Enterprise is a big part of focus in the India market, says Leah Belsky, Senior Vice President of Coursera

In a conversation with YourStory's Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma, Leah Belsky, Senior Vice President of Coursera, talks about Coursera’s enterprise business and what makes India an exciting edtech market.

The journey began seven years ago for Coursera, the California-based edtech company whose valuation is “well over” $1 billion, as per a Forbes report.

It started when two Stanford computer science professors, Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, put their AI courses online.

“And when they put those courses online, over a 100,000 people came to the courses, and they realised that there was a huge desire for the knowledge they are putting out in the world,” recalls Leah Belsky, Senior Vice President of Coursera.

YourStory's Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma recently caught up with her to talk about Coursera’s expansion in India and the edtech market in the country. 

Watch the full interview here:

As happens with any promising idea in the Silicon Valley, the idea of putting course material online soon turned into a business venture. By 2012, the platform was live, offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) to learners.

Fast forward a few years, and Coursera has partnered with some top universities and companies to make their knowledge accessible and publish courses online. What started out as a collection of courses has branched out into specialisations and even online degrees.

“Today, Coursera is one of the largest education sites on the web, with 42 million learners globally,” says Leah, adding that their big focus in learning is in career-validated areas: technology, business, and data.

Currently, there are three parts to the business – consumer business, online degree business, and enterprise business (the one Leah is leading).

“We are partnering with organisations, companies, governments, and universities to help them drive full workforce transformation,” Leah says. 


Solving India’s employability issue

According to a March 2019 report by employability assessment company Aspiring Minds, over 80 percent of engineering graduates are “unemployable for any job in the knowledge economy”. The report was based on research conducted in India, China, and the US.

That there is a gap in availability of skilled talent is not news. What’s interesting is the number of edtech platforms that have taken it upon themselves to bridge this gap.

“What we are trying to do is figure out how do we allow learners in India to get career-relevant skills,” Leah says.

Coursera is addressing these concerns through different methods, one of them consumer offerings (some paid). “We allow them to audit courses, we allow them to apply for financial aid, and earn credentials.”

However, in India, which is considered to be the second largest market after the US, a big part of the focus has been on enterprise.

Explaining this, Leah says, “We are partnering with leading companies, people like Axis Bank, Tata Communications, and Mindtree, enabling them to make Coursera available to learners at work.”

“We have the data on what are the top skills that people are learning all around the world,” she continues, explaining that this data can be used to inform Indian learners how they compare with professionals/learners from other regions.

A big focus of the work in India is to identify leading companies and organisations, where people are spending most of their lives, particularly after graduating college and getting into the workforce, the senior executive says.

The ultimate aim is to allow people to acquire relevant skills at work, she adds.

A look at the Indian edtech space

While Coursera has received phenomenal response in the country, Leah acknowledges that it is taking time to work with companies and explain how to deploy learning programmes effectively to them.

“Learning takes a lot of work, but how do you actually work with companies to create time and space for employees to learn while at work… and that’s a challenge,” she says.

The price point has been another topic of conversation, given how the percentage of salaries spent by Indian organisations on education – compared to other parts of the world like Europe and France – is lower.

But if Leah’s words are any indication, it’s more about the cultural difference than the budgeting.  

The Indian edtech space, according to Leah, is defined by two factors – the desire to learn and pursue education, but also a huge lack of access [in the market]. With changing governmental regulations –universities are now open to allow 20 percent of the learning to incur online – the market has also opened up to newer and more promising potential.

“[India is] one of the most exciting markets because there is such a need and demand… in so many ways, technology can open up this space,” Leah says.   


Updates from around the world