New Delhi, India. June,10, 2020. Student with green mask maintaining social distancing, new normal life activity after coronavirus. Editorial credit: DHSINGH / Shutterstock.com
Prasad Mohapatra, 39, owner of Xcel Coaching, which has centres in Bhubaneswar, Puri and Rourkela in Odisha, is facing the heat. The state has imposed a fresh set of restrictions due to the second wave and he is worried that students will drop out of his coaching classes.
“Movement restrictions and weekend curfews mean that students wouldn’t be able to come to physical centres. I don’t have the financial resources to move the entire setup online,” he says.
On April 18, India reported 2,73,810 new Covid-19 cases and 1,619 deaths. This took the total number of cases past 15 million, with 1,78,000 deaths.
From April 2021 onwards, various State governments have started imposing restrictions to minimise people’s movement on the street. Non-essential workers have been advised not to step out except to buy essentials and to deal with medical emergencies.
How are coaching classes impacted?
CRISIL Research has pegged the size of the undergraduate test-preparation coaching industry in 2020-21 at Rs 39,000 crore. It is estimated that 50-55 percent of this market constitutes NEET and JEE test coaching.
Students enrolled in these coaching centres typically take up a one-year to two-year programme. Yearly fees range between Rs 50,000 and 1 lakh depending on the course.
But much of 2020 saw large parts of the nation under lockdown, leading to coaching centres lacking an online presence getting severely hit.
Prateek Parmar, who owns JEE Succeed Coaching, with centres in Kota, Jaipur and Jodhpur, told Moneycontrol that revenue was down 50 percent from 2019.
“Our yearly revenue was close to Rs 45 lakh but it has halved. Now it is getting tough to retain students as they want online classes. How do I get funds to set up all lectures online?” said Parmar.
About 420 km away in Delhi, independent JEE tutor Milind Chaudhry, who operates in the Jia Sarai coaching hub in Hauz Khas, is facing similar issues.
He had rented a three-bedroom flat and converted it into his private coaching centre in 2016. Business was good till Covid-19 hit in March 2020.
“Students here are mostly staying in paying guest accommodation. They went back to their home towns when cases started to increase in April last year. During that period, I would record lectures and send them over instant messaging and address queries over phone/email. By October, things started to improve, so students came back. Now, again, cases are exploding and students have started to leave,” he explained.
In wake of rising Covid-19 cases, the JEE (Main) 2021 April session has also been postponed.
Chaudhry had initially started teaching via live classes on Facebook but he said it was tough to interact with students, especially as there were spam messages that needed to be filtered out.
Video meeting platforms are another option. But for students who don’t have access to the internet, this is not a viable model.
The cost factor
Large players such as ALLEN Career Institute, Aakash Educational Services, Career Point and Resonance, which have an offline presence, were able to quickly pivot to online training.
But smaller players have not been able to do this. Setting up online study infrastructure from scratch costs between Rs 5 lakh to 7 lakh, an amount several players cannot afford.
Over and above this, was the requirement to get online testing infrastructure in place, which involves an additional expense of close to Rs 3 lakh since it involves tying up with testing providers.
Arindam Sen, who had been providing coaching for Physics, Maths and Chemistry at his AS Tutorials in Kolkata for close to a decade, shut shop in January 2021. Sen told Moneycontrol that business had come to a grinding halt and from a high of 375 students, he was down to 50.
“It just wasn’t possible for me to run the centres. I had to pay the rent and staff fees. I did develop a technology platform internally for online classes but the interface wasn’t smooth, so students dropped out. Eventually, I decided that it was best to shut it down,” said Sen.
He has now gone back to his family business of pharmaceutical distribution in West Bengal and Assam.
Industry insiders are of the view that the second wave of Covid-19 will also lead to a consolidation in the coaching industry and that at least 10 percent of the players in the market will be forced to shut down by July 2021.
“The second wave is lethal and coaching institutes are unlikely to get permission to continue any offline classes. This will lead to many smaller coaching players going out of business,” said Kartik Mehta, an education consultant from Delhi.