With $6.5 M in funding, this edtech startup helps professionals remain relevant in their industry
AEON Learning offers online education platforms for working professionals encompassing both higher education and technology skill upgradation.
At a glance
Startup: AEON Learning
Founders: Karthik KS, Sankar Bora, Vikalp Jain and Rahul Jain
Year it was founded: 2013
Where it is based: Bengaluru
Problem it solves: Provides online education
Funding raised: $6.5 million
In a fast-paced world where growth and development take place in a blink of an eye, keeping abreast with the goings-on in your industry becomes most crucial. Hence, online education has become one of the booming sectors in India. With the increasing internet penetration and the euphoria of Digital India, online education is expected to grow manifolds. It has witnessed a significant acceptance among working professionals in the last couple of years.
Contributing to the growth is a Bengaluru-based startup AEON Learning. It is an online education platform for busy young working professionals, encompassing both higher education and technology skill upgradation. AEON Learning, through its platforms Avagmah and Acadgild, helps professionals upgrade their skills and capabilities to remain relevant in today’s rapidly evolving employment market.
Founded by Karthik KS along with his friend Sankar Bora, in November 2013, Aeon eventually acquired Acadgild, another edtech company founded by Vikalp Jain and Rahul Jain in 2014. The duo later joined AEON after the acquisition. Vikalp is President at AEON Learning and Rahul Jain continues to be Head of Engineering.
From brick and mortar to online
Karthik, who has 23 years of experience in the education sector, says, “With millions of working professionals aspiring to compete with their global counterparts they need to continuously upgrade themselves. AEON Learning was started to meet this opportunity by helping reputed universities in delivering quality contemporary education via technology and internet.”
The Government of India had announced that it was targeting to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in Higher Education (GER) from 23 percent to 30 percent. “We knew that educating millions more of young Indians to achieve this number could not be done without using technology, as the existing brick-and-mortar education system was already over packed. The only clear solution to build scale and address the issue of quality was by implementing technology. That is when we knew we had this fantastic opportunity of powering existing universities to go online and use existing faculty to reach a larger base of students across geographies to help India reach its GER target,” Karthik explains.
AEON claims to have reached 22,000 students across 66 countries, with 20 percent business originating from the US.
Talking about the challenges while starting up, Karthik explains, “One of the key challenges we faced was that our solution was way ahead of the market. Our core offering then was for institutes and universities to offer their courses online. The online education industry in India was still in its infancy and the only popular medium for anyone who wanted to reskill themselves was through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The nature in which MOOCs were designed didn't really suit the Indian consumers as they are built on self-learning model and thus suffered high rate of students dropping out. Finding innovative, differentiated solutions to these problems became our main focus.”
Using technology as the core strength, the founders developed a learning platform that could replicate classroom learning in the digital world and further improve on it. Built on the principles of engagement, interaction and motivation, the core objective was to replicate the classroom environment.
The startup today offers student acquisition, engagement, retention, online content development, delivery of programmes, support, and analytics services, as well as programmes for marketing, finance, human resource management, and other related courses.
Avagmah partners with universities and offers access to quality education for working professionals. The universities use the Avagmah technology platform to help them reach out to a large audience through technology, with the platform enabling marketing, student counselling, enrolment, virtual classroom, student engagement, retention and more. Some of the universities and institutes on the platform include IIM Bangalore, Pondicherry University, NMIMS Mumbai, AIMA and Institute of Metro and Rail Technology (IMRT) among others.
Acadgild offers working professionals a platform to develop ready-to-deploy skills in new-age areas like programming, design and analytics. Acadgild’s hybrid education model brings together the intensity and rigour of the classroom with the convenience of technology, offering live sessions led by industry mentors. Acadgild offers relevant programmes like ones on data science, big data, blockchain, data analytics, and more.
AEON Learning has over 35+ corporate partners who have been upskilling and reskilling their employees on the platforms. Some of these partners include Infosys, Oracle, Cognizant, Abbott, MaxLife among others.
The firm currently has a team size of 140 people.
Karthik KS, 52, completed his engineering from NIT Kurukshetra and Management from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi. Previously, he had started 24x7 Learning, an edtech company offering e-learning solutions to corporates, and prior to that he was managing Microland’s education division – MicroUniv.
Vikalp Jain, 43, is Co-founder and President, who completed his B Tech from IIT Bombay. Prior to AEON Learning, Vikalp co-founded MOZVO, a social movie rating site, and was the CTO of FlipClass.
Sankar Bora, 40, who is Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at AEON, is a B Tech from NIT Kozhikode, and was the co-founder of Myntra.
Rahul Jain, 35, is Co-Founder and Head of Engineering at AEON. Prior to joining Acadgild, he co-founded MOZVO and had worked with Deloitte, Infosys and others. Rahul comes with a technology experience of over a decade and completed his B Tech from NIT Warangal.
AEON Learning’s revenue is from the students enrolling on the platforms, and each student paying the programme fee for their chosen course.
For the FY16-17 it clocked revenues of Rs 13.65 crore and claims to grew at 2.5x over the previous year. “By FY18-19, we are expecting to grow by 4.5x,” says Karthik.
This year, AEON Learning raised a funding round of $3.2 million from Ranjan Pai led MEMG Family Office LLP.
Till date, it has cumulatively secured $6.5 million from marquee investors like Vinod Dham, Kris Gopalakrishnan, Atul Nishar, MEMG Family Office LLP, Lionrock Capital, Zodius Capital and Jupiter Capital and Promoters Meena and Ganesh Krishnan.
According to a KPMG-Google report released in May 2017, the online higher education market is expected to touch $1.96 billion by 2021. Re-skilling and online certification courses currently account for a majority (38 percent) of the online higher education market, the report added. There has also been a surge in investments in the online education sector, with online skill training startups shifting focus from a university-based curriculum to a more industry-oriented training approach.
Besides AEON Learning, there are also Simplilearn and SchoolGuru in the similar space in India, while globally, companies like 2U (a listed company with a market cap of $3.3 billion), General Assembly and bloc.io are present.
Talking about its differentiator, Karthik says, “We are the only edtech firm in India that offers both short-term training programmes and long-term higher education degree programmes. Our student experience with real-time live lectures, discussion forums, projects, assignments, quizzes and vast learning resources help students get a better than classroom experience on the cloud, while providing personal attention from our mentors.”
For the future, Karthik says, “AEON’s presence has already reached over 66 countries and we plan to focus on key markets like the US and Southeast Asia. Within India we are present in 150+ towns and cities with plans to expand our dominant presence in South India to the North and West regions.”