New Delhi: When a mid-sized IT company finds a new market in El Salvador, a country that Indians usually hear of only when there is a guerrilla war or a natural calamity, you know a new milestone has been crossed in the nation’s march to globalization.
That is what happened last month, when Aptech Ltd opened a training centre in the Central American nation by partnering a local university.
Aptech, which started out modestly in 1993 with a learning centre in Bahrain, now spans 35 countries, including Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Mexico, Venezuela and Peru, and runs a hugely successful 50-50 joint venture in China with Jade Bird, a partner of Beijing University.
Its rival, NIIT Ltd which started out with a centre in Hong Kong in 1995, now has a presence in 30 countries, including Nigeria, Botswana, Ghana, Vietnam, Cuba and Senegal, mostly in partnership with local universities.
“A mind-boggling 22,550 students appeared for NIIT Nigeria’s entrance. We had to host the event in an indoor stadium in Lagos to accommodate the student deluge,” an NIIT spokesman said.
Since starting out nearly three decades ago, NIIT has pioneered private IT education, feeding India’s software boom. Now, as many countries want to emulate the success,the trainers are naturally in demand across the globe.
Some 50% of NIIT’s system-wide revenues of Rs966 crore come from overseas, compared with 55% of Aptech’s Rs922 crore. These include revenues from corporate learning material.
“We feel that over the next two decades, this is one sector which will be growing notonly in India but also in other countries,” Pramod Khera,Aptech’s chief executive officer said.
Aptech grew stronger in 2003 after merging with the IT education business of SSI Ltd.
Like NIIT, it runs a combination of joint ventures, partnerships and franchises to drive the business.
Things gained momentum after Rakesh Jhunjhunwala bought SSI’s shares in the venture and turned chairman. He now owns 25% of the company.
Aptech’s educational content is now available in Chinese, Vietnamese, Turkish, Russian and Spanish, while NIIT’s courseware speaks Arabic, Bahasa (Indonesia), French, Mandarin and Thai, in addition to Spanish and Vietnamese.
China is a hot battleground where NIIT has relationships with 50 universities, colleges and software parks, and has 100 centres.
But it is behind Aptech, which has 250 centres thanks to its influential 150-employee-strong joint venture, which has already trained 3.3 lakh students.
Aptech has a strong business model in which costs are gradually lowered by “de-skilling” the faculty over a period to increase the share of e-learning over the Internet so that the high-value courseware reaches out to larger volumes ofstudents.