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This decade belongs to the ed-tech industry: Practically’s Mahadev Srivatsa

In just over a month, Practically has grown almost 3X to cross one million installs.

The ed-tech sector in India is witnessing unprecedented growth owing to the accelerated adoption of technology. The pandemic further strengthened the trend, with schools, colleges, and educational institutes shifting online, paving the way for the rise of several ed-tech start-ups. Claiming to be India’s first experiential learning app that brings learning alive through immersive videos, interactive augmented reality, and 3D simulations for 6th to 12th graders Practically is one such startup that also scripted its success story during the time.

Mahadev Srivatsa, who spearheads the brand team as the ed-tech’s VP - marketing & brand strategy, is on a mission to make Practically a household name in India. An evangelist marketer and brand strategist with a keen eye for consumer insight, and over 13 years of cross-industry experience in brand launch & integrated marketing campaigns, Srivatsa has worked across telecom, consumer electronics, auto, and FMCG to name a few. He was recently adjudged Winner in the Thought Leaders category at Voot.

Srivatsa, who has been previously associated with organisations such as Vodafone-Idea, ASUS India, H&R Johnson India among others, brought in a unique acumen on how traditional and new-age digital mediums can be leveraged to build a brand. He is credited with launching the brand’s first integrated marketing campaign, including crafting the brand proposition, the campaign strategy, and successful rollout that resulted in a 3X growth in both business and brand objectives. The brand’s first national campaign launched earlier last month, ‘Scan Anything’- a disruptive feature that enables students to learn from their everyday observations - also saw a 2X growth in terms of search volumes.

IndianTelevision’s Anupama Sajeet caught up with the marketer and branding professional for a freewheeling conversation on an overview of the ed-tech marketing space and digitisation in education. Srivatsa also shared insights on the start-up’s roadmap ahead and the role of online education platforms in lieu of the scheduled reopening of schools and institutes for offline teaching in the coming days…

Edited excerpts…

On what differentiates Practically from other online learning platforms

As India’s first experiential learning app designed for students in classes of 6th-12th with a focus on STEM learning, our content is 3D, immersive, and experiential which makes learning fun and engaging for kids. We have a very comprehensive content of 3000+ world-class 3D videos, 1000+ Simulations / AR experiences and are constantly working to make our library amongst the largest. We are also the world’s first ed-tech company to launch the #ScanAnything feature which transforms the mobile camera into an educational tool allowing learners to interact with surrounding elements freely. It can recognise pictures, questions, exercises, proofs, etc., from textbooks, magazines, newspapers including capturing images of any surrounding objects and presenting linked curriculum learning information on the app for the learners to pick their learning journey and resolve doubts instantly. 

On the challenges faced by the brand to penetrate this increasingly crowded sector

In ed-tech, the consumer and the customer are different, so the marketing challenge is always to create a campaign that appeals to both sets of audiences. The TG for the campaign was parents of kids of 6-12 grades and kids themselves. The other challenge was communication in a cluttered market, given the amount of SOV (share of voice) by competition in this space of late. Hence the challenge was also to develop communication that breaks the clutter and gets noticed. And finally, we had to do justice to the ScanAnything feature not just in terms of creating awareness about the feature but also the claim that it’s the first by an ed-tech company.

So, the entire campaign communication was developed to get the perfect balance of keeping the campaign look & feel to reflect the world-class tech and product offering as the hero and at the same time appeal to our younger TG which likes to see communication that is light, snackable and fun. To make the feature believable and showcase its robustness, we designed the print ad in a manner that users could try out this innovative feature straight out of the ad.

On Practically’s first national campaign

Given the need to promote this innovative ed-tech feature, the campaign is digital-first with a robust focus on print. The entire campaign was meticulously planned in four phases starting from teasers on social media to launch, post-launch and sustenance. The digital campaign kick-started with the launch of two films on YouTube and a national press release around the campaign proposition of #StopSearchingStartScanning. The films centered around the feature and the tech as the hero.

A print ad every week for three weeks on leading national and regional dailies was planned to drive awareness and credibility and was uniquely designed to make people engage with the feature. A robust influencer plan with a mix of celebs, micro and macro influencers at a Pan-India level was also executed to create buzz. We will continue to deploy influencers in the future as well. As a medium this is something no marketer can afford to ignore given the digital age, we are in.

On the key take-aways post the brand’s campaign launch

The campaign has been well received with over seven million views for our films so far across all social media platforms. We were at four lakh installs before the campaign and in just over a month have grown at a record speed of almost three times to cross one million installs which was our key campaign KPI. All our in-app metrics (MAU, DAU) have witnessed exponential growth and we recently hit more than 1 lakh MAU (Monthly Active Users). More importantly, we are able to sustain the growth as the campaign reaches its final leg. With respect to the feature, on average so far, we are getting 10,000-15,000 scans a day with the highest being 33,000 on the day of our first print ad.  We have had six lakh scans since the launch of the campaign indicating the likeability of the feature and the marketing impact. We have also seen a 2X growth in terms of search volumes.

On the media mix, the brand looks to target

The choice of medium for marketing is always dependent on the product and TG. As a marketer, one always selects the optimum media mix desired for a launch or communication. Being an app, our communication will always be digital-first. Going forward, digital and TV alongside print will be the preferred choice for us. With pandemic almost looking like an endemic now, OOH also can be a good bet as a support medium.

While Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra are our key markets, we have already gone national with this campaign and will continue to make strides deeper into these markets. As we enter new geographies, our focus will be primarily metro & tier 1one towns for now. We are also present in the Middle East and are expanding rapidly.

On plans to scale up the brand marketing in 2021

Getting a million downloads is a dream for any app and is usually the first key milestone and we are delighted at the pace with which we have achieved it, especially the last mile. All our future marketing campaigns will only be bigger in scale than the previous, given our objective is to make Practically the most loved and trusted e-learning brand. The next goal is three million and then eventually 5ive million installs by this financial year for which we have already started planning the next marketing campaign.

On the role of online education platforms going forward, with schools reopening

We believe that technology adoption in the education sector is yet to see its peak and the growth trajectory is likely to continue beyond the pandemic years. The lockdown induced by the pandemic has produced a paradigm shift in learners’ behaviour leading to an exponential increase in the demand for ed-tech products in India. As consumers are more aware of the offerings and accessibility, the urge to learn beyond the syllabus will help in bringing in innovations in learning. With steep competition, players need to modify their offerings to engage consumers constantly. With the implementation of the New Education Policy, online learning in higher education will further experience accelerated adoption as people focus more on upskilling and reskilling.

Also, in what has probably been the biggest change in ed-tech marketing, today every player wants to be a ‘Brand’ and more importantly behave like one!  With the pandemic firmly establishing the trend of blended learning, this decade is looking like the decade of ed-tech in India.

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