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We Expect Our Learner Base To Grow To 10M By FY23: Arjun Mohan, CEO, upGrad

We doubled our learners base to 1 million in January 2021 and had set a target of crossing the 2-million mark in the next 18 months.

From IIM Kozhikode to upGrad, describe your journey?

Honestly, the journey from IIM Kozhikode to upGrad has been full of experiences that have enabled me to think differently. The instances over the years and life lessons have constantly evolved me as a person from time to time, to become what I have, today. My first stint in EdTech was with BYJU’S as a faculty for CAT (IIM Entrance Exam), where I used the pedagogy and training ideas we developed in CAT coaching, to build our JEE (IIT Entrance Exam) and medical entrance products. Eventually, when the company grew, I picked up sales and marketing as well, because of my keen interest in customer understanding which I had accumulated during my experience at teaching. Personally, I believe, we must always keep learning and upgrading our knowledge, or otherwise, our professional growth will go for a toss. This indeed kept me going and encouraged me to understand new-age tech-driven skills and attain business acumen, which in turn helped me carve a steady path from BYJU’S to the upGrad.

Indian Edtech space has evolved amazingly due to pandemics, if we talk about opportunities according to you what lied ahead in the sector?

The Indian Edtech sector has evolved and with the influx of capital into the education sector this industry is thriving as a serious category. Online learning will be the mainstream mode of education in the future for every learner whether they are looking for pursuing higher education, upskilling with professional courses, or reskilling for a positive career move. With the changing Indian education landscape and with Edtech companies going global on acquisitions, hybrid learning for Study Abroad will be a mainstream option for Indians. We have so far seen about 600+ learners in just 6 months who have availed for the Hybrid Study Abroad from upGrad. Such a blended learning model help professionals pursue the program at significantly lesser offline cost and build a meaningful career outside of India.

What were some major challenges for upGrad? How did you manage to overcome those hurdles?

In e-learning, we always have to give attention to certain challenges that learners may face such as being focused and maintaining self-discipline through online training modules. And this is exactly, why we at upGrad have regular mentorship/ feedback sessions, and discussion forums to maintain constant communication between learners and the mentors. The key differentiator for us has been to leverage the human touch delivery engine and build a strong coaching and mentoring layer. As a step in that direction, we have introduced a power-packed intervention of coaching & mentoring to help learners overcome professional challenges and get their desired job switch, first job, a right function/job role, or a salary hike, amongst others. By CY 2024, we aim to achieve 7.5 million registered learners in the upGrad ecosystem who will benefit from a network of over 11,000 faculty, mentors & experts.

India is a very diverse market for every sector, what’s new is in your basket for this market? 

Over the years, the Indian education system has evolved given rapid development and technology enhancement. Every learner has different ambitions and career goals. Hence, upGrad is moving strongly with its integrated approach of delivering quality outcome-driven online education to professionals and individuals in the age group of 18-50, in order to, not just make them market-ready but also empower them with future-ready skill sets. We have added the ‘Study Abroad’ as a key growth initiative, and with the recent acquisition of Global Study Partners, we are now looking at a head start in becoming the global leader in this segment too.

If we get into numbers, how many students are currently associated with upGrad? And what number you are expecting/targeting for the coming year?

Owing to the growing popularity of our online programs, we doubled our learners base to 1 million in January 2021 and had set a target of crossing the 2-million mark in the next 18 months. However, the milestone was achieved in just 8 months, and currently, we have over 2 million learners across 100+ countries. We expect our learner base in the age group we operate in, that is 18-50 years, to grow to 10 million by FY23.

How much growth upGard have witnessed in the year 2021?

We have recorded a mid-year growth in the gross revenue in September this year. As we proceed from here, to sustain the aggressive momentum, we have chalked an all-encompassing multidimensional growth plan and also involves overseas expansion that has kicked in across the US, UK, and APAC regions.

Share some details about the current acquisitions agreement with Australia based Study Abroad market leader Global Study Partners (GSP) & University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business? What are your expectations with this partnership? Further acquisition plans?

The acquisition of Global Study Partners (GSP) has opened a new chapter in global education for us and will further strengthen the relationship between India – which is the biggest supplier market for studying abroad and Australia, which is considered the biggest destination market in the world. We span the entire gamut of a learner’s need from the age of 18-50 and in that, Study Abroad is a key growth initiative for us. Therefore, with GSP coming into upGrad’s fold will be a needle mover for us to attain a head start in being a global leader in this segment too.

Now coming to our partnership with the leading University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business is another milestone achieved, to offer the Professional Certificate Program in Data Science and Business Analytics. The course is designed to help professionals understand the domain/subject better and make data-driven business decisions. We have enrolled learners from over 100 countries, and last year, doubled the U.S. enrolment with 25% of our learners now coming from the States, the second-largest market. Therefore, with the partnership coming into the picture, we look at powering professionals with new-age skill sets which in turn, shall help them create progressive careers for themselves.

What are your strategies to strengthen its presence in tier 2-3 cities?

Almost half our learners come from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Data literacy is the buzzword in these cities. Earlier in 2021, we launched upGrad Jeet originally known as the Gate academy which was brought about to democratize education and bring out meritocracy from these cities. This acquisition helped us drive career outcomes for the tier 2 and tier 3 cities. With the help of upGrad Jeet, we created online learning with classroom experience to enhance the interactivity and engagement between learners and teachers. Recently, we merged our subsidiaries, upGrad Campus (originally Impartus), upGrad Jeet (originally The GATE Academy), and upGrad KnowledgeHut (originally KnowledgeHut) to become a global integrated LifeLongLearning company. The consolidation will help drive upGrad’s vision for an integrated strategy to expand and drive transnational learning through 2022.

With the recent consolidation of our three subsidiaries, we have become a global integrated LifeLongLearning company, covering the entire gamut of Higher Edtech offerings catering to college learners and working professionals from the age group of 18-50 years. As an integrated business, we offer college learners Campus degrees, Government Test prep courses, or even Study Abroad programs. Whereas, for the working professionals we offer short-form courses,

Master’s or Doctoral degrees, Executive programs, or even Enterprise upskilling and L&D programs.

Additionally, we have now made a domestic expansion and opened new offices across Jaipur, Nagpur, Vijayawada, and Noida to address the growing demand for our online courses coming out of Central, West, South, and North regions. Such strategic moves are in sync with the brand’s overall growth plans.

Source: Business World

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