08 August 2022 21:08

LEADERSHIP TALK

Mahadev Srivatsa, VP – Marketing and Brand Strategy, Practically

How is online education changing the world of learning in India?

The pandemic has been a watershed moment for the Indian EdTech sector. According to ‘Decoding The $10 Bn Market Opportunity Report 2020’, the EdTech market is expected to grow 3.7 times from $2.8 billion in FY 2020 to a whopping amount of $10.4billion in FY 2025. The target audience is also estimated to reach 37 million users by 2025. Riding on the increased adoption of technology by the education sector the EdTech startups are developing innovative new-age tools to provide an unmatched learning experience to aspirants. Although classroom or face-to-face teaching will continue to be essential for learning, the blended form of learning will dominate the scene in the future. The pandemic has also generated demand for skilled professionals who have in-depth knowledge of the latest technologies like AI, Machine Learning, Robotics and Cybersecurity, which will further accelerate the growth of the EdTech segment. Moreover, with access to the internet and smartphones, consumers have also become more aware of the offerings, and their desire to learn beyond the syllabus will drive innovations in the education field.

Practically’s unique offering coupled with cutting edge technologies have helped the brand to carve a niche for itself in the cluttered EdTech market within a short span of its launch.

You recently launched your first brand campaign. How has been the response?

Practically is India’s first experiential learning app which is designed to make learning immersive and increase retention in STEM learning among students of class 6 to 12. The brand launched its first-ever brand campaign around the theme - ‘Bring Learning Alive’ – in December 2020. The campaign has garnered 3x growth and the app has crossed 330,000 downloads to date. The television commercials (TVCs) have garnered over 32 million+ views combined on YouTube and seen above average and consistent view rates, even after two months of launch, indicating relevance and popularity of the campaign amongst the target audience. This has been one of the highest by an EdTech company in India, without celebrity endorsement, so far.

What has been the marketing focus of your brand from its inception till date?

The focus of our marketing efforts so far has been to drive awareness and consideration in the home markets of AP and Telangana and test markets at a pan-India level to gauge the brand’s traction and determine brand and business expansion. We began our integrated marketing efforts only in end-2020. Before that, it was more social media and event-led. As a young one-year-old brand, in a competitive space with incumbents with deep pockets, we have seen one of the best ROI and growth in the EdTech sector in India thus far, especially without a celebrity push.

We launched our first brand campaign ‘Bringing Learning Alive’ in December 2020 and it has been very successful. It was  a 360-degree integrated marketing approach with ATL, Digital, Social, Print and PR which helped  create the desired impact on our target audience.

In November 2020, we ran  a Diwali campaign. It was a unique in-app quiz created on the theme of Diwali with prizes to the tune of INR 1Cr for winners. The campaign was promoted across Print, Digital, BTL and Social media.

We also sponsored  the Times of India for their South Zone Quiz competition, which took place from December ’20 – January ’21. The school quiz targeted the top 300 schools and 30,000 students across Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore with an in-app qualifier round and special Practically quiz round in the final. The quiz was hosted by ace quizmaster - Gautam Bose.

Can you take us through the brand journey?

  • 2018 - Practically was founded with a team of more than 150+ working on creating world-class 3D VFX content and AR/simulations videos
  • 2019 – We raised Series A $5M from Exfinity Ventures et al.
  • 2020 Jan – We launched beta for 18k students
  • 2020 April - Main launch of product in AP/TS, so far serviced more than 330k students
  • 2020 June – We entered Middle East market and signed up GEMS Dubai as our flagship customer
  • 2020 Nov - Active selling monetisation from AP/TS region
  • Dec 2020 - Launched our first brand campaign around the theme - ‘Bring Learning Alive’. Besides ticking off all KPIs that we had set out to achieve, this campaign has given us the right inspiration to go further. Besides downloads achieved, all our social media and in-app metrics have also been impacted positively and this has set the ball rolling for more engagement in the future.
  • Jan 2021 – We raised pre-series B $4M growth capital for further penetration into AP/TS market and launch in other geos in India
  • Feb 2021 - Recently, Practically was awarded the EdTech Startup of the Year at Startup Awards 2021 by Franchise India & Entrepreneur India magazine. Practically was also adjudged the Most Innovative STEM Solution by Elets Digital Learning magazine at the World Education Summit 2021

Education learning apps are steadily gaining acceptance among Indian parents and students. Who is the actual influencer in the purchase of the app – the student or the parent?

When it comes to grad and post grad students the customer and consumer are mostly the same which is unlikely in the K-12 segment.  Here the consumer is the student while the parent is the customer. In India parents are heavily invested in the education of their wards and that insight is seen in EdTech too, since they make the final decision. What appeals more for kids are innovative app features, ease of usage and the entire fun experience of learning. For parents, in addition to the above, personalized features, access to teachers, easy on the wallet pricing, app reviews and ratings also matter. However in both cases, peers and schools play an important role of influencing the buying decision. As Practically School Solution is also very popular among schools, many parents get introduced to the product through the school. Because of this unique consumer-customer TG behaviour observed in EdTech, many brands use brand ambassadors/influencers in a bid to appeal to both these groups.

What is Practically’s approach to branded content, and how do you measure the ROI of the content you create?

The content created has to communicate the intended message to the target group (TG) in a clear and creative manner, as simply as possible. Besides uniqueness of the idea, creativeness in execution is what makes campaigns memorable.

An effective measure for branded content is fulfilment. If the purpose for which it was created is achieved, then it’s good ROI. So whenever an activity is planned, there are performance measures and KPIs set. Achievement of those indicate a good or a bad ROI.

In our recent campaign all the content that was created centered around the singular brand proposition of ‘Bring Learning Alive’ to drive singularity and seamlessness.  These were strategically executed across different mediums that would best deliver the intended message to our TG. With the objective of driving awareness and achieving desired KPIs.  The results elaborated earlier were definitely an encouraging ROI for us.

Most of the growth for learning apps is from tier 2 & 3 markets. What is your marketing strategy to address these markets?

The difference between marketing to Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 audiences is narrowing, as aspirations are increasing across Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. Access to education is of paramount importance as all parents, irrespective of geography, want their children to have a successful life. Marketing is always audience-led and the strategy has to involve a mix of the best mediums through which one can reach relevant audiences. Considering the emphasis that Indians place on education, keeping respective market nuances aside, the core target audience for Practically, are parents of kids aged 11 to 17 and the kids themselves. To reach out to them in the COVID era, the most impactful mediums of marketing have been TV and Digital. In the pre-Covid era, BTL activations in such markets would act as crucial support to the main campaign. Radio & Print (regional) can also be looked at to effectively drive awareness among these audiences and build credibility. The key is to understand the touchpoints of your product, study customer journey and effectively strategize marketing for this segment. The correct choice of medium matters the most.

Being just a year-old brand, our current focus is predominantly metros and Tier 1 cities. As we are going to expand our footprint across pan India this year, we will be devising marketing strategies to penetrate  these markets too.

What has been the media mix for this particular campaign and key takeaways?

As stated previously, this was an integrated marketing campaign with the impact property being a two-week Associate Sponsorship deal with Bigg Boss Telegu Season 4. Aligning the marketing strategies around the brand proposition of “Bring Learning Alive”, the ATL campaign was released in the priority markets of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The digital campaign ran in the top 40 cities across the country with a greater emphasis on Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai.

The rationale behind this dual-pronged strategy was to drive awareness and consideration in the home market and test markets at a pan-India level to gauge the brand’s traction. Hence, the focus of ATL was majorly to establish the brand and drive awareness, while digital was aimed at building awareness and performance.

Predominantly, the metros and Tier-1 cities attracted larger traction. The campaign saw healthy participation among parents in the age group of 35 to 55 years and students in the age group of 11 to 17. Interest was also evinced among people of the age group of 18 to 24 years who visited the website for programs related to Coding++, Test Preparation, etc. Practically also featured amongst the top brands in pure search volumes among EdTech players in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana during the campaign, clearly emerging as a strong challenger brand for the incumbents and indicating resonance with the target audience.

Kids are the future of this world, and any initiative that gets them a head start is great. Your views on this?

The progress of any society depends on the education of its population. And what we learn as kids forms the foundation of all the basic concepts, that we eventually build on and apply in our careers. Hence it’s imperative that fundamental concepts are clear right from the start and every child continues to remain curious as they are building their knowledge universe as curiosity enhances learning.

Students usually find STEM subjects dry, rote and boring and educators have few means to increase students’ engagement and rate of retention. Students have access to learning resources which are not interactive and lead to less than 30% rate of retention when learning foundational concepts. This disengagement leads to lack of interest in key subjects and in extreme cases, dropping out of the education system. As per the MHRD report on Educational Statistics at a Glance, 2018, the all-India average dropout rate of primary students is 4.13% while it is 4.03% in upper primary and an alarming 17.06% in the secondary levels.

Practically is built on Edgar Dale’s ‘Cone of Learning’; we retain 10% of what we read, 50% of what we see and hear and increasingly more to 90% when we learn by doing. The more dramatic the experience, the more lasting the recall. Most concepts in STEM which are dry on the surface can be taught in a very fun and interactive way with experiential learning. And this we feel gives kids a fun and an innovative learning experience, enabling a head start over traditional methods.

 The Covid-19 pandemic has created robust opportunities for EdTech platforms to develop innovative content and engage students online. Our dedicated school offering - The Practically School Solution, which is absolutely FREE of cost to schools, has been a mega-hit with teachers. Given the challenges posed by the pandemic, this solution serves as a perfect need-of-the-hour for schools wanting to enable quality online learning for their students.

The adoption of the NEP 2020 has also accelerated the demand for skill-based programs like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, IoT, Gaming etc. to meet the global industry standards.  All of this seem to augur well for education in future.

One thing that you do every day that recharges and motivates you?

When not thinking brands, I am usually busy planning my next backpacking trip. On a regular basis, listening to music or singing, sports, a long walk or just reading my morning paper over filter coffee keeps me charged. It’s all about finding that one activity which helps you ground yourself and brings the day alive!

 

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