Acumen Leadership in Conversation— With Dyutimoy Biswas: The Emergence of South and South East Asia as a significant new market for 2023

Dyutimoy Biswas is the Chief Operating Officer with a focus on customer experience and optimising delivery costs. Based in Gurgaon he works from home and from the SannamS4 office in Nehru Place.

DB’s first role was as a Sales Rep in the logistics and supply chains in the early 1990s where he learned outsourcing. 25 years later, he’s still in the outsourcing space and thoroughly enjoying the challenge of setting up yet another delivery ecosystem that will enhance customer experience and continue to reduce costs.

Let’s recap the higher education market and what happened in 2022

The sentiment of Indian students is positively in favour of pursuing education abroad.  States like Punjab, Gujarat, and Haryana have seen significant growth. Post-study work rights are helping  Students achieve higher compensation levels, all in all sentiment is extremely positive for pursuing studies abroad.

We’ve seen the introduction of the NEP in India, a positive development that has led to a lot of  MOUs getting signed between Indian and foreign universities in the last year. 

two of the key areas where we are seeing the most demands are management and STEM f Traditionally these courses have always found favor with students however we are seeing green shoots develop and diverse courses are slowly and steadily finding an audience.

Post-pandemic, it’s great to see student numbers moving in the right direction once again.

What were the main struggles or complications you heard clients and those in the industry talk about this year?

Enrolment numbers are not keeping pace with application numbers so there is a segment of people who are applying as students to use this as an immigration tool this is an area of concern both for the universities and for the Governments. The need of the hour is to build proper governance and compliance processes so that it is easy to identify such threats governments are going to monitor this very closely. In areas like the US and Canada, we’ve seen visa issues delays, and a high rate of rejections.

MOUs signed between foreign and domestic universities in a lot of cases do not really get implemented due to issues around regulation, framework, commercial interests, governmental incentives, bureaucracy, etc. It is important that such bottlenecks are addressed quickly and firmly to enable such relationships to mushroom. 

India needs to develop a strong Research and Development focus, with adequate participation from State and Central Governments.  Currently, MOUs between foreign and domestic universities have a high dependence on self-funding to carry through. A lot of such MOUs do not see much movement due to issues around funding there’s a large potential in areas like climate change and sustainable development, green energy, that the world is interested in and working on, being one of the largest economies India’s active participation in such areas would have a global impact.

we are clearly in need of a fund that is set aside at every level and driven by the state and central government for such initiatives. I would say these are the areas that are in focus for different stakeholders. 

Do we expect these to continue into 2023?

2023, in my mind, is going to be a year where all stakeholders start very seriously looking at areas of improvement within their own frameworks. I know for sure that the Government of India is looking very closely at the capabilities that India has to help students continue their learning journey within India or abroad because India does have an infrastructure issue. I expect stakeholders to have serious engagement with each other to innovate and use capabilities that already exist or are in the developmental stage to put forward a scalable, flexible, and cost-effective solution. 

What new concerns face higher education in 2023?

One key concern is inflation, which impacts spending power, it would also have an impact on forex. Students will have to spend a high amount of spend to further their education, accommodation requirements, and so on, and so forth.

Universities will need to be able to put a strategy in place to enable resource optimization be it physical infrastructure/academics etc.  STEM and Business/Management course volumes will continue to see a volume uplift, the choice therefore would be either to increase capacities to meet this demand or have a high level of counseling to identify and coach students to take up relevant courses which will help them be ready for emerging opportunities. Course content will need constant evolution to meet changing needs of the industry.

Indian students may start looking at options like Malaysia and Southeast Asia these markets may provide a cheaper option to the other five, large markets that are out there.

What should higher education leaders be on the lookout for derailers issues, new legislation, etc?

Course diversification, Geographic diversification are key focus areas for international universities. Leaders will need to be on the lookout for Geo-Political equations and the resurgence of COVID/Pandemic in a different avatar which may impact student mobility. 

Reliance on traditional hot spots within certain markets will need to be reduced. Diversification and nurturing secondary geographic locations will be key to market penetration and growth.

What trends can we expect to emerge or continue in 2023?

Student outbound mobility will continue to go up in markets like UK&Europe, US & Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. We may also see markets like Malaysia come into focus due to price sensitivity.

We will continue to see more collaboration between Indian and foreign universities and progression, articulation programs picking up speed.

Edutech companies delivering educational content will continue to innovate and leverage relationships with multiple universities to cater to the learning needs of a significant population.

Skill-based educational courses will be on the radar for Governments/Industry to promote which will enable upskilling and create employment opportunities.

Where should leaders and higher education invest their time, money, and resources?

  • Market Diversification and penetration.
  • Course Diversification.
  • TNE relationships.
  • Develop Digitalization Capabilities.
  • Content curation to meet industry demands.

What do you hope to happen in 2023?

  • Specific to India I am hoping that NEP allows the growth and participation of foreign universities.
  • Educational hubs similar to the lines of GIFT City will create more opportunities for pursuing higher education.
  • Governments stitching Free Trade deals allowing ease in student mobility and educational partnerships.
  • Innovation in application and admission processes to allow speed to market.
  • Stringent governance and compliance standards to mitigate risks .
  • Enhancing Student experience during application and admission process.
  • Developments in digitization efforts.

Have you got any messages or any key thoughts that you’d like to share with us all?

Education is one of the key factors in promoting economic growth because of its role in enhancing human capital and thus productivity. 

31% of India’s population is between 0-18 yrs, with such a vast population that will need access to higher education it is time that various stakeholders come together to address the needs of such a large market.  I am hoping 2023 would herald a new chapter in fulfilling India’s higher education needs as the regulatory framework is in place, the world is warming up to these developments, and is seeking ways to participate in this journey. Acumen is placed uniquely due to our strong relationships with various stakeholders and will actively pursue and participate in bringing stakeholders together to develop and nurture this huge market.

Check out more from Acumen leadership in conversation for more reflections, insights, and predictions for 2023.