Why Reliance Invested In AI-Based EdTech Startup Embibe

After Jio’s success, when Mukesh Ambani signalled that he was ready to infuse more funds in the sector in his next investment cycle, he meant it. Education was one of the missing pieces for Reliance Jio which made Ambani venture into the EdTech sector. With deep learning technology, he is now planning to reinvent education sector and connect students in remote villages to the faculty in the most advanced universities and deliver personalised lessons. Reliance Industries Limited’s recent tie-up with AI-based education platform Embibe will give another product to hook youngsters within Jio ecosystem.

On 12 April, RIL executed definitive agreement to acquire majority equity stake in Indiavidual Learning Pvt Ltd’s Embibe, an AI-based education platform which leverages data analytics to deliver personalised learning outcomes to students. RIL will further invest upto $180 million into Embibe over the next three years. This is one of the biggest transactions in deep learning technology and Indian education space till date.

RIL is India’s largest private sector company, with a consolidated turnover of $50.9 billion, cash profit of $6.6 billion and a net profit of $4.6 billion for the year ended 31 March 2017. The company derives majority of its revenue from its petrochemical and refining business and also operates a large retail chain. It launched Reliance Jio Infocomm unit in 2016 which pushed the telecom industry towards the brink of despair with Jio’s cheap data plans.

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Reliance’s Investment In EdTech

Founded in 2012, Embibe has redefined the way edtech can impact the lives of teachers and students. The startup leverages advanced level analytics to deliver personalised learning outcomes for students. It uses self-learning algorithms, machine learning and cognitive computing similar to IBM Watson.

Using analytics and AI, it captures student weakness centred on critical exam performance metrics like accuracy, speed, time management, stamina, attempt planning and confidence. It also helps students to take personalised mock tests to prepare themselves for high-pressure exams such as NEET, AIIMS, CBSE, JEE Main, JEE Advanced and BITSAT among others.

The company started out as an analytics company and began using ML and AI in 2014. The startup now claims to have more than 60 educational institutions on its platform.

According to Embibe, they have impacted the lives of over 15 million students over the last five years. More than 60 leading educational institutions from private as well as public sectors in India have also benefited from its newly launched AI-driven education platform-as-a-service.

“Embibe has built an incredible technology platform that can deliver personalised learning outcomes in a way that is truly scalable across all education markets. We are excited to partner with Jio — bringing unrivalled acceleration to our growth story through data and device access. Most of all, we are delighted to partner with Reliance and share their deep conviction and visionary passion to sow the seeds of a new India with data as the new soil.” Aditi Avasthi, founder and CEO at Embibe said in a statement.

How This EdTech Investment Plays Well Jio

RIL said this acquisition is in line with its commitment to invest and grow the education sector in India and digital and technology businesses.

“The investment in Embibe underlines Reliance’s commitment to growing the education sector in India and the world and making education accessible to the widest possible group of students by deploying the technology. Reliance aims to connect over 1.9 million schools and 58,000 universities across India with technology. We are delighted to announce this partnership with Embibe, and believe that their highly experienced management team will be instrumental in enabling Reliance to realise its vision for the education sector, and strengthening Jio’s leadership position as a digital technology company.” RIL Jio director Akash Ambani said in a press statement.

The company is now creating a conducive environment for Jio ecosystem. It has sharpened its focus on media content and data-driven business that gel with Jio through investments in music streaming and web-content service. RIL has made a series of strategic investment in streaming sites including Saavn, AltBalaji and Eros Digital, among others. With over 160 million subscribers, RIL is gradually building a strong digital dominance in the market.

Changing The Face Of Education In India

The two biggest trends to impact education in the near future will be AI and internet of things. And RIL Industries believes that giving Indian youth access to data and ‘limitless power of the internet’ could transform India into a nation of a million startup. Ambani thinks digitisation of skill training is crucial for the youth and to get India to embrace the coming digital revolution.

This acquisition is in line with government’s initiative to increase technology education in schools and universities to shape its student into leading innovators of AI revolution.

RIL is also planning to put school syllabuses across the country in a digital format and serve it through a tablet. The initiative is also a part of Jio’s enterprise offerings and will be spearhead by Mukesh Ambani’s daughter and a Jio board member, Isha Ambani.

The company wants to put the syllabuses of all educational boards — NCERT, CBSE, ICSE and other state boards in digital format. It will pan from Class I to XII. Once the digitisation is ready, RIL will partner with respective boards as well as the educational institutes and schools to start imparting education through tablets. According to media reports, the digital school curriculum will be unexpectedly cheap just like Jio’s 4G services or the JioPhone. Reports have also suggested that the tablets will be provided free of cost.

State Of EdTech In India

Technology-driven education startups are personalising the classroom experience for thousands of Indian students, enabling them to compete with peers in classrooms, board and other competitive exams.

According to a study, the online education sector in India is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 52 per cent to $1.96 billion by 2021. The current size of the industry is $247 million. The sector covers a plethora of startups are bridging a huge gap in education system in India by offering audio-visual courses to test preparation materials through pre-recorded videos and curated content.

Reskilling and online certification courses are currently the dominant categories with 38 percent share, claims a media report.

“There are several evolving trends in the Indian online education segment that are contributing to the growth opportunities ahead,” said Sreedhar Prasad, a partner at KPMG India. “These include the emergence of hybrid learning channels, the continuous need for working professionals to learn new skills as well as the emergence of technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence that is enabling online education vendors to design customized content.”

Other Players In Edtech

Bengaluru-based edtech startup, Byju is currently leading in the space, which has grown to 400,000 paid subscribers since its launch. Other AI-based startups in the EdTech space include:

  1. Rajasthan-based Bodhi Ai, which is leveraging data collected from students to help them improve in exam scores.
  2. Bengaluru-based tutoring startup Vedantu, which use data analytics and artificial intelligence to measure the effectiveness of a student.
  3. Mumbai-based hybrid tutoring platform Genext Students connects parents with the best home tutors for their children. It enables personalised learning  provide for students and provides real-time progress updates to parents.

To Sum Up

After giving a stiff competition to telecom companies with its cheap data pricing, it will now be interesting to see how RIL stacks up against Google, Apple and Microsoft who are already dominating the education market and artificial intelligence. Embibe’s deal with RIL will further deepen the research and development of AI in education catering to students across K-12, higher education, professional skilling, vernacular languages and all curriculum categories across the world.

Additionally, over the next five years online test preparation is expected to grow the fastest as high growth in education search queries is now coming in from Tier II and III cities such as Patna, Guwahati, Aligarh and Kota — which points to the opportunities that growing penetration of smartphones and improving quality of Internet have opened up. Clearly, it is the right time for RIL to invest in this AI-driven startup.

Smita Sinha
I have over three-years of experience in editing, reporting. My career in journalism began with The Economic Times. When I am not busy, I read, I binge-watch web series.

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