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Ronnie Screwvala’s UpGrad seeks opportunity to expand in global market


“In online education, it is more important to build a new market share rather than trying to make a space for yourself in the existing one,” said Mayank Kumar, Co-founder and MD of UpGrad.

This was the statement Kumar made in front of UTV’s Ronnie Screwvala which really impressed him, who was then contemplating to start a venture in education sector; and he agreed for further discussions.

In 2015, Screwvala and Kumar, along with Phalgun Kompalli and Ravijot Chugh launched UpGrad, an online higher education platform which provides range of programs consists of digital marketing, product management, entrepreneurship, data analytics, data-driven management and digital technology management.

The aim is to empower professionals to reach their full potential through industry-relevant online programs delivered in the most engaging learning environment.

Chose niche over horizontal

Every new venture has challenges to face but for UpGrad it was building the right team, building credibility for online education and determining the right product that would work in the online education space.

“When we looked at education sector, there were K-12  – which is the largest segment – and higher education sectors. We focussed on higher education space instead and decided to target the working professionals,” said Kumar.

Strong association in any industry is the key factor which leads your growth.

The company has  had multiple partnerships in the last two-and-a-half years. It has partnered with universities – IIIT Bangalore, MICA Ahmedabad and BITS Pilani.

Besides, its partnership with  Government of India’s Start-up India initiative was aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs and to help them get clarity for their journey.

“Under our Start-Up India education programme, we have offered services to over 150,000 individuals,” said Kumar.

Beyond universities and government, the platform has also tied up with corporates to help students get the right career transitions.

“We wanted to keep our focus limited to building careers of tomorrow – that’s our vision. We did not want to be another online training/teaching institute. We have conducted thorough research around all the areas before launching the programme,”said Kumar.

For instance, data Analytics as a domain is one of the biggest job generators and is demanding more and more skilled professionals every day, same as the case with digital marketing. These are the areas which have a limited supply of skilled labor, but the demand is growing exponentially. Our flagship program around Entrepreneurship too got us a lot of traction when we initially started up.”

How UpGrad stands against others

For UpGrad, competition is at multiple levels. There are global providers such as Coursera, Udacity, EdX and others, besides  Indian online education providers – Simplilearn, Edureka and Jigsaw Academy. They also compete with offline programmes that are run by universities for working professionals.

The platform follows pay-as-you-go business model where students pay for the program and enrolls for the duration of the program.

Kumar refused to make comments on the existing competition and rather presented data on UpGrad.

“We have received more than 30,000 applications since launching the programme in late 2015. We have about 2500 students who are currently enrolled with us. This year we intend to enroll 6000 students,” claimed Kumar.

According to Google KPMG report, the online education market will be around $2 billion by 2021. Overall higher education is estimated to be over $10 billion.

Beyond growing the B2C business in India, the platform is looking towards expanding its presence in the B2B space and extend to the International market.

UpGrad website

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