Home / Brand Post / Coach, Content & Career - upGrad's success mantra: Ronnie Screwvala

High-quality education can’t be delivered online. The age of this myth is finally over. Case in point is India-headquartered edtech major upGrad, which has created some of India’s largest online programs in Data Science, Global MBA and has given half a million learners a competitive edge in their careers. It registered a massive jump in Gross Student Revenue, by doubling its revenue per quarter and is now looking to create impact more than ever before. Post the recent release of the company’s quarterly financials, we spoke to its Executive Chairman and Co-founder, Ronnie Screwvala, on his success mantra to hit pay dirt in the edtech industry. Known for his candour and vision, Screwvala quips that ‘Coach, Content & Career - CCC’ is the key to crack edtech.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

The perfect Coaching trifecta – faculty, industry leaders and peers

Teaching is unfortunately considered as a lackluster profession in India. It’s not true but perception is such that. So, you will find some of the sharpest brains in the corporate world who prefer to teach as part-time only and would associate themselves more as an industry leader than a traditional teacher. For instance, we have Chetan Bhagat, Harsha Bhogle taking classes on Management as well as Prof Sadagopan, the Director of IIIT-Bangalore mentoring learners on Data Science. We have over 220 such industry experts and more than 50 faculty members on board, from India’s top universities like IIT Madras, MICA, Jindal Global Law School, and Jamia Hamdard University to global names like Liverpool John Moores University, Duke CE, and Deakin Business School. As we scale, this tally will reach 400+ industry experts and 80+ university faculty members in the next 12 months.

At upGrad, we do not see learners just as students but also as potential ‘teacher’ for her/his batchmate. From PhD scholars to young entrepreneurs, learners on our platform come with a wide variety of experience and perspective. As a result, they become potential coaches/ guides of their peers. We have a Discussion Forum where almost 2.5 lakh questions have been posted & reviewed. This fosters peer learning taking the anonymity away in online education. And as we have moved from quarterly cohorts to monthly start dates for our over 90 programs in order to tackle the escalating demand, we expect to receive a tsunami of questions per month giving classroom participation a completely new meaning.

Content: Deep subject understanding vs peripheral learning

Anyone with a camera can record an academic lecture and post it online today. That’s what being misconstrued as ‘education content’ today. It takes structure, rigour & iteration to make education engaging and result oriented. We curate curriculum that is, one, absolutely up to date, two, industry-relevant to make you job-ready, and three, engaging. Our 5,000 learner hours of course content created so far in partnership with industry leaders as well as the academia, gets an average session rating of 4.55 out of 5. As we will reach 13,000 hours by the end of FY’21, a mandate to the team is to deliver a 5/5 rating, as each learner’s satisfaction is our responsibility.

We started off with a conviction of delivering adaptive learning, unlike K-12 segment, which is a low hanging fruit and highly regulated, largely by parents. Our programs are reverse engineered in order to address the current demand prevailing in the job market and have various tracks within a program recommended basis the skill profile of the learners. Case studies that are a mix of national and international, lending a ‘glocal’ perspective on business problems, are mandatory across courses. And our learners prefer that. Our experts have received 1,90,000 project submissions for evaluation, and we expect to receive 3,25,000 projects by the end of FY’21. The completion rate of our paid courses is a whopping 80% while it’s only about 3-6% in the case of MOOCs, which bears testimony to our content and makes us perhaps ‘one of the’ or ‘the’ best education providers in India.

Grade sheet or Payslip? A better measure for the outcome of learning

How much of the skillsets you are using in your job now can you attribute to your college degree? Techies of the age of 38 didn’t study Machine Learning, Python, and DevOps in their college but these are the new norm now and they have to deal with it. We put the same question to a sample of 2,500 learners at upGrad, out of which 58% say they attain meaningful outcomes during the program itself. And, 79% achieve that within six months of completing the program, which is at par with the placements offered by top offline institutes worldwide. We’ve also counselled 1 million working professionals to make better career choices. And for candidates exploring online higher education, we’ve delivered over 2,00,000 hours of one-on-one counselling sessions in a year. Our approach to education is very outcome-oriented, where outcome refers to career enhancement. At this very point in time, any learner will have 1,200 new job opportunities and 4000 active jobs available across the fields on a weekly basis. We want to increase this by five times in this fiscal year so that we can drive tangible and intangible career outcomes for the complete 100% of the batch.

upGrad seems to have been stoutly built and marching ahead to soon become profitable. “Our plan is to grow our revenue to 100 crore/month and to cross a 1,200 crore annual run rate by the end of this fiscal. While we had a nominal loss this quarter due to high investments for our future launches, we should be profitable from Q2," concluded Ronnie Screwvala.

Click here to know more: upGrad website

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