Snapdeal LogoE-commerce site Snapdeal now lets you buy services and has launched the online learning vertical. It lists certificate courses, tests, courses from EduKart, Simplilearn and MeritNation under the category as of now. When you buy a course via the e-commerce website, a voucher is sent for the preferred course within 24 hours that can then be used on the corresponding website that sold the course.

The length of the courses offered range from 15 hours to a year and the topics include programming languages, IT, marketing, media, management, finance, banking, mathematics and human resource among others. Snapdeal is also offering a 20% discount on courses offered by EduKart as of now.

Back to services: It is an interesting move by Snapdeal, as no other e-commerce player offers services in India as of now. In a way, Snapdeal is going back to its roots of being a group buying website back in 2010 that offered deals on spa treatments and other services. It was only in 2011 that it started its marketplace and in 2012 it completely ditched the group buying segment and with it all services listed on the website. So will Snapdeal now offer more services again, that too without the burden of group buying? We’ll have to wait and see about that.

Integration of education: Online courses are slowly moving out of stand alone websites and are being integrated into other services. Earlier this month, HT Media owned job listing website Shine.com had signed an MoU with e-learning website EasySkillz, so that job hunters can take up certified courses and improve their CV. EasySkillz was offering life time access to course material, government certification and 100% money pay back guarantee as part of the deal.

Now we have Snapdeal adding an education vertical and this is happening because the e-learning space in India is extremely crowded with very little differentiation between the companies.

Types of e-learning companies in India

There are three types of e-learning companies in India now — one group is targeting K12 education, another is focusing on certified courses and the third group are the websites that offer courses to improve skills.

iProf, which raised $9 million earlier this year, claims to be the biggest in this category in India. It competes against Applect Learning Systems, which runs the e-learning site MeritNation, had raised Rs 71.5 crore funding from Info Edge (India); Pearson owned TutorVista that provides online tutoring to students using Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol; WizIQ has mobile apps that enable teachers to conduct live, online classes using iPad andAndroid tablets; Greycells18 Media, the company set-up by Network18 and Educomp, which owns the Topper Learning brand in India, and runs the subscription based education channel Topper TV; and Authorgen that operates WizIQ.com, a web based platform that creates virtual classrooms. These companies are also facing competition from Apple which launched iBooks textbooks & iTunes course manager to India and CBSE that is now offering e-learning resources to school students.

The second category has players targeting higher education and skills related courses. It includes companies such as EduKart, that has raised $500,000 from a group of angel and institutional investors including Kima Ventures, AKM Systems, Vibhor Mehra, Amit Patni and Arihant Patni, and an undisclosed Stanford alumni; Simplilearn.com that specialises in professional certification courses, and had raised an undisclosed amount of  capital from IndoUS Venture Partners (IUVP); Learnpedia, a Hyderabad based digital content startup, had secured an undisclosed sum of funding from Ixora Ventures and a consortium of angel investors; LearNow, a mobile learning ecosystem for enterprises owned by Tata Interactive Systems. Some of the players in this category also offer courses to improve skills.

Then there are initiatives such as Jaaga Study, by Jaaga, a Bangalore-based collective for artists and techies;  Coursera Learning Hubs, an initiative that will offer people physical spaces where they can access its Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for free; Sequoia Capital backed education portal Minglebox; Airtel’s mEducation; and Edusys also backed by Sequoia; and SlideRule, a Microsoft accelerator company that aggregates online learning courses across various topics from several course providers.

Vying for attention

We are sure that there are plenty more startups in this vertical right now and we may have missed out on some of them. The point however is that all these companies are trying to reach out to the same set of students and professionals in the country. By selling their courses they stand a higher chance of grabbing eye balls than getting people to sign up on their sites. Companies that are working on tying up with schools for such products may be able to get a large number of users at a time, but such negotiations are slow and time consuming.

Overall, it’s a good idea by Snapdeal and it’s something that should interest a lot of these players. The question however is how many people are interested in these courses.

P.S.: Has anyone been able to figure out how to increase completion rate which is a very low 13-40% as of now?