Inside HandyTrain’s mission to build a global ‘pocket library’ and employee training platform from Goa


Leveraging portability and cost-saving, this Goa-based startup helps companies better train employees through smartphones. 

When Uber and Ola were going to war in Delhi in early 2016, the American juggernaut was looking to quickly train and onboard driver partners for their UberGo service. But providing in-person training for all potential driver partners with varying skill sets is not easy. Some driver partners might need minimal hand-holding, while others might need a lot more. How was Uber to separate the grain from the chaff? Enter HandyTrain.

Headquartered in Goa, HandyTrain is SaaS platform that helps SMEs and corporates better train their employees by leveraging their smartphone as a preliminary or primary training tool. By providing ‘bite-sized content’ that is visual and multilingual, HandyTrain aims to improve the understanding and retention of employee training modules. In November 2016, the startup announced that it had raised $1 million in funding from multiple angel and institutional investors and also breached the landmark of 20,000 paid users. Here is their story.

HandyTrain team

Born and raised in Goa

The Prototyze office

Founded in April 2015, HandyTrain originated from Prototyze, a Goa-based startup incubator founded by Gourav Jaswal, who is now a director of the company. The startup noted that over 23,000 employees across companies like Uber, Cipla, Airtel, Kotak, ICICI Prudential and Future Group’s furniture and furnishing retailer HomeTown have leveraged HandyTrain to train themselves.

SMEs and large enterprises generally have training programmes in place to educate new employees and bring them up to speed with the intricacies of their business. HandyTrain, however, found that this training is not organised well in small companies and that while the larger enterprises generally invest in corporate retreats, they seldom see the intended results. So, to tackle these pain points, HandyTrain, along with its content partners, provides a platform for SMEs and enterprises to train their employees through their smartphones.

Talking to YourStory, Anubhab Bandyopadhyay (Head of Product), Devadas Krishnan(COO) and Utkarsh Apoorva (Head of Platform) explained how smartphones have turned out to be an ideal platform for training. Because of easy availability and portability, HandyTrain noted that peak usage of their platform happened at odd hours like during commute times to work and lunch hours, instead of during regular work hours.

How it works

HandyTrain currently consists of a 17-member team operating out of their headquarters in Dona Paula, Goa. The modus operandi is to first understand how and what the client wants to train their employees for. Then, along with its content partners like Aptech and Lumina Datamatics (which is also a strategic investor in the venture), it creates content that is visual and easy to comprehend and engage with through a mobile screen.

Like a typical SaaS product, HandyTrain’s business model revolves around the number of users per month that a client has. Some of the other key USPs of HandyTrain’s offering are multilingual solutions and offline access to content. The venture currently focuses on seven different sectors like e-commerce, BFSI, retail and IT.

Demo question for ICICI

Anubhab noted that most of HandyTrain’s customers had been acquired through referrals and word of mouth. While SMEs are the easiest clients to close as they generally don’t have existing infrastructure in place for training, Anubhab noted that corporates too have been open to their solutions because of the cost savings involved and the ability to train employees on the go.

Sector overview

Corporate India spends an estimated $2 billion a year on training programmes for inducting new employees. However, a majority of these expenses are incurred in travel, logistics and accommodation, which have no direct correlation to learning outcomes. So, there is an interest in making training effective and also decreasing costs that don’t contribute to the bottom line. Coursera, the popular MOOC platform, recently entered the corporate training and development space with ‘Coursera for Business’. Axonify, which recently closed a $27 million round, helps companies better understand their employees and close knowledge gaps. Gourav Jaswal noted,

Corporate training is a market of staggering size. For instance, a year ago, Accenture spent about $840 million on training their 375,000 employees globally. That's effectively over $2,000 (approximately Rs 1.35 lakh) per employee per year. Training is a universal service and, therefore, the addressable market for HandyTrain is eye-popping in scale.

Related read: Why businesses should invest more in employee training to enhance profit margins

A ‘pocket library’

HandyTrain also helps companies benchmark their employees and then re-train those who are falling behind. The company helped Uber by providing a multilingual app to assess their driver partners’ capabilities and then provide additional in-person training to those who needed special assistance. Kotak Bank, too, deployed HandyTrain in October 2016 and claimed to have onboarded nearly 5,000 users within seven days of its programme going live.

Mahesh Shah, CEO, HomeTown, Future Retail, said in a statement about HandyTrain,

We’ve managed to train over 500 salespeople in 21 days, something that used to take months. Our salesforce is now more knowledgeable, confident and interested in learning.

Anubhab and Utkarsh likened HandyTrain’s solution to a ‘Pocket Library’, through which employees could keep themselves up to date about their company’s products and services, on the go. Companies can also keep updating their content and ensure that all employees are up to date with the latest changes to policies or product and service upgrades.

Future plans

In November 2016, HandyTrain announced that it had raised close to $1 million from investors, including Silver Range Investments of Hong Kong and Lumina Datamatics.

The round also saw participation from 11 individual investors, including Shun Yoshida (MD at BoA Merrill Lynch Tokyo), Mahesh Murthy (Founder and Managing Partner of SeedFund), R Ramaraj (former CEO of Sify and co-founder of The Chennai Angels), Siddharth Parekh (Founder of private equity fund Paragon Partners), Avtar Monga (COO of IDFC Bank), BS Nagesh (Vice Chairman of Shopper’s Stop) and Gautham Pai (MD of the Manipal Group).

While the current focus is on better capturing the Indian market, HandyTrain also aims to traverse international waters through their strategic partnership with investor Lumina Datamatics. Vidur Bhogilal, Vice Chairman, Lumina Datamatics, said in a statement,

With 13 offices worldwide, 10 delivery centres and more than 2,000 content specialists, we look to bring HandyTrain to as many of our global clients and partners as we can.

Website- HandyTrain

Related read: The blooming startup ecosystem amid the sun and sand of Goa