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Go Back to the List September 26, 2019
LINC Education taps into tech-enabled learning The Indian education market is among the most privatised education economies in the world.

The Indian education market is among the most privatised education economies in the world. While traditional seat-based education is capital-intensive and not startup-friendly, allied segments are less regulated and amenable to use of technology. Opportunities for start-ups are aplenty across the spectrum: from pre-kindergarten, K-12, higher education, vocational training, and tutoring. And, that’s the space LINC Education wants to tap.

Currently, LINC has five institutional partners in Australia and is about to rope in a sixth in the UK. Most are public universities to whom LINC offers two services — fully managed online teaching with technology and analytics for proactive one-one student engagement and subject-specific one-one online academic assistance for on-campus students that supplements in-class learning.

“In both instances, our value is to improve student completion rates and outcomes. Our technology-led approach combined with teacher training and incentives ensures scalability of service while preserving the personalized nature of support,” said Abhinav Mittal, Co-founder & MD, LINC Education.

Over the last 18 months, the company has worked with over 2,500 students across 50 subjects at the postgraduate and undergraduate level. “We have 150 highly trained academic professionals who are a key part of our service delivery supported by our proprietary technology platform LINCtrac,” he explained.

Success lies in how universities ensure that students get the right support. In developed countries like the US and UK, data may not be the issue, but academic time and accountability is a challenge.

“We estimate that each year, universities spend USD 50 billion on casual or part-time academics for short-term teaching-only roles. It allows full-time faculty to focus on research, course development etc, but poor sourcing practices, lack of training and accountability of casual academics leads to severe issues in student experience and support,” explained Mittal, one of the founding members and partners of EY-Parthenon’s international education practice — the largest education sector focused strategy firm, which was later sold to EY in 2014.

Awarding of online degrees is rapidly growing and as per estimates, universities may spend $5 billion by 2025 on teaching through the casual staff. However, the lack of quality teaching aggravates retention on online learning platforms. “40-50 per cent of students withdraw from online degrees within the first 3 months of enrollment. So, the potential for using technology and analytics to improve productivity and performance of casual academic staff is enormous,” he said.

According to him, customer acquisition is the single biggest challenge. In India, where mostly B2C or B2B2C businesses flourish, acquisition costs comprise 30-60 per cent of the topline. But to break even, this need to be 10-15 per cent. 

“Costs are high due to the nature of education technology products, which tend to be content-led. Differentiating on content alone is extremely difficult. Not only do you have to compete with others, but also continue to compete with traditional alternatives. You experience high churn or short customer life cycles, all of which means more marketing for growth,” he reasoned.

For LINC, there are three growth levers: expanding its customer base from Australia to other markets like the UK and US, expanding services to more disciplines and investing in technology. “Our current academics are largely in India and Australia. We want to build a global pool of academic staff that can be used across geographies to deliver support,” Mittal said.

Meanwhile, given the large English-speaking talent and flexibility in working hours, Mittal says he believes it’s time India started exporting teaching services. “Indian teachers have always been highly sought-after in regions like Middle-East and Africa. Now, global online education providers are tapping them to support online classrooms in the US and Europe too,” he observed.

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Written by Sunitha Natti ,
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