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Coursera in Bangladesh and the EdTech Outlook

The US-based edtech company Coursera appears to be making a serious inroad into the online education market in Bangladesh. In a recent interview with the Daily Star, Coursera’s Managing Director for India and APAC, Raghav Gupta, suggests that Bangladesh is one of the top ten and fastest-growing markets for the ed-tech company across APAC. 

The platform has some 482,000 registered users in Bangladesh and is growing at a staggering 196% year on year. The Star article said students from Bangladesh have enrolled in over 1.8 million courses on Coursera in the past one year alone. The report, however, did not mention what percentage of these half a million users are paid, subscribers. 

Along with its individual student market penetration, the platform has managed to work with over 100 Bangladesh universities under its Coursera for Campur program. Coursera for Campus enables universities to go online by enabling faculties to make courses using Coursera technology and platform. The program also allows universities to offer job-relevant online courses to students. 

The most popular courses among Bangladeshi students appear to be programming-related courses and English language courses. 


This is a fascinating development from a number of perspectives. Coursera does not have a physical operation in Bangladesh. The fact that the company continues to experience staggering growth in Bangladesh suggests that there is a real demand for high-quality online courses in the market. The second observation could be that, for many courses such as programming, the boundary is irrelevant. As long as you understand English and have access to the internet, you can learn programming from anywhere.

To that end, Coursera enjoys two benefits: it has the best teachers on its platform to teach a myriad of subjects and a global brand that can outcompete many small local players. If the company can operate without having any physical operation and without paying the necessary local expenses, it puts it in an even more advantageous position compared to the smaller local players who need to pay taxes and other necessary fees to the government. 

Although local edtech players enjoy certain advantages against Coursera and similar multinational players such as localization, offering pricing advantage, and so on. But these advantages can quickly erode under competitive pressure. 

Online education continues to gain momentum in Bangladesh. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this pace. Coursera having almost half a million users and a high growth rate suggests that there already is a market for high-quality online courses and the market will further grow for online education in the coming years. 

A number of local ed-tech startups have been taking on different parts of education. There are Eshoshikhi, Shikho, Ten Minutes School, and EduHive that target K12. There are Bohubrihi and Learning Bangladesh that target skill development space. While local ed-tech companies continue to receive growing attention amid the coronavirus pandemic, the competition from big players like Coursera will eventually shape the market in an important way as the local funding environment remains underdeveloped for local tech startups. 

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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