[The Turning Point] From blogging to setting up a corporate training startup – the inspiring story of Simplilearn
The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focusses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. Today, we look at Simplilearn, an e-learning and corporate training platform.
Digital transformation is revolutionising every industry, and the education sector is not far behind, leveraging technology to achieve improved outcomes. Then, there is a growing trend among students and working professionals looking to upskill themselves in IT, management, business analysis, banking, data analytics, etc.
And Bengaluru-based Simplilearn is one of the startups taking part in this revolution.
Started by IIT alumnus Krishna Kumar in 2010, the platform caters to the growing demand for professional certification by offering a blended model of an online blended training programme. At present, Simplilearn focusses on working professionals looking to upgrade themselves.
Today, the team has around 1,100 employees across India and the US.
“India is a large market for us. However, more than 50 percent of the business comes from outside India,” says Krishna.
The startup also claims to have helped more than one million professionals and 1,000 companies across 150 countries get trained, acquire certifications and reach their business and career goals to date.
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But what led to the lightbulb moment?
A serial entrepreneur, Krishna Kumar started TechUnified, a software services and product company, in 2000. However, post his successful exit from TechUnified which got acquired by a public listed company, Org informatics Ltd, in Feb 2007, he started writing a blog in 2009 named ‘Simplilearn’.
Krishna mostly blogged about his previous experiences, and also gave advice on career and project management. Over time, he realised that his personal blog had immense potential to become an online business that can cater to the training needs of professionals.
“People slowly started to approach me asking if I can prepare them for PMP (Project Management Professional) exam - an exam that project managers take. This was in 2009 when internet was still not popular, and the content material was not available online for them to prepare on their own. Hence, I decided to use Simplilearn to help them,” says Krishna.
He further thought that if he makes it a full-time job, then it would have commercial value. He created a payment gateway, and to his surprise, he started earning from it the very next day.
“I realized the potential of the business that if there is good content, people are willing to pay. That is when I decided to start Simplilearn. We started with corporate training, and eventually diversified into other fields. Today, we are one of the leading providers of professional training in the hi-tech model. It has evolved over time, and has become a global platform with other players coming in as well,” says Krishna.
In March 2011, the Bengaluru-based edtech startup added another five categories - IT Service Management, IT Security Management, Quality Management, and Certifications in Technology and Financial Management. By June 2012, it had trained over 20,000 professionals across 50 countries.
However, despite seeing success in such a short time, the biggest challenge he faced, initially, was hiring smart people.
“Training as a business was very small mom-and-pop kind of business. It was not a popular or well understood business. So, the biggest challenge was asking people to join him,” recalls Krishna.
Simplilearn was started with an initial investment of Rs 2-3 crore. Once Simplilearn took the first step on the ladder to success, it raised about $3 million in Series A funding round from Helion Venture Partners and Kalaari Capital in March 2012.
After a year, another breakthrough knocked on its door when Helion and Kalaari came back with an additional of $7 million in Series B funding.
In April 2015, it raised $15 million in Series C round from Mayfield Fund and existing investors Kalaari Capital and Helion Venture Partners.
Commenting on their future plans, Krishna says, the team just wants to capitalise on the growth in the future. “We want to continue as the largest player in the country and want to continue giving value to our learners,” he says.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)
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