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English Learning: Old Wine in New Bottle

By Ayush Palawat & Payal Jain on 21.02.2024 | Lifelong Learning Space | LoEstro Advisors LLP

In the not-so-distant past, English in India was primarily the domain of the affluent and well-educated urbanites. However, as India strides forward in its development journey, English has woven itself into the nation’s fabric. With over 129 million speakers spread across all 29 states, India now boasts the largest population of English speakers outside the United States. Surprisingly, English speakers still constitute less than 10% of the population, emphasizing both the growth and potential in this linguistic landscape.

The Low Proficiency Puzzle:

· Despite the increasing prevalence of English in India, a significant challenge remains — proficiency levels among students are alarmingly low. English is taught in schools, yet the emphasis often leans toward grammar and vocabulary, neglecting the essential speaking and writing skills. This discrepancy has given rise to a scenario where, out of the entire population, only 10% can speak English. Of this, a mere 2% can converse fluently, leaving the remaining 8% struggling with broken English.

· English proficiency is more than just a language skill; it’s a passport to opportunities. The stark reality in India is that English-speaking individuals have a distinct advantage over their non-English-speaking counterparts. Many jobs and prospects demand a minimum level of English proficiency, creating a significant divide in the employment landscape.

Is Low English Proficiency a Problem?

Yes, it is a problem. It hinders Indians from accessing better employment opportunities, thereby limiting the potential for a higher standard of living.

Global recruiters and HR managers say that candidates with exceptional English skills, compared to their country’s average, command 30–50% higher salaries (Source: World Economic Forum).

According to an EF EPI report, a positive correlation exists between English proficiency and gross national income per capita. Improving English skills not only influences higher salaries but also empowers individuals to pursue elevated employment prospects, consequently enhancing their living standards.

The Solution:

Historically, the English education landscape has seen differentiation through language, with a mix of local teachers and established players like Veta, British Council, etc. However, scalability challenges persisted. The emergence of online English language learning platforms addresses this gap. These platforms provide a virtual space for structured lessons, live sessions, personalized feedback, and interaction with educators or AI systems. The aim is to enhance English proficiency through accessibility, flexibility, and innovation in language learning.

The Target Audience:

At different age groups, there are different motivations for learning English, but the primary target audience for English Language Learning platforms consists of three key demographics:

· Study Abroad Aspirers (Teens and Adults): As the number of students seeking education abroad continues to rise, so does the demand for English language proficiency exams like IELTS. These exams are essential for enrolment in universities where English serves as the official language.

· Working Professionals (Adults): Globalization has propelled businesses to expand their operations internationally, necessitating a workforce equipped with language skills. Language learning platforms cater to this need by offering business-oriented language training for effective communication in international business settings.

· Housewives (Adults): The flexibility offered by language learning platforms, with 24/7 access to courses and resources, appeals to individuals with diverse schedules, including housewives seeking to enhance their language skills.

Market Dynamics and Players:

The English language learning market is populated by a mix of AI-integrated and live or recorded platforms. Globally, companies like Speak, Ling, DuoLingo, Babbel, Memrise, Rosetta Stone, and TalkPal AI are making strides. In India, players such as Utter, Stimuler, UFaber, PlanetSpark, Engguru and Clapingo are making waves.

Global players like TalkPal, Duolingo, and Cambly exhibit significant penetration in the Indian market.

Business Models:

The business model in the English language learning space is designed to offer a comprehensive learning experience with two main components: Structured Learning and Unstructured Learning. In the Structured Learning category, there are various options like live sessions, recorded lessons, and AI-integrated courses. These options provide adaptability and customization based on individual preferences. On the Unstructured side, learners can choose personalized one-on-one sessions with teachers or participate in collaborative learning experiences with strangers.

This dual approach aims to cater to diverse learning preferences, allowing users to either follow an organized and guided path or opt for a more flexible and personalized learning journey based on their individual needs and goals.

Here is a sample of companies operating in this space:


There has been notable funding in the Indian English language learning space and the trends show funding is directed towards the platforms that have AI integration.

Future Trends:

Looking ahead, the integration of AI in language learning is positioned to transform the landscape significantly, encouraging a higher adoption of AI, thanks to the following benefits:

· Cost-Efficient Pricing Strategy: With the decreased need for numerous 1-on-1 sessions through AI-driven personalization, language learning businesses can now operate at lower fixed costs. This enhanced cost efficiency is poised to drive more competitive pricing in the English language learning sector, appealing to a wider audience seeking quality education at affordable rates.

· Diverse Content Offering: Expect language learning platforms to expand their content, covering a variety of topics and difficulty levels to cater to individual learner needs.

· Enhanced Personalization: The future will see a focus on AI-driven personalization, tailoring learning paths, recommending content, and adapting teaching strategies for a more individualized language learning experience.

· Immersive Learning Experiences: Gamification elements, real-time feedback mechanisms, and diverse resources will be integrated into platforms, providing engaging and interactive experiences for users to enhance their English language skills.

The shift towards AI tutors in 1-on-1 live classes is an intriguing trend to watch, as it has the potential to reshape the dynamics of English language learning in India.


In conclusion, the demand for English proficiency in India is not just a linguistic pursuit but a gateway to opportunities. The evolving landscape presents a promising market for innovative language learning solutions, with technology playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of English education in the country.