How Manish Agarwal and Sanjeev Kothari turned Kolkata-based Orion Edutech into a Rs 35 crore entityAparajita Choudhury
Started with a 400 sq. ft centre and four employees in the year 2007 in Kolkata, Orion Edutech today boasts of having skilled more than two lakh candidates from 235 training centres with 705 trainers spread across 21 states in India for various sectors like ITeS, healthcare, hospitality, retail, telecom, beauty and wellness, electronics and apparel.
Manish Agarwal and Sanjeev Kothari kick started Orion Edutech in Barasat, a suburb of Kolkata with Rs two lakhs. Since they started their venture to address the job seekers in BPO industry, not many people in the tier II and III cities across India were too familiar about BPO jobs, which according to Manish was a big challenge. In 2007 and 2008, the company offered trainings on BPO, soft skills, English, and computers.
Manish says “In 2007, the market was at its peak. ITeS and IT industry were recruiting at a large scale. There was a lot of demand for skilled manpower but only 12–15 per cent of the candidates passing out were employable, so there was a huge gap and Orion Edutech bridged this gap. This played a pivotal role for us. We partnered with IT companies and customised the courses according to industry standards.”
The duo started their second centre in Kolkata within six months in the heart of the city and the size of the training centre increased to 1500 sq. ft. According to Manish, 2010 and 2012 were the most exhilarating time for them as they got funded by Ventureast (which holds up to 48% stake) and became a NSDC (National Skills Development Corporation) partnered company in 2012, which further helped them to escalate their business growth.
Orion Edutech has tied up with 800 corporates till date, which includes Wipro, IBM, Apollo, Naturals, Juice, etc. Manish says that for student’s placements they generally do not charge the corporates. Around 70 per cent of the trained students from Orion Edutech get hired by these corporates.
Orion Edutech offers courses on hardware and networking, hospitality, travel and tourism, beauty and wellness, apparel manufacturing and designing, mobile and laptop repairing, ERP development and training, post-graduate diploma in Java Technology, post-graduate diploma in NET Technology and corporate solutions. The course fee ranges from Rs 5,000–45,000.
The company also offers various innovative payment mechanisms for students who are financially disabled, which includes easy installments, Vidyarthi scheme that allows students to avail skill loans from nationalised banks (Canara Bank, Central Bank of India, UCO Bank, etc.) wherein students have to pay 10 per cent initially and then the balance, students can pay back within three years of joining the job, skill loans from NBFCs (non-banking financial companies) like Milaap and Springboat which helps the students to pay their fees.
Manish says, “Our students get subsidies from Government of India under various schemes to enroll in our programmes. We also have frequent industry visits, on-the-job training and third-party assessment and placement. Our students also participate in various government initiated programs like Swachh Bharat, World Youth Skill Day and we celebrate all the festivals in our training centres.”
During the pre-placement process, they mobilise the students, set-up counselling and community centres in Panchayats and district levels. Then students get registered as per their skills and interest area. Orion Edutech conducts EPA (evaluation and placement audit) once the training starts and provides students specialised training on soft skills in order to make them prepare for both on-campus and off-campus interviews. The company has 16 placement offices across India and abroad.
Manish avers, “Once the student gets placed, we do the post-placement tracking up to one year. We regularly take feedback from both the student and the HR. If the student is not happy with the job, we provide them with other job opportunities.”
In January 2015, Orion Edutech acquired 67 per cent in Brainvalley, a cloud-based assessment company that provides platform for an array of competitive exams and corporate recruitments. Brainvalley software provides employability assessment solutions to candidates, academia, and the corporates. It helps Orion Edutech in the assessment of their existing students and also provides solutions to their partnered corporate companies for sourcing the right candidates.
Siddhartha Das, General Partner, Ventureast, says, “Ventureast recognised early that vocational training is a priority for the Indian economy to bridge the skill gap in many growth sectors, and to sustain strong economic growth. Orion Edutech's founders were passionate in building a market leader in this segment, and had prior experience in the training sector. Starting out with BPO management, Orion has branched out into hardware and networking, retail, hospitality, and other emerging sectors and continues their leadership position with innovative content, strong execution skills, and an enviable job placement record.”
Bridging gap between academia and industry requirements
According to various studies done by KPMG and NSDC, India needs to have 500 million skilled workforce by 2022. At present, not more than 15 per cent of the graduates are employable. Globally, the skilled workforce in South Korea is 96 per cent, 80 per cent in Japan, 75 per cent in Germany, and 70 per cent in Britain. Compared to this, the skilled workforce in India is only two per cent.
Manish elucidates, “Orion is playing a key role in trying to build this gap. We have a target set to skill two million by 2022. By doing this, we are helping in the Skilling India campaign started by Narendra Modi’s government. Orion has skilled 52,000 people in 2014 and aims to skill 150,000 people in 2015. Presently, our presence is at 21 states. We want to start 100 more training centres in India.”
Orion Edutech is looking to raise more funds, mainly for acquisition plans and global expansion, as it wants to implement similar model in African, Middle-east, and South-east Asian countries. Last year, the company’s revenue was Rs 35 crores and this year, it is eyeing to touch Rs 100 crores.