well-established player to make its growth faster and cheaper.