Ankur Mehra, COO, Guruvantage.com: Consolidating training needs from across India, online

24th Feb 2011
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Guruvantage

The first thing that strikes you about Guruvantage.com’s business idea is that it seeks to be the country’s top player in the training space, without actually doing any of the training itself. Seems interesting? Do read on to know more about this venture whose founding team includes two ex-Army men. We at YourStory caught up with Ankur Mehra, the COO of Guruvantage.com, to take us through the journey of this exciting startup.If someone asked you to tell them about Guruvantage in about three sentences, what would you say?

Guruvantage.com is a one-stop solution consolidating and addressing the needs of all the different stakeholders in the Indian training ecosystem, facilitating informed decision making and ensuring the skills enhancement process. We are a convergence platform for the 5T’s of the Training Ecosystem viz, Trainee, Trainer, Training Institute, Training Manager and Training Vendor.

How is Guruvantage different from other online training platforms?

Guruvantage.com is different from other online training platforms simply because we are NOT an online training company. We are the consolidators in this space so that the training seeker is able to find, interact and transact with a training provider.

Currently, the Indian training market is very cluttered and unorganised. Guruvantage.com aims to bring about a method to this madness by becoming a single point of convergence for all training needs and wants, whether it is an Instructor-Led Training (ILT) or a Web-Based Training (WBT) or training venue requirement or training support requirement etc

Tell us about your background.

Guruvantage.com was founded by the three of us – Aditya, Richa and I.

Aditya, an anthropologist by education from Delhi University, is also an alumnus of the Officer’s Training Academy, Chennai. Besides serving as an officer in the Indian Army, he has been involved at various middle and senior management roles in global organizations such as William J Clinton Foundation and NIIT Ltd.

Richa, is an MCA with over 9 years of experience in the technical space with leading organizations such as HCL, Cannon (Japan) etc. She was based out of Tokyo.

Guruvantage

I’m a management graduate from Indian Institute of Management (IIM), as also from Symbiosis, Pune. Work-wise, I have also had a stint in the army before venturing out into the corporate world. I used to occupy senior positions at CitiXsys Technologies, managing the SAP B1 product line and at Zee Turner, India’s largest media distribution company.

How did the business idea for Guruvantage come about?

The founders (Aditya, Richa and I) come from a background where training has always been a very systematic, organised and controlled function. In due time, we realised that the Indian corporate training space was functioning in isolated islands of chaos with none of the stakeholders getting their true value for money spent.

There were no localised search solution options, very limited scalability options and a complete lack of focus in the market in general. Those trainers/ training institutes who had a brand name had the chunk of the market as well. But what about the large majority of freelance trainers and the small time training institutes? Here’s a statistic - there are more than 40,000 training institutes within Delhi itself and they are all doing brisk business in their locality with the intention and capability of scaling up to a national level. Guruvantage.com gives them that visibility and opportunity.

Moreover, with the government readying itself to pump fresh investment to create new infrastructure, we’ll only end up adding to the melee if we are not able to derive a systematic and attractive ROI on the infrastructure already created.

Let us know about the tie-ups that you have. Is there acceptance for your concept?

Guruvantage.com is being taken up in the market as fish takes to water! In only a few days since launch, we are witnessing a fantastic traction with the subscriber (trainee and trainer) numbers rising sharply on a daily basis. We are also seeing brand recognition in the Delhi-NCR space and have already tied up with a few large-sized corporate houses to source their trainer requirements through us.

On the other hand, the strength and acceptability of the concept is validated by the fact that we have recently closed our first round of angel funding by the likes of a seasoned investor such as Mr. Gen Miyazawa, Yahoo! Japan, with the other angel being a senior banker from India itself. The venture is also being mentored by Mr. Vikram Upadhyay, President, Team India Group of companies and Chairperson, TiE Tokyo Chapter. Vikram himself is a serial entrepreneur and investor with a lineage of attractive exits to his credit.


Where do you see the training industry and Guruvantage five years from now?

We see the Indian training industry growing at a phenomenal pace in the years to come.  In fact, the Government of India has a mission of creating 50 crore skilled people by 2022! Guruvantage.com will be a platform for these 50 crore trainees to be able to find their trainers/training institutes.

We see Guruvantage.com in the middle of all this action by being the numero uno go-to-site for all training needs and wants. In 5 years from now, we will be the default training ecosystem with a top-of-mind recall.

What is Guruvantage's revenue model?

Guruvantage.com has a number of revenue streams. The most prominent models are the ad space, premium membership, revenue share, VAS etc.

As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are the challenges?

As an entrepreneur, the biggest joy is the process of creation. The joy to dream and also translate your dream into action is a high in itself. A startup is a very positive and dynamic environment with creativity at an all-time high. All my life, I have been a typical office-goer like many of us. Entrepreneurship has really taught me the never-say-die spirit.

On the other hand, the biggest challenge is in getting the right team. While you may get good people, it is the passionate people who will see you through the early days. Guruvantage.com has been lucky on this count. While we did have those initial days of struggle, we are now blessed to have the right set of hands and minds at the backend.

So, how big is the Guruvantage team?

We are a lean team of 10 associates on the roadmap, as of now. While Aditya is the CEO and builds business, I take care of the Operations, Finance and Marketing. Richa leads the Strategic Alliances. Nishun leads the New Initiatives vertical, with support from Varun and Shilpa. Vikas heads the Technical (IT) effort along with Parveen and Triloki. Om takes on the administrative responsibilities.

Let us know about your expansion plans.

We have been gaining traction so far, by word of mouth and limited social media marketing. The response has been exponential, considering the limited marketing exposure. However, in the future we intend to be aggressive in our sales and marketing functions. We are also going to focus more on corporate and institutional tie-ups. The idea is to have a presence in the 6 major metros, by setting up branch offices. Geographically, we intend to tap into the Tier 2-Tier 3 trainee market space.

What are the case points that keep your startup going?

As per a recent study, the Indian training industry is estimated to be worth around Rs. 6000 crores and approximately 90% of it is unorganised! With the advent of global organisations setting up shop in India and consequently seekinga ‘trained manpower’, the need for skill upgrades is set to only increase in the times to come.

As per a recent study by industry body NASSCOM, India churns out nearly 400,000 technical graduates every year and only 25% of them are employable! The National Skill Development Corporation has done a comprehensive skill gap study of 21 high growth sectors and has approved three projects worth about Rs 45 crore to create a skilled manpower pool of 10 lakh people, at the rate of one lakh annually. There are many more such startling statistics such as these. But the crux of the matter is that the training space in India is set to grow exponentially in the coming years. And we at Guruvantage.com are looking forward to the ride!

We at Yourstory wish the entire team at Guruvantage.com all the very best. Do let us know of your thoughts on this story. You can write to us at feedback@yourstory.in.

Sriram Mohan | YourStory | Februrary 24th 2011 | Bangalore

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