A growing demand for education from smaller towns is giving a big impetus to the domestic online education market.
With access to computers increasing day by day, people from smaller towns such Ranaghat, Sardar Sahar, Tonk and Talipramba that have populations from some thousands to a few lakh are looking for online tools to update themselves and get access to certificate courses and degrees.
This is set to double India’s online education market to $40 billion by 2017 from the present $20 billion, according to industry estimates.
Take an example of Manju, a 22-year-old history graduate from Gulbarga, Karnataka, who is a history graduate is currently undergoing an online course in retail management and would even take her exams online.
A dearth of institutes offering diverse courses in her region has prompted her to take up the e-course, which will fetch her a certificate from the Retailers Association of India. Her school-going sister, too, regularly uses online tools to understand concepts in physics and math.
Experts say like the metros, the demand for online education is galloping each day in places such as Chiplun (Maharashtra), Hissar (Haryana), Kannur (Kerala) and Churu (Rajasthan).
The proliferation of computers is also fuelling the trend.
The sale of personal computers rose 16% in financial year 2011-12, compared to the previous year, as per data by the Manufacturers Association for Information Technology (MAIT). About 10.8 million units of desktop computers, notebooks and netbooks were sold during April 2011-March 2012.
Pavan Chauhan, MD of online education firm Meritnation, said the demand comes not just for higher education, but also from school students.
“Students from kindergarten to class 12 (K-12) express a need for assessment modules and animation videos to understand concepts in various subjects. They see online education as something which supplements formal education,” said Chauhan.
Meritnation has about 33-34 lakh students registered from ICSE and CBSE boards in the K-12 domain, with nearly half hailing from small towns.
Edukart, which operates in the higher education space of e-learning, has tapped about 7,000 people since its inception November last year.
“There is a strong demand from working professionals, housewives and people who could not attend formal institutes,” said Ishan Gupta, CEO of Edukart.
Edukart currently offers courses in retail, computers, etc, through its tie-ups with the RAI and Computer Society of India. Gupta said the firm would branch out into areas such as hospitality, telecom and energy soon.
“We are looking at tapping 30,000-40,000 people in the next two years,” said Gupta.
While Meritnation would restrict its focus to K-12 in the near future, Chauhan said Edukart aims to reach out to one crore school children in the next few years.