Copy of 2023-06-23T083508Z_1583372031_RC2UO1A2WRA6_RTRMADP_3_BYJUS-INDIA-1689049295036
Multiple edutech apps have come to the fore in the UAE and with sufficient private equity funds to back them. They will test Byju's dominance with students in the Indian school curriculum. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: India’s pre-eminent edutech app Byju’s is going through crippling financial losses, investigations by the authorities, and wavering shareholders. All through the crisis, the founder of the online tutoring portal Byju Raveendran has been insisting that the troubles will blow over and the company will rediscover its mojo.

But can Byju’s do it? Will it have difficulty convincing its core audience – school children and their parents – that company’s troubles will not get in the way of Byju’s doing what it’s supposed to do – tutoring?

This will have significance for Byju’s users in the UAE and Gulf markets, where the platform built a significant user base during the Covid times and when schooling became an at-home exercise.

Read more

“What’s paramount is how good the customer experience is throughout,” said Imbesat Ahmad, founder and CEO at filo, a live instant tutoring platform.

This is an area where Byju’s has been facing some trouble. There is also substantial competition from UAE-based players (with millions in funding) like School Hack, a ChatGPT-powered platform. The app, founded in February 2023, achieved one million users by May. The other contenders are Coded Minds and School Voice.

“Events (such as what Byju’s is facing with the Indian authorities) do rub off on decision-makers,” said Ahmad.

The most critical element in the education category is the interlinking nature of the customer experience, reviews and referrals.

- Imbesat Ahmad

This is where Byju’s will find it particularly harrowing in retaining their hold with parents. A wave of negative news is filtering through about the company, not least being the heavy losses it has sustained.

A matter of high costs

Byju’s, which also caters to the large Indian diaspora in the UAE and Gulf, offers courses from Grades KG to 12 in CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education), and State curriculums.

“The most popular offerings are its JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) and NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) programs,” said a UAE-based education sector analyst. “Their math and sciences tutoring courses are also well received by UAE parents and students, while the videos are easy to use.”

Stock - Byju
The Bengaluru-based Byju’s – which has Meta among its investors - says it has over 150 million registered users globally and a presence in 120 countries.

The company charges approximately Dh1,900 (for Grades 4-10 CBSE, ICSE and State) to Dh2,700 (Grades 4-10) for its comprehensive tutoring. Kindergarten programs at Dh2,600 (with a tablet).

The coaching for NEET and JEE have a slightly higher tag of Dh3,350-Dh5,220 (JEE/NEET/Commerce) and Dh4,900-Dh9,100. The fees are usually paid annually. The combined costs of online tutoring and school fees are sometimes expensive for average-income households.

Content is paramount

According to Ahmad, many online platforms offer undifferentiated products, where the schedule-bound nature of the products is adapted from the offline world. “It is directly borrowed from the pre-existing nature of imparting after-school teaching,” said Ahmad.

In such cases, the way the curriculum is taught has two assumptions –that students in the classroom have the interest and understanding to learn and assuming students have understood everything taught previously.

Craig Shotland, CEO of Matific, an online learning platform for Math, said apps such as Byju’s are well placed to win the trust of parents back by focusing on quality content.

“I firmly believe these platforms hold immense potential to effectively supplement traditional school education and enhance the learning experience for students.”

While it is understandable that parents may re-evaluate their trust in online tools after a negative experience with one brand, it is important to recognise that the online learning landscape is diverse and constantly evolving.

- Craig Shotland

Today’s online tools provide unique educational experiences, tailored content, and interactive resources that enhance learning outcomes.

“It is also important to remember that the impact of an industry should not be judged solely based on individual experiences, but rather by considering the collective good it is doing,” said Shotland.