Saturday, July 12, 2008

Boom, Boom, Boom, Baby: The Education Market in Asia

Spend just a tiny amount of time in Asia and you come to realize that the shape, size and growth of all sorts of markets is radically different than those of more mature western economies. Where the average American is whinging about the cost of a gallon of gas, the average Vietnamese, Indian or Chinese doesn't see that to be much of an issue. They don't drive many cars. And where Americans may go on about the sub-prime mortgage crisis, (five banks failed to date, and counting...) you don't have that problem here. Affluent Viets and Chinese have had their houses given to them by their governments and even democratized South Koreans tend to pass family property dAsia, Education, IELTS, Nicholas Marx, Techcrunch50, TOEFL, Universities, News, Vietnam, Wazzala ,Marketingown to eldest sons, negating the need for mortgages altogether. So what do the Asians spend all their money on? Where does their discretionary income go?

Well, two things – in varying degrees: Food & education.

In South Korea, the largest expense is food and drink in restaurants and cafes, as their homes tend to be smaller and ill-suited to entertainment of friends and colleagues, and the government heavily subsidizes education, thus reducing the financial burden on parents – but in Vietnam the largest expense outside the home seems to be education – although I can't find a government number to prove that. I just look at all the students being picked up on motorbikes after school and wearing the smart uniforms of their private institutes and have come to the same conclusion as Nicholas Marx of

Just last month Nick entered his business plan for in the Techcrunch50 and I think he's got a real shot at securing venture capital for his idea. For all the foreigners who come in here with some "brilliant" idea for an e-com business, Nick's is the only one where the numbers make any sense. Why set up a website to appeal to 250,000 foreigners when there are 78 million Vietnamse chomping at the bit for not only a web identity, but an education as well. With the average age in country at 26 years old and the number of Viets on the web growing from 20 million this year to 36 million in two years, Vietnam is the perfect proving ground for Nick's model – providing free educational services over the net to prospective students and generating revenue by selling advertising to universities and testing services aiming at students. And if the numbers in Vietnam aren't impressive enough, just take a look at China. This year 15. 5 million will graduate high school, 5.5 million will have a college degree and all will seriously try for education in a western country. Currently 200,000 Chinese will study abroad, but that number will continue to dwarf itself every year that China increases in affluence and international travel opportunities. Vietnam, being smaller and more nimble than cumbersome China or India will post faster growth in the international educational market.

Here's Nick in his own words, "My idea is simple: attract an audience of international students with my free and custom study guides at These study guides help people prepare for English certifications such as TOEFL and IELTS. Then sell adverts to universities so that they can showcase their programs to these students who want to study abroad. "

Take a look at both and the attached Newsweek article. Numbers don't lie. With the both the Internet and demand for educational services growing faster in Asia than anywhere else on earth, can a group of smart investors from Silicon Valley do the math? I hope so...

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