You are now in your late 30s, fairly settled in your life and career. Life is good, but can be better. Looking back, you know you’ve been lucky, getting that first job and making those smart career switches when things were a bit sticky on the money front.
But now, with your kids in school and EMIs manageable, that old yearning is gnawing you again. “I should have done that postgraduate program in enterprise management.” Or, “Couldn’t I have waited a bit and got that formal degree on supply chain and operations management? That would have earned me another promotion by now.”
However, millions of working professionals who aspire to pursue higher education for career growth often face disappointment and difficult choices. An academic sabbatical is their only viable option as most view distance learning as poor quality education. But how many can hope to get such a sabbatical to improve their performance and skills marketability?
Availability gap in skills
Employers also constantly complain they don’t find the talent they’re looking for. According to a report by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), India will need a 76.5-million strong workforce in its booming building, construction and real estate sector.
And now, here is a platform linking universities with aspiring executives. Karthik K.S. a BTech from NIT Kurukshetra and an MBA from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi, along with Sankar Bora and Prasad Palla, started Avagmah in 2013 to help universities offer quality, contemporary, executive education via technology and the internet. And now, working professionals can meet their mid-career correction course by pursuing long-term higher education.
Professionals in their mid-career take up additional degree courses based on their passion which help them catapult in their professions. The idea is to help them achieve quality higher education online without leaving their jobs or take sabbaticals,” says Karthik.
Avagmah Technology Platform (ATP) is a cloud-based SaaS technology available on a managed services model. It offers end-to-end web and mobile app platforms, helping universities manage marketing, student counselling, virtual classroom, student engagement and retention.
When the trio started Avagmah, the technology platform was work in progress and there were talks with universities however none had signed up. In 2014, Avagmah received fund from venture-builder platform Growthstory.
The Avagmah Technology Platform which allows students to manage assignments, discuss case studies with classmates and faculty at ease. Students can also build customisable weekly study plans to tweak the number of hours per week.
“Using Avagmah’s globally benchmarked technology platform, universities are now helping working professionals and students in remote areas connect with their faculty for lectures and clearing doubts on the go,” says Sankar, a BTech from NIT Kozhikode and was the co-founder of Myntra.
Big demand from Tier II and III cities
Currently, 52 per cent of the students enrolled for various university courses through Avagmah’s Technology Platform are from India’s Tier II and III cities.
Apart from students, even universities can leverage the platform to reach out to corporates to invest in employee education to help them build their leadership pipeline.
And indeed, corporates such as Convergys, Indiamart, Metlife, Quattro, Fidelity Investments, Yatra, Redbus, SBI Mutual Funds and Maxlife have sponsored their employees for university courses on the Avagmah Technology Platform.
Avagmah recently received funding from Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder and former CEO and MD of Infosys, and Atul Nishar, founder of Hexaware and Aptech Computer Education.
Existing investors such as the Singapore-based Lionrock Capital, serial entrepreneur and investor K Ganesh, and Neeraj Bhargava, founder and CEO of Mumbai-based investment firm Zodius Capital, have also participated in this round.
Since its inception, Avagmah has raised $5 million in total. It will use this fresh round funding in technology enhancement and acquiring new Indian university clients.
Tying up with universities
Avagmah is currently working with four educational entities -- Pondicherry University, Bharathidasan University, the Los Angeles-based UCLA Extension and the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS). In the last 18 months, it has enrolled 3,651 students. At present, it has 63 employees across Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and Los Angeles.
“Avagmah gets paid by the university on per license basis according to the number of users on the Avagmah Technology Platform, depending on the course, tenure and other factors. Since we started, we have grown by 15X and have already become operationally profitable,” says Prasad, an MTech from IIT Kanpur and a management graduated from IIM Bangalore.
Currently, the startup is in discussion with six more reputed institutes and universities to partner with. By 2016-17, it aims to reach a revenue growth of Rs 29.7 crore.
A sneak peek at India’s higher education
India’s higher education system is the third largest, after China and the US. Infusion of quality and clarity are need of the hour to make us a nation of world-class educational institutions.
Says Kris Gopalakrishnan,
With only 24 million students enrolled out of the potential 120 million, the current brick-and-mortar higher education system is facing major challenges of excellence and access. Universities and top-tier institutions have to adopt technology to provide access to quality education to working professionals and students in both urban and remote India to address the demand-supply gap of skilled talent.
Startups in the edtech space are betting big not only in finding the best institutions, but also making quality education accessible in Tier II and III cities. Vedantu, Simplilearn, Toppr, Iprof, Talentedge, and embibe.com are some of the names leveraging education methods and technologies such as real-time book updates, online tutoring, edutainment, and online test preparation.