Mumbai: Vijay Thadani, chief executive officer of computer education provider NIIT Ltd, said in an interview that government orders have picked up after the elections and the outlook is good. Edited excerpts:
On track: NIIT chief executive officer Vijay Thadani. PTI
How has business been, particularly on government schools? Have you seen any improvement?
Yes, I think government spending on education as well as skills development has been very active in that area because right after the elections many of the state governments, whose tenders, because of the election period, had been blocked, have opened. We have opened our account very well this year. We got some very good orders in April but those were pre-election. Now, I think the post-election orders are also reaching finalization and a number of new tenders are coming up.
Also, the skills development initiatives of the government have taken off. As you can see the new leadership we have in the HRD (human resource development) ministry is very active. Our minister has a 100-day programme and he is going full stream on it and we have already seen some changes. So we think things are looking up as far as government is concerned.
How does the government order book on school projects look like?
The order book at the end of June was fairly robust. I think as more orders come in that order book will only improve further. The other issue is I think in this year government is perhaps going to finalize between 10,000-20,000 schools. The question is what percentage of those schools we would like to participate in because it is also, on the one hand, a very attractive business, but it is a bit capital intensive. So those are the product mix issues that we would be working with.
What about the corporate learning solutions market? Is there significant uptake there?
In corporate learning solutions, the India part of the business is based on government spending on skills development and other initiatives, which is, as before, rolling on well.
In the US, I think the optimism is beginning to grow and the number of enquiries and initiation of projects is beginning to happen. The mood is definitely changing to the positive. So it will be a couple of quarters before you can start seeing that in revenues because those are projects which you execute over a period of time even if you get the orders very soon. But I think individual learning solutions...have seen a definite upsurge. So, as we stand right now, I think the consumer sentiment and getting back into IT kind of jobs or financial services kind of job, that mood is picking up, so we are seeing a positive uptake there.
You bagged an order to do some work on infrastructure and administration of the common admission test for the Indian Institutes of Managements. How significant would that be and will it open up other business streams along those lines?
We have been in the business of testing services. This is to conduct the tests. We have been in that business for a long time. So far we have been working on technology testing, which is a certification testing for Microsoft and various other technology companies. We have now extended that partnership to start working on specific opportunities that exist. More and more people will be moving from paper and pencil test to electronic and digital testing and that is a very attractive area. So we are looking forward to working very strongly. We already have a strong position in that market, so it is a natural fit for us.
Are you confident that the next few quarters will see growth on your individual learning programmes?
That is a highly seasonal business. Overall we had worked on a guidance assuming an optimistic change which will take place during the year. So we are on track as far as that is concerned. We do see the business picking up. The essential issue is that as the employment market picks up, employability training has to pick up and we are well positioned in specific sectors in that. Therefore, we see a good uptake as we go along.