Pumped with $15M, UEducation is taking a long shot at online education for working professionalsAlok Soni
With more than 1.4 million schools and over 35,000 higher education institutes, India has the largest college going population and one of the largest higher education systems in the world. Yet less than one in five of the relevant population enrolls for post-secondary education. Less than 30% of Indian graduates are considered employable by the industry. If there is one thing that is crying out loud to be disrupted in India, it is education! With the current technological advancements and improvement in digital infrastructure, there is a huge potential to fundamentally change the way education is delivered.
Mayank Kumar, an advisor and a VC with a decade of experience in the education sector across various geographies, along with Ronnie Screwvala, launched UEducation(also referred as UEd) in March 2015 with the vision to create a flexible, industry relevant learning experience for individuals. The company’s core philosophy is to take a full-stack approach to content, technology and services to create a digital-first learning experience. In some way, UEducation is like a digital university offering learning in both synchronous and asynchronous modes for professionals.
YourStory got in touch with Mayank to know more about the venture.
Innovation, aspiration and disruption!
Ronnie is providing guidance on strategy, content and marketing for the company. He says,
This sector is ready for disruption and innovation. The aspiration and ambition of young India has grown manifold. There is a willingness to pay for quality education and the digital models are gaining acceptance amongst students, institutions and employers.
The Co-founder and MD of the company, Mayank, believes that the quality of current education options for working professionals for the most part is quite low and there are hardly any quality options available for people who want to take a break from work. With the current technological advancements and improvement in digital infrastructure, there is potential to make world class education accessible to people at scale.
UEduction has a committed investment capital of $15M in the first round. The duo (Mayank and Ronnie) have roped in two other co-founders, Ravijot Chugh and Prabhav Phalgun, both IIT Delhi graduates.
Ravi, who is leading the product development in the company, is an ex-Product Manager of Housing.com and an entrepreneur. He says,
We are not keeping any baggage or trying to re-create the offline education experience. We are working to create a new digital first learning experience for students. We will be a product design led company.
Phalgun, who is working towards setting up the student service process at UEducation, feels that the learning experience should be designed with the learner at the center. “At UEd, the team has to understand what the learner needs. It is crucial that the learner is kept at the center and service element should always delight the customer,” he states.
Apart from the co-founders, UEducation has roped in key members in technology, marketing, partnerships and academic content. The company is currently working towards building the team in the areas of engineering, product design, course design, and video production. “We are working towards building a full-stack startup and our objective is to build an A-Team which will bring in radical thoughts on how to revolutionize the education sector,” says Mayank.
Is it any different from other edtech startups?
UEducation is not a technology service provider, or a marketplace of courses. According to Mayank, the company’s full stack approach of innovating in content, technology and service gives it an advantage over any other edtech venture.
The core team at UEd started working full time on the idea in March 2015. Initially, UEducation will offer programs in three disciplines -- entrepreneurship, big data analysis & management, and digital businesses.
The courseware is sourced from both academicians and industries. They are focusing on getting the industry participate in the curriculum and deliver the course. Courses will be co-branded in partnership with university whose faculty will be responsible for create the curriculum.
UEducation’s aim is to make the programs academically rigorous. Similar to a university, there will be a selection process involved to get admission and only the qualified people will be enrolled in the programs. In the first course, only a few thousand students will be admitted.
How will it work?
There will be an asynchronous and synchronous (live) video content along with the reading content. It will be similar to a university system with the medium of delivery being digital.
Faculties from affiliated institutes will be involved in day to day interaction and teaching assistants will work on content creation. Currently based in Mumbai, UEducation believes in a lean model. The nine-member team aims to grow to only 30 by the end of this year.
Mayank places UEducation somewhere between 2U and Udacity. US-based 2U is a fusion of SaaS and technology-enabled services, which provides schools with the comprehensive operating infrastructure they need to attract, enroll, educate, support and graduate students. Udacity offers Nanodegree programs and credentials for professionals to become web developers, data analysts, and mobile developers, etc. through a series of online courses and hands-on projects.
The company claims to reimagine the content delivery for the digital medium by breaking raw academic content into smaller absorbable chunks, including regular formative and summative assessments. This will be achieved by bringing real world content, case studies and projects created and delivered through collaboration with industry leaders.
Revenues from day one
UEducation is confident of generating cash from day one of its launch. Mayank says,
“We are targeting revenue of ~100 Cr over the next three years. We may also enter other markets in Asia.” The company has plans to launch in Vietnam, Australia, and Singapore next.
The fee streucture for the courses at UEducation will be similar to the full fledged programs in universities. For example, a three-month course could be priced around Rs 30000-50000 while a 12-18 months program could cost more than a lakh rupees as well. Mayank mentioned that the cost of the programs will vary a lot depending on multiple factors and will be different for different programs.
The education industry and the choice
The company plans to leverage student data to offer personalized learning pathways, focusing on improving outcomes. Mayank says,
“Very few people operate in the education industry out of choice or with joy. It is like trying to get a child to eat vegetables. The mother has to keep pushing the child to do what is best for him/her. At UEducation, we will have a dedicated team for academic and non-academic support for students at every step.”
According to Mayank, building a brand in education is a time consuming process. Further, in education, scale and quality are inversely correlated. He says,
Specifically for online education, we have to tackle the issue of credibility/ acceptability of online education.
Other startups and the industry overview
As reported earlier, education technology startups are witnessing investors’ interest over the past few months with top venture capital firms validating their growth potential. Since April, at least seven startups in the education technology space have raised more than $40 million funding. Simplilearn, Edukart, Purple Squirrel, NayiDisha, Toppr, Vedantu and Sigrid have announced their respective funding rounds recently while Embibe and EdCast have raised ($10M in total) investments in the later part of 2014.