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Edtech firms in a tight spot; TCS’ Goipnathan says 2023 will bring ‘balance’


Indian edtech startups, among the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic, have been struggling this year as Covid-19 has waned, schools have reopened, and funding has dried up. Now, these companies – which have already sacked thousands in 2022 – are looking for more ways to cut costs and exploring sustainable business models to survive the downturn.

Also in this letter:
■ TCS’ Rajesh Gopinathan says 2023 will be a ‘balanced’ year
■ Manpower demand across EV ecosystem to hit top gear in 2023
■ Quick commerce platforms Instamart, Zepto push for bigger orders


Edtech firms try to reinvent themselves after a brutal 2022

Edtech firms

The pandemic-driven tech boom has ended and funding has dried up. This has forced edtech ventures to cut costs further and seek sustainable offline models with profit-generating revenue streams, entrepreneurs and investors told us.

Shifting sands: Edtech firms are expected to move away from the K-12 business model in the coming year. They are also expected to focus on things like expanding offline, tapping international markets with higher disposable incomes, and digitising the school system, multiple professionals engaged in the business told us.

Edtech financials

Over the next two years, Byju’s expects at least a third of its overall revenues to come from international markets, the company’s co-founder Divya Gokulnath told us. Unacademy, which operates mainly in the test-prep space, will aggressively expand into the offline segment next year, said cofounder and CTO Hemesh Singh.

The good: When the pandemic began in early 2020, edtech companies’ fortunes soared as they stepped in to fill the void after schools and coaching centres shut down during the nationwide lockdown.

That year, edtech startups raised a record $2.3 billion in funding. That record was broken again in 2021, when they raised $4.1 billion. In 2022, however, funding has dropped to $2.6 billion.

Edtech funding


The bad:
But as the pandemic began to ease late last year, edtech firms saw reduced traction and growing customer dissatisfaction. Companies, especially in the K-12 and online learning segments, responded by downsizing their businesses, laying off employees, and in some cases, shutting down.

And the ugly: Byju’s recently laid off 5% of its 50,000-strong workforce, while Unacademy cofounder and CEO Gaurav Munjal claimed in November that the company had cut its cash burn rate from $20 million a month to $7 million a month with a further reduction on the cards. Lido Learning and Udayy, meanwhile shut shop permanently.


TCS’ Rajesh Gopinathan says 2023 will be a ‘balanced’ year

Rajesh Gopinathan

TCS is well on its way to double revenues to $50 billion by 2030, but in 2023 India’s largest software services firm foresees an impact from interest rate tightening by the US Federal Reserve and the volatile geopolitical scenario, managing director Rajesh Gopinathan told us in an interview.

He said the long-term growth story is, however, intact and 2023 will be a balanced year after two years of very strong growth.

Here are some edited excerpts from the interview.

The last two years have been blockbuster for IT services firms, but there are dark clouds on the horizon as we enter 2023. How do you look at the coming year from a macro perspective?

The best way to think about it is that 2023 is (going to be) a balanced year. 2021 was a gung-ho year, 2022 was a strong year and 2023 is going to be a more balanced year. I don’t think worry is the right word for 2023. We would like to stay nimble on our feet and play each market accordingly.

The whole industry, including TCS, dealt with huge challenges such as talent and attrition this year. Do you see them easing in 2023?

The hiring surge that happened in 2021 is hitting the system now in terms of productive capacity. The supply side scenario in 2023 is also likely to be fairly benign. You are already seeing that. Attrition was also driven by this lack of supply. People were in a negative spiral of hiring from each other and driving attrition.

As the supply side eases out, that kind of a (talent) demand goes off the table. Attrition will moderate in 2023; it has peaked. Probably, it will start coming back to the pre-pandemic level towards the second half of the year.

Read the exclusive interview here


Manpower demand across EV ecosystem to hit top gear in 2023

EV jobs

Electric vehicle (EV) makers and associated companies are set to go on a hiring drive in 2023, with more green vehicles expected to hit the road amid an increasing push towards environmental sustainability, rising fuel prices, and significant investments.

Hiring in the sector is seen growing by 40-50% in the next 6-12 months as companies look to strengthen their teams across functions to cater to capacity expansion and new product launches, according to industry officials and staffing companies.

The entire EV ecosystem of manufacturers, component and battery makers, charging and swapping infrastructure providers, and vehicle maintenance service providers is looking for talent, experts said.

Driving the news: Data put together for ET by staffing firm Ciel HR Services show a spike in ‘intent to hire’ across the sector in the current quarter, with the number of open jobs at present 35% higher than the demand for manpower during the January-March quarter.

Companies that are looking to hire include Hero Electric, Ather Energy, Mahindra Electric, Ola Electric, River, Fisker, Log9 Materials, ZF, Maruti Suzuki and ChargePoint.

TWEET OF THE DAY


Quick commerce platforms Instamart, Zepto push for bigger orders

Quick ecommerce

Quick commerce platforms like Swiggy’s Instamart, Zepto, Reliance Retail-backed Dunzo, and Zomato’s Blinkit are pushing for larger order sizes from customers, with incentives and discounts on the app for orders above Rs 1,000, as they look to cut their cash burn.

The average order on Swiggy Instamart is around Rs 400, sources told us, while BigBasket’s average order is around Rs 460, according to the firm.

Who’s doing what: Instamart and Zepto have been trying to nudge users to increase their purchase size on the platforms highlighting the incentives for orders above Rs 1,000.

Meanwhile, Dunzo has been incentivising customers to opt for a 60-minute delivery option in an effort to club multiple orders and reduce burn, as reported by ET earlier.

Quick commerce firms

Blinkit and BigBasket’s BB Now are the other players in the so-called ultra fast grocery delivery space.

Why? Funding has been hard to come by for high cash-burn sectors like quick commerce. Increasing the cart size is one way for quick commerce companies to achieve better unit economics.


Tata Group invests Rs 1,600 crore in Cliq’s parent firm

Tata Cliq

The Tata Group has infused Rs 1,600 crore capital into its omni-commerce, fashion and luxury focused entity Tata UniStore, which owns and operates Tata Cliq, according to the latest regulatory filings. With this, the group has already infused over Rs 5,000 crore into the ecommerce business this fiscal, continuing the high pace of investment it began last year.

Details: Tata UniStore’s filings with the Registrar of Companies (RoC) shows the Rs 1,600 capital infusion was approved by the company’s board on November 16.

The company issued equity shares allotted on a rights basis to raise the cash to its parent, Tata Industries Ltd.

It did not specify the reason for raising the capital in the filings. However, this is one of the largest fund infusions into Tata Cliq in at least the past five years.

There’s more: Separately, Tata UniStore also raised Rs 1,000 crore through unsecured, unlisted, redeemable optionally convertible debenture route on rights basis to existing shareholders of the company – Tata Industries and Trent Ltd. In the filings, Tata UniStore said the fund was raised for capital expenditure, working capital requirement, operating expenditure and other general corporate purposes.


Crypto trading volumes fell 76% from Jan to Nov: WazirX

Crypto trading

Indian crypto trading firms are reeling from the brutal crypto winter this year, with WazirX reporting a 76% fall in users’ trading volumes from the start of 2022 to November 30. In January-November 2021, the exchange had clocked $43 billion in trade volumes.

‘Alarmingly low’: “After five years of consistent efforts to provide easy crypto access to users, we witnessed market sentiments reaching an alarming low. This was in contrast to the positive sentiment we saw in the last few years, especially in 2021, when crypto saw its best bull run ever,” WazirX said in its year-end report for 2022.

The crypto industry worldwide has seen a massive downturn this year with the collapse of several large firms such as FTX, Terraform Labs (creator of TerraUSD), Celsius Network and Voyager Digital.

Double whammy: Indian crypto firms are also battling the effects of the 30% tax on profits from virtual digital assets and a 1% tax deducted at source on all crypto transactions, introduced in the Union Budget for 2022-23.


Other Top Stories By Our Reporters

Sundar Pichai

Tech needs ‘responsible regulation’, says Sundar Pichai: Technology needs “responsible regulation” since it touches the lives of so many people, Alphabet Inc and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said on Monday at the company’s flagship ‘Google For India’ event in Delhi. Pichai also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and assured his support for making an open and connected internet that works for all.

The Ayurveda Experience raises $6M: The Ayurveda Experience (TAE) on Tuesday said it has raised Rs 50 crore (about $6 million as per current exchange rate) in its third round of institutional funding, led by Anicut Capital.

Social media has to be user-first, not platform-first, says Koo: Social media firms must put users above their platforms, Indian microblogging platform Koo said after Twitter rescinded its new policy banning people from promoting their accounts with competitors.


Global Picks We Are Reading

■ Empathy in the age of AI (Wired)
■ Microsoft prepares to go to battle with FTC over Activision deal (WSJ)
■ The $11,500 toilet with Alexa inside can now be put inside your home (The Verge)





Read More: Edtech firms in a tight spot; TCS’ Goipnathan says 2023 will bring ‘balance’

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