English Sikhega India: How Speakwell, an edtech startup is empowering youth with job-focused skillsRyan Frantz
Kya English speaking apki kamzoori hai? (So, is speaking English your weakness?) This one line formed the premise for Speakwell launching its spoken English courses in Mumbai in 2006. From there, it has grown to become India’s number one training company for spoken English, with 70 skilling centres.
The idea for Speakwell came about when the founders Aslam Moosa and Mahesh Joshi were running a recruitment business focussed on producing candidates for BPOs. They observed that a majority of the candidates were getting rejected because of a lack of communication skills, and realised that the real opportunity lay in skilling candidates for job readiness. “Speakwell was incorporated, to empower the aspirations of India’s youth with an economic motivation, to learn English, says Aslam Moosa, CEO of Speakwell. “The cash flow advantage with the skilling business, with students paying upfront for the courses, made it a better bet than the recruitment business, and an obvious direction to take.”
The decision paid off, and how. Within a year, Speakwell grew to 10 centres and subsequently to 30 in three years. With over 70 centres today, Speakwell is one of India’s largest skill training companies engaged in the development of skills of the youth of the country.
After a recent round of funding, the company has been expanding its network of centres across the country by establishing its franchisee network and is experimenting with a virtual training network for skill development under the brand Skill Capital.
Moving beyond English skilling
Mapping their vision with the current skilling needs of the Indian economy, the company also offers several modern skill development training programmes, including retail sector skills, banking sector skills, field sales skills and e-commerce sector skills, in addition to government-job-oriented skilling.
Speakwell delivers on its skilling agenda with two specialised divisions S-Tek and Promising Career Academy. With the S-Tek venture, Speakwell has forayed into IT training to offer job-oriented skills to youth as a part of its Skill India Mission. S-Tek provides high-quality IT education to students aspiring for careers in the IT and ITES industries.
Its other career-oriented division, Promising Career Academy, offers entrance exam preparation to students seeking government jobs for positions like sales tax officers, sub-inspectors, probationary officers and so on. The course helps students clear crucial entrance tests for government service, guides students through the entire process and coaches them for every stage of this journey. Four Speakwell nodal centres now bring all the offerings of the company under one roof and shortly, two more centres will be added to this list.
A partner to National Skill Development Corporation
Speakwell has also been accorded a partner status by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), a Government of India body responsible for the skill development of the youth of the country. In this regard, Speakwell is fast expanding its network of centres in India with the aim to be available in every nook and corner of the country to meet the needs of the underserved.
They hope to do this via a franchisee model, that will offer entrepreneurs opportunities to set up a training centre using the Speakwell model of training and skill development. Speakwell is also establishing a one-of-its-kind virtual training network for skill development under the brand Skill Capital. Virtual training will allow Speakwell to take its best-of-class trainers to the remotest part of the country and create an impact on the skill development landscape across India.
Working with mompreneurs
Part of Speakwell’s unique growth hacking strategy has been working with women entrepreneurs. Many of the Speakwell franchisees are women entrepreneurs who manage their family responsibilities alongside the Speakwell centre. A Speakwell franchise presents a fantastic opportunity for women entrepreneurs to create meaningful careers while affording them better control of their time. Opening a Speakwell centre requires minimal investment, and allows women to balance their family commitments while empowering them with the opportunity to run their own business.
A round of funding from Mumbai Angels
An investment by Mumbai Angels in 2008 helped Speakwell consolidate its offerings in Mumbai and build more depth in their team, brand and content. The investment also gave them the confidence to expand their offerings leveraging their brand and technology for future growth.
The second major leg-up came when they were noticed by US-based impact investor Gray Matters Capital (GMC) who invested around USD 1 million (Rs 5 crore) in the company in 2014 to fuel its scale-up plans. GMC, who actively invests in and co-creates initiatives with partners to build sustainable, replicable business models to benefit underserved populations, will bring onboard management expertise & strategy to help Speakwell in its mission to empower the aspirations of India’s youth.
“We are glad for the relationship with GMC,” says Mahesh Joshi, Co-founder and Director of Speakwell, on the impact of the investment from GMC. “They do more than just invest, they get involved, deeply. Our relationship has helped us to consolidate our offerings and build more depth for our team, brand and content. We’re more confident than ever before about our growth and hope to leverage their mentorship and relationships to expand our offerings.”
A call-out for collaboration partners
As Speakwell continues its remarkable trajectory, it is looking for collaborators either to expand their presence overseas, a partnership that will allow them to add an overseas job placement services to their offerings, or even a tech partner who could not only help them improve their offerings but also to reach more underserved pockets of the country using technology.
You may send your collaboration requests to Speakwell my mailing Franchisee.email@example.com or call +91 8097536453.