Open access online educator Khan Academy in partnership with Ashish Dhawan’s education-focused venture philanthropy fund and policy think-tank Central Square Foundation (CSF) recently entered India with its Hindi language platform. Promoted by Salman Khan, a former hedge fund analyst in the US, Khan Academy has over 26 million registered students worldwide and to date, and has delivered over 580 million lessons and over 4 billion exercise problems.
Dhawan, founder and chairman of CSF and co-founder and former senior managing director of PE firm ChrysCapital, believes the initiative will help Indian students, especially those from the low-income segment who speak in Hindi, access high quality online tutoring. CSF is helping Khan Academy to pilot the platform in government and private schools across India, which will offers maths videos for students in select NCERT grades in Hindi. The Hindi platform has practice exercises, instructional videos, dashboard analytics and teacher tools to empower learners in and outside of the classroom to study. However, he believes that the ed-tech segment is still at a very nascent stage in the country. In this interview with Techcircle.in, Dhawan and Harsh Shetty, CEO of CSF, talk about the foundation’s partnership with Khan Academy and the future of ed-tech in the country. Edited excerpts:
In the past one year, ed-tech startups have received less than five per cent of the total funding received by Indian startups. What is the reason?
Ed-tech is still a small niche compared to e-commerce which requires a lot of money. Generally, ed-tech startups don’t require much money. A time will come when you will see some of the tutorials, skills certification companies and test prep companies raising Rs 200-300 crore. And some of the other startups which are point solutions don’t require that much of money. I think you shouldn’t expect these to be very large in terms of money. When you look at the market size, ed-tech will still play on the periphery of the K12 market as opposed to totally disrupting and capturing the market. In a market like India, digital media is still a tiny fraction of traditional media. It will take a long time before digital education surpasses traditional education. It will continue to remain a tiny part of the traditional education. And these companies are capital efficient and I think it is good. Even if you look at the US, you won’t see a $5-billion ed-tech company there. But if you look at the impact, it is really good. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t created an impact. Digital media may have not created millions of dollars, but it has fundamentally made a big difference. Monetising is not easy but the impact has been phenomenal.