How XEd made $5M in a year by training senior leaders in multibillion-dollar firms
Online learning has taken over the world, and the corporate training sector has embraced it too. Even MBA holders from Ivy Leagues are often beneficiaries of corporate training, in virtual and real classrooms alike.
There is a sweet spot between business schools and training, and this is what XEd Learning Solutions is targeting.
Be it for offline classrooms, or online learning, and blended formats, Singapore-based XEd customises each programme for the client-company in partnership with top universities from across the world. It collaborates with faculty from around 75 top business schools like INSEAD, London School of Economics, Chicago Booth, SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University, National University of Singapore, and Singapore Management University, among others.
Founded in 2014 and headquartered in Singapore, XEd was self-funded with Rs 30 lakh, and has no external investors. Today, the company claims to have made more than 1,000 customised programmes for more than 1,200 senior leaders. XEd aims to prepare the senior leaders within these organisations to not just learn to disrupt the market, but also to effectively manage and challenge disruptions. In the first six months of its launch, it generated $450,000, and in 2018, it was $5 million.
John Kallelil, Founder and Director of XED, is a veteran in executive education, having served as programme director for various multi-modular learning interventions across business schools. An MBA graduate from ISB, Hyderabad, John also has a certificate in Business Excellence from Columbia Business School, New York.
John (40) observes that the market for high-quality programmes for senior leaders is severely under-served. “We are always looking for faculty hungry enough to take the effort, with relevance to context, and solving genuine problems for the companies,” says John, adding that XEd customises engagement for specific learning goals.
Selective in clientele
XEd targets billion-dollar companies that are willing to spend on their senior personnel, and operates in the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia. Its clientele has 43 companies now, including IBM (Global), Adobe, JSW, TATA Group, SBI Group, Bank of Baroda, Raymond Group, and Rockwell Automation, among others.
The company recently entered into a contract with the Government of India to train entrepreneurs handpicked by the government for seven years. Set to begin in June, it will target entrepreneurs who have social impact ventures, and help them give back to the ecosystem, and create social and economic value.
John says that XEd is designing the programme now with Ivy League faculty partners.
Being based in Singapore, the company faces competition from many players like Motivus Consulting, Training Edge, and Intellisoft, among others. But XEd’s unique offerings are customisation as well as local language programmes. For instance, they have Arabic faculty from business schools teaching in the UAE. Besides a team of 16 in India, XED has teams in the UAE, and Singapore.
A complete journey
XEd identifies specific learning goals, and their partner-professors, with significant research and teaching expertise, brings together a fitting learning programme. Some of the popular topics are purpose-driven leadership, and exponential growth strategies, digital marketing, and business intelligence. It helps drive engagement and innovation for those working under the participants in their respective companies.
Over the last four years, most of its clients have been repeat customers, with IBM alone crossing 300 people last year in its XEd programme. One company may have 6,000 employees from across the world consuming the content online.
Each programme may last from six months to 1.5 years, depending on the expected end result. XEd has trained even 700 people from the same company in batches of 30, although the focus is usually on middle-to-senior level employees who can be CXOs. On average, there are 30 people in each batch.
John elaborates, “The focus is to ensure that the participants transform their organisation. In one year, without them realising it, the DNA of the organisation has changed. We track the participants on their promotions, leadership promotions, foreign transfers etc, with an app customised for each company.”
XEd’s programmes are three-day classroom courses every three months for a year, along with on-the-field experience, and online access to content. The course content includes videos and gamification too. Everything is designed keeping the core values of the company in mind, and not off the shelf. The focus is on strategy, innovation, and digital leadership.
John recollects a recent programme in New York for a client. “It was to be delivered to CXOs, who have already been in many programmes. So the pressure was on us to provide high-quality content in a combination of classroom and on-the-field learning. For the industry immersion experience in manufacturing, we conducted one module for them in Dubai on leadership, second in London for strategy.”
‘Learn-apply-repeat’ is the company's mantra. After classroom interactions, there is one-on-one coaching for discussing the issues critical for the individual. For instance, recently an oil and gas company sought XEd’s services for its new management team. The team consisted of senior leaders from various industries. The main aim was to align them with the company’s vision and culture. So XEd’s ‘purpose-driven leadership programme’ focused on personal purposes. “Unless their personal purpose aligns with the company’s vision, there will be no passion,” says John.
Clear target for future
Besides the Ivy League collaborations, XEd also has its own content/courses from XEd Institute of Management, which contributes to 20 percent revenue. Additionally, there are research scholars from Ivy League universities consulting with it, who want to be in touch with the business world and keep themselves updated as well.
Most programmes done in partnership with prominent universities start at $200,000 per day per head. Revenue sharing is different for each university and business school, depending on the programme.
After generating $ 5 million in 2018, XEd is gearing up for $10 million this year, and $25 million over the next two years by expanding further in South East Asia and the Middle East. According to research, the global corporate learning market is expected to reach $10.62 billion by 2025, from $1.54 billion in 2017, growing at a CAGR of 27.3 percent during the forecast period of 2018 to 2025. With partnerships with universally acclaimed faculty and a clear revenue model, XEd’s dreams are not too far from reality.