As doors open for online education amid coronavirus lockdown, upGrad prepares for growth

With the government’s recent push for online degrees, the concerns of credibility that taint the online education industry are now vanishing. upGrad’s Mayank Kumar tells how India can get good quality education through online learning.

As doors open for online education amid coronavirus lockdown, upGrad prepares for growth

Wednesday April 15, 2020,

5 min Read

With the central government allowing universities to offer online degrees, the coronavirus pandemic presents an opportunity to transform the education system in India, where close to 35 million students are pursuing higher education. No wonder upGrad is betting big on online degrees and is bringing global institutions, including Duke University and Liverpool John Moores University, to India.

YourStory caught up with Mayank Kumar, Co-founder of upGrad, on how India can move the needle in getting good quality education through online learning, and how the pandemic can enable students to take up a job and pursue their education simultaneously.

Here are excerpts of the interview:


L-R: Mayank Kumar and Ronnie Screwvala. Co-Founders UpGrad

YS: Is it the right time for education to go online?

Mayank: At upGrad, we believe that lifelong learning is the only mantra to be able to survive the treadmill of life. There has been a paradigm shift in the online education sector, and the only way to move ahead is by adapting to the evolving ecosystem. Talking about the edtech industry as a whole, it was on a growth trajectory since the last few years, and the pandemic has given it a new impetus.

The three major symptoms plaguing the offline model and motivating professionals to move online are– agility, accessibility, and affordability. Working individuals, who have been in the system for the last five or 10 years, are now becoming extremely alert about the collateral damage that they may suffer.Hence, they are looking forward to upskilling themselves, while they continue to work.

Their dated qualifications need to be brushed continuously with domain-specific and accurate knowledge of the present era. This would help individuals understand industry trends and enhance their professional growth at large

YS: How will the governments push for online degrees disrupt the education sector?

Mayank: With the government’s recent push for online degrees, the concerns of credibility that taint the online education industry will now be revoked. It will now receive a legitimate status in the minds of consumers, thereby addressing a perception issue at large. Such legitimacy will accelerate companies like upGrad to achieve its vision of transforming a million careers and prepare a future-ready workforce.

Secondly, learners will now have a variety of choices related to the type of courses offered and the institutions that offer them, within the comfort of their home, making their accessibility and convenience a top priority. The Rs 3,000 crore grant provided by the government for skill development coincides with our mission and will help us deliver quality education across a wider audience, as we believe that upskilling is the critical route to steer India towards becoming a $5 trillion economy.

In addition, the Rs 99,300 crore outlay for the education sector in 2020-21, and Rs 3,000 crore for skill development,are significant leaps for education institutes and online education providers in India.

However, to move the needle further the government should take steps to encourage investment in reskilling among professionals by allowing them a tax-break privilege similar to Mutual Funds or Life Insurance.

YS: Are online degrees the next big trend?

Mayank: Online education has now become mainstream, unlike yesteryear when it was just a one-time event. We have already seen working professionals accepting the paradigm shift and switching gears to the online model.

Firstly, it brings the flexibility of doing the programme without having to quit the job. This indeed has a higher uptake among working professionals, especially amid the chief wage earners.

Secondly, affordability; online degrees can be offered at 1/10th the cost of the same offline degree, with much more domain-specific and detailed knowledge, along with industry-relevant skill sets that will help any professional to transition in their career.

Thirdly, the coronavirus pandemic has proved the robustness of the online model, while offline has come to a standstill. The choice here becomes pretty much clear.

YS: How many users do you have in India?

Mayank: At upGrad, we have a total of 3.7 lakh learners, out of which we have around 21,000 paid learners. Additionally, in a wake of the global pandemic that has been gripping economies and education across geographies, we are set to launch FREE programmes soon, to minimise the adverse effects of the disruption on the education sector at large. The programmes will cover rooted fundamentals and provide domain-specific knowledge in the areas of Management, Technology and Data.

YS: How many users have applied for international universities accreditation courses (degree)?

Mayank: upGrad has a longstanding relationship with its renowned national and international university partners like NMIMS, IIT-B, IIT-Madras, Duke CE, and LJMU to name a few. To impart transnational education opportunities to Indian working professionals, we recently brought Global MBA programmes to India, in association with Australia’s Deakin University and UK’s Liverpool Business School. The given programmes eventually got popular in the following month, and around 50,000 working professionals and individuals have shown interest so far.

Edited by Kanishk Singh