Studycat’s co-founder Mark Pemberton was invited to be a panelist at the 2019 annual EdTech Asia summit in Singapore to discuss Understanding and Engaging China’s Education Market. The panel was made up of the following speakers;
- Liu Qian, Investment Director of New Oriental Education and Technology Group
- Tang Zhenhua, CEO of Math for Kids
- Huang Ren, the Founder of start up Ivy Dad
- Mark Pemberton, Co-founder of Studycat
- Jerrick Ren from JMEDU the leading EdTech journal in China was the moderator
The Education Industry in China
The Education Industry in China is the fastest-growing in the world and has created excellent business opportunities for EdTech companies in the world’s most populous country. However, these opportunities aren’t without challenges, and to succeed in business in China you have to do things the right way and have a firm understanding of how things work and how to approach the education industry.
The panel took some interesting questions and were able to talk and advise education technology leaders as to how best approach and navigate some of the challenges facing both foreign and domestic companies looking to enter the space.
What Mark Pemberton from Studycat had to say in his Q&A Session
Question: What has been the biggest change on your track in past several years in terms of education market needs?
“Studycat has been actively selling premium language learning services in China since 2007. The biggest game-changer for us in the past several years has been the rise of WeChat and Mini Programs.
WeChat pay has become so dominant that any consumer facing business can’t seriously think about entering the market without having a WeChat strategy, both as a content marketing tool and a monetisation method. It isn’t cheap and it isn’t easy to optimise these stores properly for foreign companies. You need to engage with local experts. Competition for consumers attention and dollars is the probably the fiercest in the world.”
Question: As an overseas background company, what localisation strategy have you adopted to penetrate the China market?
“Thank you. This is still a work in progress for Studycat. We are a global company selling premium language learning applications in over 100 countries with a growing community of 10.5 million users.
China is our second largest market for revenue and our largest market for downloads. I would say that as a company we spend more time localising for China than we do for any other market and that is because 1) the potential size of the market and 2) because with regards to Chinese mobile consumers, localisation is crucial.
It is not just localisation of the language or the meta. It is really understanding the nuance of the market. That impacts the images that you use for your on-boarding as well as the messaging. Our brand is Fun Learning – Learn through play and game-based language learning. That is what we do – but do Chinese parents want their kids to have fun or do they want improved test scores? So you need to know your audience and what motivates them to buy.
If you are bringing western values or mind-set to the Chinese consumer don’t base anything of on assumptions – use data driven methodology and do your market research.
Screen time is also a huge issue for Chinese parents, much more so than outside of China, so we are building a timer on our apps so that parents can set the app to lock after a set amount of time. These localisation techniques are important and can only come from research and time on the ground listening to users.”
Question: What are the biggest opportunities for overseas education companies providing products or services in China?
“I think what people will see in the next 5 years is a move towards quality premium services that can actually prove learning outcomes. I honestly believe that once this super funded and super aggressive sales driven storm has passed, parents will look for higher quality services.
What I mean by quality services is two-fold: quality in the education outcomes and speed to those outcomes. Chinese kids are the most time poor in the world along with Koreans. Everyone is terrified that their kids aren’t keeping up. So parents want quality and they want it to get tangible results quickly. So be fast, be good, be convenient and be on WeChat!”
Q: For a foreign company looking to enter the China market, what is the single biggest opportunity and what is the biggest risk?
“I would say that the key to being successful in China is finding the right local partner. However much experience you have as an entrepreneur or a business man or woman, don’t think you can go it alone in China. If you do, the learning curve is long and costly. I speak fluent Mandarin and I understand Chinese culture after living in Taiwan for 25 years. My wife is Chinese, but I don’t kid myself that I could succeed in China without the right local partners.
With regards to what people should avoid in doing business in China relates to my statement above – the biggest mistake you will make in China is engaging with the wrong local partner.
So be patient and spend some time in China. Do your research and find some like-minded people that you can spend time planning your entrance strategy. The only problem with this is that China moves faster than any market I know. So while you need to be patient and deliberate you also need to be quick.
It isn’t easy, but if you persist and listen to the market and your local partner the rewards are there.”
Some other interesting developments from the EdTech Asia Singapore Summit
Over the two days in Singapore, we were lucky enough to meet and hear inspirational talks from some amazing influencers within the education technology industry. One of these talks was a fireside chat by Peng from Monk Hill Ventures south-east Asia’s leading venture capital firm, on the ‘The Technification of Education’. Peng spoke about how game-based learning can make a huge impact on the future of education and how it can be an ultimate leveller of equal opportunity for all children.
What is EdTech Asia Summit?
The EdTech Asia summit brings together thought leaders, industry experts and people at the very cutting edge of education technology. There are workshops, EdTech sessions and networking events with over 700 international speakers pushing the boundaries of what is new within educational technology.