This bootstrapped startup provides finance and accounting vocational training to make students more employable
Hyderabad-based Simandhar Education is an edtech startup with a focus on CPA (US chartered accountancy equivalent to Indian CA) and CMA (US cost accountancy equivalent to Indian CMA) certification.
Simandhar Education came about when Founder Sripal Jain took stock of the current Indian talent landscape, which is facing a different kind of challenge – making students employable.
With a huge gap in skill development, several reports predict that of the 50 to 70 million jobs that will be created in the country over the next five years, close to 90 percent will need vocational training. Add AI to this equation, and it’s a huge cause for concern.
Sripal, a chartered accountant (CA), found the gap to be especially pronounced for finance and accounting jobs. This propelled him to start Simandhar Education in 2017 in Hyderabad, which focuses on CPA (US chartered accountancy equivalent to Indian CA) and CMA (US cost accountancy equivalent to Indian CMA) certification. From physical classes in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Mumbai, students can also opt for online courses.
Why start up?
A lack of job satisfaction pushed Sripal to quit his cushy corporate gig. He then became a part-time CA teacher at a CA institute. He also taught CA at Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI) and the Railways.
And this was when his idea to start up sprang.
“A few months into teaching, I realised the job gave me immense happiness. Incidentally, I also discovered that many students were unable to clear the CA exams. That was how Simandhar Education came into existence, where I introduced many short-duration courses, and alternative options for students, apart from CA, namely CPA USA, CMA USA, US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) etc, which could be done simultaneously with CA,” says Sripal.
Sripal also attained his own certification during a visit to the US. While dabbling in market research, he discovered Becker, a company offering educational resources for professionals in the accounting and finance fields, among others. He met the team and procured franchise licences for India. Today, Simandhar Education is an official partner of the reputed Becker Professional Education, the most acclaimed CPA Review Supplier in the US.
Working with corporates
Simandhar has tied up with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountancy (AICPA), one of the largest accounting bodies) to provide training in blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, IFRS, and US GAAP.
The institute recently conducted a blockchain event with Snapper Technology, which saw Telangana IT Secretary Jayesh Ranjan as the chief guest. Simandhar Education has also tied up with various corporates for training their employees such as EY, Citrin Cooperman, Invesco, Virtusa Polaris, etc. Added to this, it is also the preferred placement partner for biggies like Genpact, Capgemini, Infosys, Synchrony Financial, and AIG.
For Sripal, quitting a high-paying job to start a training institute was challenging as it demanded heavy investment in terms of employees and top-notch trainers. For this, he got the help of his brother and friend Suraj Para, an All-India CA rank holder, who stepped in to ease the process. His brother and sister-in-law also helped in the financing and franchising fees. Sripal's wife Poonam Jain joined in as co-founder.
“We started with a capital of Rs 10 lakh in 2017 and have grown to Rs 1.7 crore,” Sripal says, adding that the team also does outsourcing accounting work part-time, which contributes to 20 to 25 percent of its revenues.
Becker’s product has online videos, self-study planners, MCQs and other literature with an auto update option that automatically gets the latest exam content . The product uses the Adapt2U learning technology.
“We also have our own software for courses like financial modelling, IFRS, US GAAP, and other accounting certifications that run on Java platforms, and also in the process of developing an application for the same,” says Sripal.
At present, the team comprises 16 trainers who hold certifications in CPA, CMA apart from CA, and come with industry experience of up to five years and prior teaching experience as well.
The costs and market
So far, Simandhar has completed 16 batches, each one averaging 12-15 students who are selected by mock tests and counselling sessions. The institute charges an average of Rs 1,05,000 (with 18 percent GST). Corporate trainees can also avail of discounts. Close to 80 percent students per batch are from corporate tie-ups. Students who score over 95 percent in mock tests have their entire fee waived off.
“Between July and September, we are launching an exclusive offer of Rs 78,000 for qualified CAs who have valid memberships,” adds Sripal.
Study, and upskill
A recent LinkedIn research study suggests that 80 percent of engineering graduates are not only unemployed, but are unemployable according to corporates as they do not possess the right skillset. Several platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udacity in the space of online learning are addressing this need as well.
Entities like WAGmob (which was recently acquired by EduCast) focuses on sales force training. Ronnie Screwvala and Mayank Kumar have also started UpGrad, focusing on skill training, following a similar industry mentorship model. Simplilearn and Great Learning are some other players in this space.
The future looks “upskilled” for Sripal who says,
“We are planning to enter into healthcare segment to provide training on United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) courses, and into chartered accountancy training with subject-specific concepts. We have also started a grooming school to develop strong interpersonal skills, and would like to go global by opening a centre for certification courses like CMA, US GAAP , IFRS and EA (US taxation course) in Dubai shortly.”