Ever since the layoff frenzy started, the tech industry isn't the only one feeling the burn. The Edtech sector also joined the adversity parade by giving the boot to over 30,000-40,000 employees since 2022. And now, in the midst of Byju's mounting tensions with its creditors and Cuemath's issues with revenue and cost trajectories, the online math learning platform has kicked out 100 employees.
It’s known that the edtech industry has been sprouting like never before, dedicating itself to crafting revolutionary educational technologies that can revolutionise the learning experience for students. However, this growth spurt hasn't come without its fair share of obstacles. The past few months have been quite tempestuous for edtech companies, as many of them are embarking on a firing frenzy to streamline their expenses.
Not only have the behemoths of edtech resorted to massive layoffs and salary reductions, but they've also been caught up in the whirlwind of maintaining an unsustainable work environment. With a multitude of challenges on their plate, whether it's the task of recruiting and retaining top talent or ensuring the well-being of their employees, India's edtech brands are grappling with a post-pandemic storm.
One of the key culprits behind these predicaments is the lightning-speed tempo of the industry itself. With fresh technologies and products popping up left and right, companies are under immense pressure to swiftly innovate and stay at the forefront.
In their zealous pursuit of leadership in the cutthroat market, “numerous Indian edtech brands poured in an exorbitant amount of money based on illogical vision and short-term schemes. But when the tide turned sour, cost-cutting became the sole recourse, leaving many companies with no choice but to either lay off their workforce or coerce them into resignation,” explained Sumanth Prabhu, the Co-Founder and CEO, Ulipsu, a multi-skill learning platform.
In an exclusive conversation with Mr Prabhu, he also shed light upon how he managed to keep his brand afloat. Ullipsu weathered the storm by sticking to its fundamentals of value delivery to students and parents. The product was developed much before the pandemic, and with a long-term vision of revolutionising learning in India. The brand focused on delivering value to students and parents even during difficult times,” he said.
Now that we have a general overview of what went awry, let's delve into how to address the situation at hand:
A customer-focused approach
In the realm of edtech in India, there's a popular notion that "unsustainable work environments are the norm." However, it's crucial to acknowledge that every workplace is unique, and experiences can widely differ. Regardless of the industry or brand, there will always be instances where companies exert pressure on employees to drive product sales, which is a natural occurrence. However, when unrealistic funds are raised and an unattainable pursuit of value propositions takes hold, the industry veers off course. Companies start prioritising speed over quality, leading employees to feel compelled to take shortcuts or embrace risks they wouldn't typically consider.
To tackle such situations, CEO of Ulipsu suggested companies “to focus on their sales strategy and understand what their customers want and need. Education is a unique market, and to succeed, companies need to have the right product and the right value delivery. The future of edtech is promising, with more major players sticking to the market and more products coming out to solve the problems of students and parents. The government is also active in promoting the National Education Policy, which will lead to more companies with solutions in the edtech space.”
Embracing progressive HR practices
As the demand for innovative educational technologies continues to surge, edtech companies are finding themselves in a competitive race to attract, retain, and nurture top talent. Embracing progressive HR practices in the edtech sector involves adopting forward-thinking approaches to human resources management that prioritise employee well-being, growth, and engagement. It goes beyond traditional HR models, reimagining the workplace as an inclusive, collaborative, and empowering environment.
“Since the industry has a long way to go, it is important for every edtech company to adopt progressive HR practices that will enable a healthy work environment. It is important to encourage collaboration, open communication, and respect among your team members. This can be achieved through team-building activities, company events, and fostering a sense of community within the workplace. There should be policies that allow employees to take breaks in case of need, prioritise self-care, and set realistic expectations for their workload. This can help prevent burnout and reduce stress levels,” Sumanth Prabhu told People Matters.
Unleash the power of ownership
Companies must guide, nurture, or equip their employees to become trailblazers. When employees embrace ownership, they become deeply involved and devoted to their tasks. They willingly exceed expectations and are less likely to lose interest or get sidetracked. Equally important, top management should synchronise employees with the company's principles and vision. A shared purpose not only inspires hard work but also empowers them to make decisions that uphold those ideals. This fosters sharper decision-making and cultivates a highly productive work environment.
“Ulipsu has strived to provide a pro-employee work culture and well-being since the first day of its initiation. Whether it is period leaves for women employees, company sponsored mental health sessions, or an open-door policy, the company has adopted several policies to create a loyal and motivated workforce. Besides, Ulipsu is planning to adopt a fully automated performance appraisal system and form multiple decision making teams very soon to ensure enhanced teamwork and smooth execution. The company will also have trainers in every department and an in-house counsellor,” said Mr Prabhu.
Overall, while the edtech industry has the potential to transform education and improve learning outcomes for students around the world, it is clear that there are significant challenges that need to be addressed. “From fostering a culture of innovation, promoting visionary leadership to ensuring that there is right value delivery, there is much work to be done to make sure that the industry is able to live up to its promise and potential,” he concluded.