- Budding post-COVID competition for Edtechs in Pakistan is providing more clarity to the startups regarding the domains they function in
- There is also a relatively untapped gap in unconventional education and a need to target the facilitation tools market
- The interest in Pakistan by MENA Edtechs is paving the way for further growth in the industry
The Edtech space has ballooned in potential over the last decade. Maqsad’s recent raise of $2.8 million in seed funding also signals intent from local investors and those in the MENA region to bank on Edtechs in Pakistan, acting as a catalyst for this growth.
The global pandemic had a massive role to play in this rise in interest too. With students kept away from physical classes, there was a rush to find continuity solutions that could be used as a substitute for an in-class education, and that is where platforms like Sabaq, Edkasa, Maqsad, and Nearpeer found their seats at the table.
COVID Rattled the Education Sector
According to the World Bank, approximately one million Pakistani students may not return to school at all. And these students cannot be blamed – to mitigate the financial toll of COVID, families will expect all members to pull their weight and contribute.
However, the government did try to close this gap:
One of the primary reactions to school closures was the Pakistan government’s Teleschool initiative – televising educational content for K-12 students during regular school hours.
It helped shed more attention on Edtech startups in the region since the entire project depended heavily on the involvement of Taleemabad, Sabaq.pk, Knowledge Platform, and Sabaq Muse.
And this was reflected in the numbers: from the 13 Edtech startups that partook in a 2020 i2i study, roughly half expressed that they were expecting to raise funding despite the pandemic!
However, despite these efforts, in 2022, we can confirm that 8% of adolescent girls and 21% of adolescent boys have not returned to school since the pandemic.
Hence, the Edtech space in Pakistan has room for more players and has proven that it can provide solutions to the long-standing education problem in the country.
Diversified Opportunities in the Space
Becoming an Edtech startup doesn’t specifically mean providing online classes and access to tutors. The key is not to replace schools but to facilitate them.
Therefore, we have seen local startups branch out within the same vertical and offer diverse solutions. For example, Taleemabad creates resources and tools that can help teachers, principals, students, parents, and owners. These include their LMS system and their Teacher App.
Wondertree is another significant outlier in this regard, the organization was founded in 2015. They create games to help educate special needs students, offering a therapeutic and rehabilitation-based curriculum.
And according to CEO, Muhammad Waqas, it is crucial for them to maintain their niche. He says: “It was very important for us. In fact, targeting this sector was our ethos and the reason why WonderTree came into being.”
With that said, alongside platforms focused on specialized education, there is clearly a lot of room in the industry for new players offering various continuity, administrative, and facilitative tools.
More Clarity in the Domains
When there are several players jostling for position in the same space, they tend to settle into their own distinct grooves.
Hence, with major funding going to those targeting K-12 programs, platforms teaching life skills and other unconventional topics seem to be overshadowed.
But startups like Nearpeer are treading that line with confidence. Not only do they offer help to students in the most prominent secondary to higher programs in Pakistan (Intermediate, O/A Levels), but they’re also diving into skill-based programs and entry-test preparations.
Additionally, with the lines between domains clearly drawn, entrants like EDMY too have some clarity about where they would expand in the future:
“We’re currently in the entrance test examinations space … moving on, we will expand into professional development courses, such as IT, networking, blockchain, crypto, management-related courses, project management, and interpersonal skills development.” – Co-Founder, Osama Siddique
With these efforts, alongside the work being done by platforms like Edkasa, the future of Edtech seems to be covering all bases!
New Challengers in the Space
Egyptian startup, Orcas, recently raised $2.1 million in pre-series A funding led by Access Bridge Ventures and CIRA’s NFX Ventures.
It is a self-paced K-12-based teaching platform that focuses on providing online/in-person one-on-one tutoring sessions. Moreover, they will be using their newfound growth to enter the Pakistani market.
Furthermore, last year, Jordanian Startup, Abwaab, took over Edmatrix, a Pakistani Edtech startup. Abwaab too is focused on providing a self-paced learning platform using video lessons and tutor engagement.
This interest in Pakistan has also been well received by local startups. Maqsad’s Rooshan Aziz says:
“The education problem in Pakistan is huge and it’s good to see multiple players working to address this. Given (that) it’s early days for the Edtech ecosystem, we believe this will create awareness.”
So it goes without saying, Edtechs in Pakistan are relishing the prospect of global competition.
The Future is… Bittersweet!
Since there is a massive audience to cater to, the current tactic seems to be working: an amalgamation of diversified educational startups offering classes, tools, resources, and platforms to facilitate every aspect of teaching.
The inspiration to scale is also right next door – Indian Edtech startup Byjus did what many Pakistani startups fail to do: recognize that the market is vast.
However, there are barriers for Pakistani startups to emulate Byju’s success, and this can be primarily attributed to Pakistan’s unreliable financial and payment setup, forcing subscription-based services to resort to using JazzCash and EasyPaisa.
There is a massive need for Fintech companies to allow for sporadic payment methods. Additionally, banks must look into offering customizable consumer financing options to help facilitate Edtech startups, who are limited to freemium packages to entice potential users.
And if that wasn’t enough, there is a traditional mindset in Pakistan that compels families to instill their trust in a teacher they can meet, a tuition center they can visit, and a fee they can pay physically.
Therefore, there is still some work to do before Pakistani Edtechs can truly flourish!