Think of competitive examinations in India and the first thought that comes to mind is of students and parents seeking the right coaching courses. From Kota to Hyderabad and Delhi, Coaching Inc has spawned teaching hubs with factory-style scale and the ability to turn asymmetric input into uniformly refined output. Year after year, batches of exam-ready students are churned out of these talent factories brandishing their high scores and ranks - tickets to their dream careers. What's changed is that most students are part of coaching classes as well as online courses, subscribing to online examination series and content.
In 2012, Asian Development Bank had published a report on "Shadow Education" which stated that 60 per cent of primary school children and up to 83 per cent students in high schools received private tutoring. According to a June 2018 report by Care Ratings, the size of Indian coaching classes segment was about Rs 21,700 crore in 2016/17 and is expected to grow at over 13 per cent (compounded annual growth rate) over the next three years to reach Rs 31,500 crore. The main drivers are demand for specialised education and training, growing importance of pursuing professional education with the number of aspirants much higher in relation to the number of seats available, the report states.
Increasing demand means that many coaching institutes now offer online course-plus-examination series. Some names that many students mention are Resonance, Allen Career Institute, EtoosIndia, Byju's, Bansal Classes, Motion IIT Institute, FIITJEE, Chaitanya and Narayana. Apart from reasons such as proliferation of gadgets (smartphones and tablets) and easy access to internet, students want online content because many entrance examinations are now in an online mode.
Etoos, a coaching giant from South Korea, is known more for its online presence in India, especially for study material, online lectures and test series. Allen Career Institute, which founder Rajesh Maheshwari had started with just about eight students in Kota in 1988, has since then coached more than 1 million students in classroom programmes, its core competency. However, Naveen Maheshwari, Director of the institute, says that in keeping with the trend towards online courses, "We started our Onlinetestseries.in portal for students in 2012/13 with a strength of 1,955 students. For session 2018/19, we have crossed 53,237 students." He explains that students take online courses as a supporting tool to leverage classroom programmes. "(But) the primary choice to prepare for national examinations remains classroom contact programmes."
In a bid to familiarise themselves with the examination process and papers, students opt for a larger variety of tests and enrol at more than one coaching institute. For offline classes, most students bank on coaching institutes and then tap into online content from other institutes to further fine tune their understanding of concepts and to get a sense of how they fare nationally in online tests. The online material costs range between Rs 1,000 and Rs 50,000 depending on the type of content sought and its duration.