This post on e-learning in India, Europe and the USA was prompted by the publication of interesting research by WizIQ. It was titled e-learning trends in India, Facts, Figures and the Future **, which is well worth reading.

India is a powerful player in the global e-learning market, and it is interesting to see the growth projections for the domestic Indian market, mainly driven by the demand for domestic education.

WizIQ, quoting research by India Digital review, reported a market forecast worth of $280m in 2012, up from $27m in 2008. This research also values the Indian online tutoring services provided to the global online tutoring market as only $15m, from a global market of $2 billion.

Indeed this research was initially published by The Financial Express and is well worth reading in detail, as it evidences the huge potential of the domestic Indian e-learning market. We would argue that India should now be a market of great interest to e-learning provider’s world- wide.

It will be interesting to see how this market will be served, will the undoubtedly well developed Indian e-learning businesses’ be able (or willing) to meet this market? Or will it be an opportunity for UK, European  and US edtech and e-learning providers to offer innovation to gain a foothold in what will become a huge market. Many US MOOC offerings and global edtech providers must covet this market and its potential for rapid growth.

However, as of today a $280m domestic e-learning market certainly does not support the capacity that exists in e-learning development in India. As noted above India is a successful global player in the e-learning market.

Where the real success for the Indian e-learning businesses has been most noted is in the USA. The US is the world’s largest e-learning market, our friend at Financial Express value it at $4 billion. Indian developers have been very successful in winning a large percentage of the US e-learning market.

Many Indian e-learning companies are effectively US-Indian businesses with a strong presence on the ground in the US for sales and project management and who run efficient development operations configured to deliver large projects by teams based in India.

Companies such as Aptara, G Cube, C-elt, Cygnet, Harbinger, NIIT, Tata Interactive Systems, Upside Learning and more have all made considerable inroads into the US market, – some even present themselves as principally US based businesses, all have been very successful.

The US market with its size, and its style of e-learning has proved to be a great market for these technically adept companies who have produced large amounts of e-learning materials at very competitive prices.

It may be a little unkind, but fair to say that much of the content for this market has been “flat content” – page turners, no doubt what the customer wanted, what the budget determined, and was none the worse for that….it was often very instructional and compliance led.

In the UK, still the second most evolved e-learning market Tata Interactive Services have been present for some years, and like the US, but on a smaller scale there has been some direct outsourcing of development to India.

Several UK owned e-learning developers such as Saffron, Redtray and Fusion have leveraged Indian development capability effectively.

The Indian e-learning developers are evolving and innovating at a rapid rate, and we are now seeing much more sophisticated offers around content and LMS solutions in India. Instructional design expertise is also evolving quite rapidly, but so is price. Indian e-learning developers are not quite as cheap as they once were.

Will the Indian e-learning developers have the impact in Europe that they have had in the USA? Research by Learning Light indicates that the European market is well set for growth, driven by the desire of organisations to save money, and learners to learn at the point of need with technology as the enabling device.

Price will remain a key driver, but design will continue to be important, and European buyers of e-learning (our research tells us) will pay a little more for a markedly better quality product.  The key differentiator is therefore learning design.

How well can learning design be done at a distance? Quite well in some cases, but not in all cases. Companies that can “meld” UK and European centric learning design and extract significant price savings from Indian development teams will continue to prosper in certain market segments, but not all segments. This Operational Excellence + Price Model is not for all buyers or e-learning.

Many UK and European e-learning projects are often smaller and more tightly aligned projects than US projects. This entails bespoke e-learning being developed in close working projects made up of developers and customers, often with the development teams as part of the client’s team – Customer Intimacy*.

In Europe L&D departments are not well resourced to closely manage e-learning projects, the success of many e-learning companies in the UK has not been around operational excellence and price (the Indian model), but based on customer intimacy and innovation.

Increasingly often the drivers of e-learning projects are not the L&D department but the operational departments driving dynamic budgets to meet issues, with e-learning just a quick and cheap tool proffered to solve a pressing operational problem. This makes outsourcing to overseas development projects more complex and risky, when the manager is unclear what e-learning is all about!

While many L&D professionals have over the years built up strong understanding of e-learning and learning technologies, and are smart buyers, many business unit managers have not built up this understanding. Arguably, this shift of procurement of e-learning from L&D departments to business units is a challenge for all e-learning providers.

To digress to make a point: Every year at Learning Technologies, we see the same companies presented as clients by multiple exhibitors year in year out. These are typically companies where training is a core requirement to the business, and the L&D department remains or has retained its role as buyers of e-learning.      

Here at Learning Light we regularly rescue projects led by business units that have little or no understanding of e-learning (or learning).These projects need a “Customer intimate” development project, with lots of iterations, as it is truly a learning e-learning experience.

These multi-iteration e-learning projects are far more frequent than can be imagined. Developers often hate such projects, endless amends, delays in client reviews and feedback, out of scopes etc…..But with the right design approach from the outset (probably not ADDIE) a customer intimate model can lead to a successful project, and importantly, this model is not one that is ideally suited to out-sourced development teams in different time zones. Consequently e-learning companies that have understood this model, priced and project managed accordingly have prospered, and probably will continue to do so.

We have talked about the barriers to Indian developers in the European market, and Indian companies are seeking to develop partnerships and solutions on the ground as we speak, to address this market, but what of the European e-learning industry moving to India?

We will share our views in our next blog piece.

*References: Treacy, M. and Wiserma, F. (1992) Customer Intimacy and other Value Disciplines. Harvard Business Review.


** e-learning trends in India, Facts, Figures and the Future (2013) Contributors: Mridula Velagapudi, Richa Singh,
Dolly Purba & Kalyan Sarkar, Wiz IQ.