Upskilling apps tap into India’s white-collar workforce

According to industry estimates, enterprises contribute 30-40% to the overall revenue earned by these companies.

The job market crisis heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic has made it imperative for professionals to upskill and build a strong job profile. According to a February 2021 study by McKinsey Global Institute, around 18 million Indians will need to switch occupations by 2030.

Indian upskilling platforms like upGrad, Great Learning and Simplilearn want to capitalise on the opportunity. upGrad, backed by Ronnie Screwvala and valued at $850 million, leveraged IPL 2020 to promote its online courses that promise to give young professionals an edge at their workplace.

Similar ed-tech service provider, Great Learning, which is rumoured to be soon acquired by Byjus, roped in Virat Kohli as its brand ambassador last year.

According to PN Sudarshan, partner, Deloitte India, India’s current ed-tech market is estimated at about $3-3.5 billion and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 35-40% for the next four years. “The value of India’s ed-tech market is split almost midway between K12 and post K12,” he says.

Phalgun Kompalli, co-founder, upGrad, says that the platform hopes to tap into the 40-50 million white collar workers in India who work in sectors like IT and banking to pursue fast-paced careers. Courses on data science, machine learning, cloud computing, and cybersecurity are in high demand on upskilling platforms.

Now, programmes on management and even law are entering the online sphere. upGrad offers 10 MBA courses in partnership with Indian and international institutes. And starting June 2021, students can enrol into a one-year LLM programme in Corporate and Financial Law being offered in partnership with Jindal Global Law School.

Great Learning has about 25 certificate courses and offers seven online degree programmes in association with Indian universities like Shiv Nadar University, PES University, and SRM University. Hari Krishnan Nair, co-founder, Great Learning, says most learners on the platform come from metro cities as the demand arises from places which offer employment to professionals. “However, since last year, we are beginning to see interest coming from tier-1 and tier-2 cities. We expect this trend to accelerate further with the introduction of online degrees,” he says.

Upskilling apps tap into India’s white-collar workforce

These platforms claim that those who complete their programmes get pay hikes to the tune of 40-45% and achieve career progression within a year of completing a course. They assist learners with mentoring and organise job fairs. “The tech industry has warmed up to these platforms. Learning and development spend by IT companies is shifting online,” says Abhishek Gupta, engagement manager, RedSeer. According to industry estimates, enterprises contribute 30-40% to the overall revenue earned by these companies.

But with reputed institutes now being able to offer courses online, could ed-tech platforms face competition?

“The long tail of universities which may not be equipped with the necessary infrastructure could partner with upskilling apps to offer courses together. Even premier universities are partnering with ed-tech platforms because it opens additional revenue streams for them,” says Gupta.

Learners can choose to opt for free or paid for courses online. Industry estimates peg the number of paid subscribers in the ed-tech industry to be around 10 million (K12 and post K12). Full-fledged professional courses online can cost `4-15 lakh. “Pricing is an important factor in India, as a $5,000 course would be unaffordable for most Indian professionals but the same course at $2,000 (about `1.5 lakh) is often doable,” says Sudarshan.

These platforms are both competing with offline universities and other platforms that provide short-term e-learning providers. “While platforms that offer end-to-end solutions including career counselling are here to stay, they too are experimenting with short-term courses that are pocket-friendly,” says Gupta. Kompalli says that learners are comfortable spending about `1.2 lakh for a one-year programme.

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