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Amid edtech layoffs, Kota factories going big on hiring

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India's coaching factory at Kota appears to be back in full swing, with a majority of students back in physical classes at most institutes. At a time when edtech companies are laying off employees including instructors, test-prep institutes including Resonance, Career Point and Motion Education, among others, are hiring big and have either equalled or are close to pre-Covid student numbers this season, said officials at coaching institutes.

Besides instructors, the coaching centres are hiring tech talent to build apps and systems for running live interactive classes.

At its peak, the Kota coaching ecosystem has about 150,000 students in the city. Coaching institutes in Kota are waiting for board examinations to get over, after which they expect a surge in student registrations.

Bodhi Tree Systems, the platform promoted by James Murdoch and Uday Shankar, recently announced a $600-million investment in the largest player in the segment -- Allen Career Institute. Experts see more such deals in the future. "Coming together of digital capabilities along with the traditional classroom players will be a recurring theme over the next few months," said Ajay Shah, partner investment banking, EY.

Resonance Kota managing director RK Verma said, "Things are looking up after the pandemic. The Allen deal is an affirmation of that positive outlook and is good for Kota in general. We are focusing on our traditional strength of in-person, offline classes and pedagogy. Of course, given the experience of the pandemic, we have built capacity to provide online tutoring too."

Course Expansion
Resonance Kota and others are expanding courses. "We are offering students digital add-ons along with offline. We are also offering courses for CUET(UG) now," said Verma. CUET is the Common University Entrance Test.

Coaching centres such as Career Point are hiring talent for specialist roles in the hybrid ecosystem. "We are hiring software engineers and people who can manage studios," said Maheshwari.

Career Point director Pramod Maheshwari said, "Physical classrooms are here to stay despite Covid being favourable to online learning. But only online coaching is not going to survive and that is why so many digital players are looking at partnering." According to Maheshwari, multiple edtech companies have approached the centre for collaborations and investments. "We will take our own time to find the right fit," he said.

He is hopeful that revenues will at least touch or overtake those of 2019. The annual fee for physical classes is ₹1.2 lakh while for online courses it is ₹30,000 to 60,000.

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