This article is written by Madhav Gawri who is pursuing a Diploma in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws (PE and VC transactions) from LawSikho.
The education sector for any country is the initial step for betterment in the future. Investment by any country in education bears good fruits. Education for a country provides good, educated citizens with the intention of making an honest living. But in today’s era of privatization, capitalism, and globalization, entrepreneurs have started to capitalize on this opportunity as well. The inevitable fact that good quality education drives a country forward and sustains it also invites entrepreneurs and various business opportunities. This is where corporate mergers, private equity transactions, and various acquisitions have come. There have been many mergers and various acquisitions in the education sector, whether it being the EdTech industry or the conventional education sector. Pooling in resources and making one entity compete in the market is a great way to get ahead of the competition.
State of education sector in India
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of life, including the education sector. To stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, all education institutions, in any capacity, were shut down. But even after the unlock procedure and process, many other industries are reverting back to their normal sense, whereas the education sector is being pushed to continue to operate online. This operation being conducted online resulted in the homeroom being turned into the classroom. There has been a digital shift in the education sector. Every school or education institute is being forced to adapt itself and move onto the digital platform. Due to this, numerous characteristic’s development can be seen, such as:
- Infrastructure: The digital shift has forced everyone to upgrade their infrastructure, whether they are home or teachers and examiners. But in India, there any many rural areas which are deprived of these services. If they are not deprived, then many of them cannot avail of these services due to monetary reasons. To overcome, this hurdle the government of India and various state governments had initiated many programs to provide electronics at a subsidized rate.
- Upskilling of Teachers: Every teacher is trained to teach in a conventional setting. Therefore, teachers were trained, and they had to up their skill set to teach in an online setting. The medium of teaching had changed, and it is equally important for the teachers and children to adapt and make the most of the teaching method.
- Content: To adapt to the situation, to ensure efficacy and the right pedagogy, the contents of the syllabus needs to be revised. For example, it was impossible to teach a practical subject without a proper lab and professionals.
Taking education online is an arduous task. Moreover, this industry is on a boom after the impact of COVID-19. The education sector trend is that Indians are starting to accept and adapt to education being imparted online. What made Ed-Tech adaptation easier was the wide-spread presence of the internet and smartphones. This made it practically possible for everyone to attend online classes. It can be noticed that adaptation of online education has easier for children. They are well-known for the technology, and moreover, the students are more interested in ways that can provide them easy and continuous test preps for major competitive examinations. Another reason why the EdTech industry is popular and in-demand is that they allow a certain level of comfort, as they are able to attend these classes from their own homes and at their leisure.
Major mergers and acquisitions in ed-tech industry
The ed-Tech industry is going through a boom in recent times. People are shifting the paradigm from the conventional model of education to acquiring education electronically. This sudden surge in the Ed-Tech industry has invited practices like joint-ventures, initial public offers, private equity transactions, and various new startups. Major recent acquisitions in the EdTech industry are:
- Byju’s Acquire WhiteHat Jr.
Byju, an online learning platform, provides education classes from 4th – 12th. They also provide education for competitive exams as well. WhiteHat Jr. is a new start that aims to teach coding to children from India and the United States of America. Byju acquired whiteHat Jr. for 300 million dollars. It made a positive impact on Byju, as it helped the acquirer to enter into many countries.
- Byju’s to acquire Doubtnut
Doubtnut is an Indian learning app that offers education to students from 6th standard and up to students preparing for competitive exams. Byju acquired the same for 100 million dollars. Byju gained more than 13 million users on their platform after the acquisition. After this acquisition, Byju became a superpower in the world of EdTech.
- Byju’s acquire LabInApp
LabInApp is an EdTech startup that provides licensed-based programs in maths and science for classes 9th to 12th. Byju acquired the same for an undisclosed amount. Byju solidified its leadership in the market after this acquisition.
- Unacademy acquires Mastree
Mastree is a new-aged learning app that provides lessons in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics for students of classes 5th to 8th. Unacademy acquired the same company for 5 million dollars.
- Unacademy Acquires PrepLadder
PrepLadder is an extremely in-demand app for students to crack medical entrances. Unacademy acquired PrepLadder for 50 million dollars.
Interference of competition commission in education sector
Numerous mergers and acquisitions are taking place in the market daily. This surely creates an impact on the competition amongst the parties of the education sector. Therefore, to keep the market stable and competitive, India’s competition commission has to step in and take charge. A situation like jointly established admissions protocols calls for the interference of the CCI. Indirectly, these protocols are creating a cartel. Mergers in the education sector pose to be a great threat. A merger would allow controlling the market’s biggest education institutes, thus creating their dominance in the market. This hasn’t happened in India yet, but it poses to be a threat. Moreover, agreements like peer-group sharing information will surely hurt the end-consumers. Such agreements surely fall under the ambit of Horizontal Anti-Competitive agreements under the Competition Act, 1998.
Proposed mergers of UGC, AICTE and other higher education regulators
The Union Government proposed that it might merge all the governing authorities of higher education in India under one common bracket, including Universities Grants Commission and All Indian Council for Technical Education. This will allow the government to create a single education commission. It has been argued for many years that different education authorities are hindering the development of the education sector, and this sector is fostering red tape. Currently, deemed-to-be-universities have a different structure, and state universities have different and private universities have a different structure. This merger will allow creating a balance between the private education and the government education sector. This merger proposed merger will surely have its demerits and merits, but the concept seems to be a revolutionary one. If executed perfectly, it might prove to be a great one.
Mergers in the Education sector are booming currently. Whether in the sphere of conventional education or Ed-Tech, every organization wants to grow more and beat out the competition. Therefore, to that, they continuously find a partner and potential other education institutions to pool their resource and become better. This practice of mergers and acquisitions in education has a positive impact on the industry and a negative impact. To get better and beat out the competition, education institutions are investing in their infrastructure, teachers, technology and adopting various other methods.
Still, along with this, the most important aspect of education can sometimes be ignored, which the method of imparting real education. Mergers and acquisitions are having a big impact on the industry, but the most important aspect of this industry should not be forgotten, which is to impart education and make society a better place to live.
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