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How this Indian edtech startup emerged as rival to international players

Circa 2012 very few people foresaw potential in online education. Aditya Malik, a senior partner with Delhi-based private equity firm Lumis Partners, was one of them. When the firm acquired KarRox, an online education start-up, Malik emerged as a natural choice to lead the company as its CEO and MD.  

Malik envisioned that digital classrooms should feel ‘real’ and courseware should be top-notch. He first changed the name of KarRox to Talentedge and kickstarted its transformation into an ed-Tech firm. Talentedge invested heavily on technology to make its ‘live and Interactive’ sessions feel like a physical classroom and roped in premier institutes on a revenue sharing model to develop the courseware for business management, analytics, HR, cyber security and finance, among others.

In five years, the company reached out to hundreds of cities and benefited over “3 lakh students.” The company is confident to close financial year 2017-18 with Rs 100 crore in revenues. But, more important than revenues, Malik has a new vision now. He wants to take Talentedge international; to the masses.  

Reaching the 3 lakh-mark

Collaborating with premier institute was the key to develop high-quality courseware. The company went a step further and joined forces with corporates as well. Today, the platform has a mix of 16 partners, including institutes and companies, such as XLRI-Jamshedpur, IIM-Kashipur, IIM-Rohtak, SPJIMR, MICA, OLX, Viacom 18 and Wizcraft.

Malik created two learning modules; one for self-paced learners and second for group or corporate cohorts. “For individual learners, we offer learning solutions through our premium executive programmes and degree programme; and for corporates, we offer solutions like industry programmes, product modules and end-user learning,” said Malik.

Technology is the backbone

Creating an online learning platform is one thing and holding students’ attention is another. Malik invested millions in buttressing technology to replicate the experience of a physical classroom through a digital interface. This nudges students to be regular and attentive with their anytime-anywhere sessions. Its latest tech initiatives include data analytics, facial recognition, and engagement score to support learning outcomes of its pupils.

“Our distinct interactive technology solution, Cloud Campus, world-class learning pedagogy, social collaborative learning, content curation, gamified content, assessment and analytics empower students to get unparalleled learning,” added Malik.

Spreading wings

Talentedge operates in Gurgaon, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Pune with a team of 200 employees. It has grown more than 50 per cent year-on-year and has reached to more than 280 cities through its services. The company is planning to achieve the next phase through a two-pronged approach of going deeper—into tier II and III cities—and wider—by going to international markets.

Talentedge will soon launch its products and services in countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, West Asia and Africa. But there are complexities. Asian students want Indian teachers and African markets want European pedagogy.  “We are planning to provide courses through Indian universities in Asian countries (like Bangladesh). And, for African nations, we will offer courses through tie-ups with UK universities,” said Malik.

There is a great appetite for Indian courses among other Asian economies. While in Africa, the inclination is towards western studies and courses, according to Malik.  

Yet not profitable

The five-year-old company has burnt a lot of cash in building teams and technologies. Talentedge is operationally profitable as of 2017 and wants to become Ebitda profitable in the next 18-24 months. However, the company didn’t say by when it expects to achieve net profitability.

This is probably because as the company’s ambitions in India and abroad would require some more capital. Malik is confident that efforts to scale-up will not affect profitability because the entire system (deliver model) complete with teams, technology and tie-ups are already in place.

Market opportunity

Online education in India will see approximately 8x growth in the next five years, and has a potential to touch $1.96 billion by 2021, according to a report by Google, KPMG. However, Talentedge’s global aspirations extend its market opportunity beyond Indian shores.

Talentedge sees Coursera and Udemy as competitors which started around 2012 and provide similar services. Udemy, a global marketplace for online education, has so far raised $173 million. While Andrew Ng-led Coursera has a total funding of $210 million.

Malik says the online education ecosystem has just scratched the surface. There is a lot to explore.

But what about the failure of so many edtech companies before? Malik says that the online education has two parts — products and services. “Startups need to focus on both the parts to make online education successful.”

Opportunities are limitless.

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