New Delhi: Online education start-up UpGrad promoted by entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala plans to invest Rs300 crore to expand overseas, an amount that is three times more than what it has invested in India.
The company is set to enter West Asia South East Asia to offer courses that are customized as per local industry needs, especially in three areas—data, digital and technology.
“We want to build an online education company of scale," Screwvala said over the phone, adding he and his co-founder Mayank Kumar see major opportunities in markets like Singapore, Australia and the Middle East.
He said with over 400,000 marketing professionals across South East and West Asia “who require upskilling" and an executive education market size of $110 million, these markets are an “attractive avenue for UpGrad... and a key starting point for our international expansion strategy."
“We have an outlay commitment of Rs300 crore...," said Kumar. Screwvala said his company turned “profitable in the first year of operation itself in some of the courses it has offered and is on an “investment mode" for the next few years.
“We are looking at international expansions in three phases—phase 1) SE Asia and West Asia; phase 2) other emerging markets—around Africa and phase 3) of developed markets such as Australia, US and the UK. The thought behind these markets in phase 1 are two-fold—geographical proximity and cultural similarity when it comes to outlook towards professional education. We also feel that the markets that we have chosen in Phase 1 are geographies where there are limited credible quality online education options and we want to set the standards in these geographies," said Kumar.
UpGrad has already invested Rs100 craore in India in the last two years and of the total outlay it has now pegged for further investments, some Rs200 crore will be spent on immediate overseas expansion. This will be utilized for content development, manpower hiring and brand marketing. Right now, UpGrad has 200 employees and it wants to take the headcount to 350 over the next 18 months. Most of these hires will be for sales and marketing roles.
UpGrad will offer a digital marketing course in collaboration with Cambridge Judge School of Business starting 2018 and will subsequently tie up with top ranked universities from the UK, Australia and Singapore to offer customized courses.
“Together, we will bring quality online education to the emerging markets," said Kishore Sengupta, director, executive education at Cambridge Judge Business. “Combining the academic rigour of our Cambridge Judge Business School Faculty and UpGrad’s strong student support element will create a new experience for professionals. The mixture between UpGrad’s local market intelligence and our global reach will help us develop digital leaders at scale," Sengupta said.
The development assumes interest as this would be the first time an online education company from India is venturing out to other geographies at a time international players like edX, Coursera and Audacity are looking to capture global markets though unpaid Moocs (massive online open courses) and other paid courses.
Kumar said UpGrad does not offer free courses and there is constant engagement between the company, students and employers for better returns on investments of their students. UpGrad, which Screwvala does not like to call a start-up but a young company, because of the founders’ track record as entrepreneurs, charges its students up to Rs200,000 for full-time online courses.