Indonesian edtechs attract funding even as students head back to school

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With services that complement and support conventional schools at a fraction of offline tuition cost, edtech companies are likely to continue growing


On March 30, the Indonesian government issued a joint ministerial decree ordering schools that have vaccinated all teachers and staff to reopen immediately. Some schools are already conducting trial runs for face-to-face teaching.

Education minister Nadiem Makarim said the government aims for all schools to partially resume face-to-face learning activities by July this year in time for the new academic year. “[In-person learning] might happen twice or three times a week,” Makarim said. “The schools must also enforce strict health and safety protocols during these sessions.”

However, the prospect of remote learning coming to an end has not deterred investments in Indonesian edtech companies, many of which have secured significant funding in the past four months. Ruangguru raised $55m in a Series C extension round on April 19, led by Tiger Global Management and GGV Capital. The following day, CoLearn raised $10m from Alpha Wave Incubation and GSV Ventures less than a year after launching its app in 2020. In January, test prep platform Zenius raised an undisclosed amount of funds in a pre-Series B round, which involved Alpha JWC Ventures, Openspace Ventures and a group of existing investors.

The sector also attracted investor attention throughout 2020. In February last year, Zenius raised $20m in a Series A funding round. The following month, competitor platform Pahamify raised $150,000 from Y Combinator after graduating from its accelerator program. CoLearn raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding in December 2020, led by January Capital.

Not replacing schools

Indonesian edtechs attracted many users throughout 2020, as schools were shut due to Covid-19. Ruangguru now has 22m users and has achieved profitability for the first time since it was founded in 2014. CoLearn’s app has been downloaded 3.5m times since it was launched in August 2020, while Zenius now has 16m users and 1m monthly active users, according to an email response to CompassList’s questions.

Raditya Pramana, partner at Venturra Discovery, a fund of Venturra Capital, an early investor in Ruangguru, told CompassList that the use of edtech platforms might not dwindle after students return to schools for face-to-face learning. Most Indonesian edtech companies, he said, are not trying to replace school learning.

“Right now, students are still going to school, just online,” Pramana said. “So why do they still subscribe to these edtech services? It’s the same reason people go to cram schools or English courses even if they get everything in schools. They want to be competitive.

Raditya Pramana: Use of edtech platforms might not dwindle after students return to schools © Venturra Capital

“For most people in tier-2 and tier-3 cities in Indonesia, there aren’t enough facilities, both in terms of schools and in terms of after-school tutoring. These edtech platforms give access to extracurricular learning services via a smartphone and internet connection at one-tenth the annual price of offline tutoring.”

Venturra Capital led Ruangguru’s Series A funding, which was announced in December 2015, and holds a stake in the company.

Personalized, AI-driven learning

Although Indonesian edtech companies are not competing against schools, some have diversified their services to support school-based learning activities. Both Ruangguru and Zenius provide learning management system (LMS) platforms, which can be accessed through their respective apps. These systems provide features for distributing learning materials, grading assignments and conducting online classes.

“Not many schools in Indonesia have begun digitizing, and an LMS is really the first step towards that,” Pramana said. An LMS, he added, can be as simple as a site for uploading assignments or include advanced features such as live classes or automatic assignment grading. These features can help teachers manage a hybrid teaching model where some students are in the classroom while others are at home.

Edtech companies are also poised to use AI to introduce personalized learning to their platforms. With data on learning behaviors and results, AI can help edtech companies experiment and find the best way to deliver content that accommodates each student, Pramana said. “With AI, we can deliver the learning materials in a way that each student will understand best. For example, if the student leans towards visual learning, then maybe we can provide them with more videos and illustrations.”

In a separate email interview, Zenius CEO Rohan Monga told CompassList that Zenius is gathering data to build and train its AI recommendation engine. Describing Zenius as an “AI-first” company, Monga said it would use AI to develop personalized learning programs that can provide materials according to each student’s needs.

“Students will not study something that is not relevant to them,” Monga said, adding that personalized learning is important to help sustain their interest in learning.

Monga said that Zenius is about to launch a learning platform for professionals separate from its current audience of high school and younger students. “We received a lot of feedback from our alumni, who asked us to create a learning platform for people who have graduated from university,” Monga said.

Zenius’ learning platform for professionals will compete with Ruangguru’s Skill Academy, which has attracted more than 3m users since it was launched in September 2019.

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Edited by Matt Stanley, S. Mani

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