The Indian education system is now going through, what we call a – digital metamorphosis. The online education market in India was valued at INR 39 billion in 2018 and is now expected to touch INR 360.3 billion by 2024. All due to the rise of adoption and realisation of the ‘digital world’, a collateral gain from the pandemic.
We interviewed Ronnie Screwvala, Chairman & Co-founder, upGrad, who forayed into online education half a decade back when adoption was far weaker and today stands as India’s largest online higher education company, that has enabled 100+ offline universities to go digital since the outbreak, and is forecasting an INR 1200 crore annual run rate with profitability, a game-changer in the Indian edtech ecosystem. Most recently, graduated a batch of 2859 learners, which marked IIIT Bangalore’s largest convocation, in the history of 21 years and perhaps India’s largest convocation for any online course. The batch included learners of Post-Graduate Programs in Data Science, Machine Learning (ML) & Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Software Development/Blockchain.
Excerpts from the interview:
Referral, Repeats, Evangelists – Drivers to become a LifeLongLearning partner
Every three to four years you tend to become less relevant in your work, until & unless you get onto the treadmill of LifelongLearning. This means, you have to keep coming back to your education partner. Now, each learner is looking for a meaningful return on his expectations and whether they achieve it or not will determine whether they will return to us for the next level up in their skillsets.
Last quarter around 15% of the revenue booked, has been solely driven by repeat purchase and evangelism by our existing alumni. As we scale our program portfolio and continue our alumni engagement initiatives like advanced certification program, exclusive leadership webinars, personalised career mentorship, regular community newsletters, subject-specific newsletters, we expect around 4000 enrolments to come solely through our alumni in the form of repeat purchase and referral this year.
The ‘TAP’ of success: Transition in desired role, Acceleration of Career, Professional Confidence
When we spent INR 200 crores in building our tech & content platform for over half a decade, we set up stringent parameters to measure the outcome of the learners. Thus, the genesis of our ‘TAP’ framework to measure of ROI of online programs. Last quarter, 77% of our learners achieved meaningful outcomes with upGrad, is what came out from a study done on a sample 250 learners. Hence my confidence that our repeat enrolments will be 2x this fiscal.
upGrad’s outcome-orientation sets us apart from all other edtech players. We have a dedicated 50-membered Student Success & Placement Support team to ensure every successful program delivery of every learner. That’s why today the completion rate for our paid programs is 80%, whereas MOOCs stand at 3 – 6%. And, our programs cut through across all learners from freshers to experienced professional. For instance, the recent convocated batch included seasoned working professionals with a range of 8-11 years of work experience, from organizations including Fortune 500 Companies.
Educating, empowering ‘Bharat’ to get to work
The pandemic will settle eventually, but the dent to the economy due to massive job losses, will not get fixed overnight. Over 27 million youngsters in their 20’s lost their jobs in April, this year, which will have sharp repercussions in the coming time. To get the country’s GDP sprinting again, we must focus on Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), which strongly correlated to the former. And the GER growth must be driven from the semi-urban: ‘rurban’ as well as the urban
We launched 2 job-linked programs with Tech Mahindra and PNB Metlife targeting the semi-urban learners, where learners get career support assurance. Our past partnership includes major corporates across the BFSI and Technology sector to provide placement opportunities to thousands of individuals across 300 cities in India, rallying entire ‘Bharat’ to work.
Yes, this is a social initiative to help professionals who have been furloughed. ‘upGrad higher’, is a first of its kind platform, where one can look for a job, while s/he simultaneously upskill. I expect at least 1000 odd companies to sign up on the portal over the next few months and recruit from the registered talent pool who in the meantime would have gone through our specialisation courses, made free for them.
While this is for learners, for universities who too have been impacted – since March we have opened free access of our tech platform. 100+ colleges, including NIRF Top 100, are now accessing upGrad Live platform, to replicate their offline classes, online. Around 1,00,000 learners are logged in to the platform and over 8500 hours of live sessions have been conducted in the past 3 months. We are ready to take it to 1 Million learners.