How this Harvard Business School alum wants to solve India’s work-readiness crisis

Founded in 2013 by Shveta Raina, Talerang offers customised career training to students and professionals with one aim: creating a work-ready India. It aims to upskill 20 million students by 2020.

A 2019 India Skills Report said only 46.21 percent of graduates were job-ready in today’s market. The number was a significant increase from 33 percent in 2014, but it still meant that almost half of India’s graduates were largely unemployable.

Shveta Raina, Founder of Talerang

It was to change this that Shveta Raina launched Talerang in 2013. Her mission is one: to develop work-ready graduates for India through a unique, experiential model researched as a project at Harvard Business School.

“Today, most employers want a result-oriented team and do not wish to spend time and efforts in training. Talerang aims to resolve this paucity of skilled professionals and has witnessed a high number of enrolment by students and professionals,” says Shveta Raina, Founder and CEO, Talerang.

India has over 35,000 colleges and a large chunk of the population in the age bracket of 15-25 years. With over 10 million students graduating each year, this is a huge market. And as digital penetration grows exponentially amid the coronavirus outbreak, the edtech sector in India is expected to boom further.

Mumbai-based Talerang claims to be the first mover that provides an end-to-end solution in the highly fragmented training market. The startup offers customised career training to students and professionals to create work-ready and skilled professionals.

The beginning: at Harvard

While working as a Director at Teach for India in 2011, Shveta spoke to many students who were unaware of the courses available in the market, confused about their careers, and unsure about where their passions lay. A majority of them were not prepared to enter the working world.

She found that while some of these students were academically bright, they had very limited practical exposure. They lacked the right advice and guidance, and she decided to address the problem.

Her formal research began when she was a student at Harvard Business School in 2012. Along with her Professor Das Narayan Das and in partnership with Sinhali Deshpande, now Talerang’s Curriculum Lead, she conducted independent research on students and professionals ready to enter the job world.

Shveta during one of the offline classes

They also connected with HR heads and CEOs of leading organisations like Tata and Birla groups, only to find that companies were equally worried about the work-readiness crisis and were unhappy with entry-level talent.

Later on, it was no longer a research project, but developed into a mission that needed to be accomplished.

Talerang was launched as a simple, high quality solution to India’s work-readiness crisis and started by offering offline career training to students and professionals, followed by access to internships and jobs. This was layered with lifelong mentorship and access to a strong community of leaders and mentors. 

The startup began with training only college students but now has programmes for candidates from the age of 13 to 30. It went from training 100 students in the first year to over 100,000 trained through tie-ups with various colleges, universities, corporates and non-profits in about six years. 

The course structure

At Talerang, students are trained in a three-step work-readiness programme that gives them access to experiential career training, internships, and mentorship for life. 

“We believe in talent, skills, and dedication of the students, so we accept students based on merit. We also provide scholarships to students who cannot afford the required expenses or fees. Students who pay fees can also earn back their invested money during their internships, helping them break even on their investment,” the founder says.

Image Credit: YS Design

Talerang’s copyrighted curriculum was researched as an independent project at Harvard Business School. Its training methodology integrates Harvard cases, proprietary assessments, interaction with guest speakers, industry exposure, and personal mentoring for holistic professional development.

“Our programmes offer exclusive opportunities to work with over 350 of the best companies in India. Our team is from McKinsey, Citigroup, KPMG, and ZS Associates, and our panels include CEOs of top companies. Students get dedicated mentors and interact with industry stalwarts from our Young Leaders Panel and Senior Panel. We have also built a close-knit community of alumni who find tremendous value from the peer network,” Shveta explains.

Talerang has also upgraded its curriculum significantly after a few years of being in the market. Initially, it trained students only in professional competencies (mainly soft skills), and then placed them for an internship with its corporate partners.

“We realised that the amount of training required to get candidates work-ready was a lot more than we expected as companies have extremely high expectations and the college curriculum is not able to keep up.  Thus, we now cover soft and hard skills, and simulation projects prior to placement,” Shveta says.

Impact of COVID-19

According to IBEF, India has become the second largest market for e-learning after the US. The sector is expected to reach $1.96 billion by 2021 with around 9.5 million users. Talerang competes with the likes of IntelliPaat , Coursera, and Udemy.

As learning shifted completely online during coronavirus, Talerang tapped technology to deliver results.

Shveta says, “We have shifted all our in-person training sessions to online sessions. We transformed our model from offline to completely online this year by building an app and focusing on high quality live sessions. This allows us to scale beyond the four cities we were operating in.”

Initially, students needed to be present in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, or Pune for the training. Now, the startup’s online courses are attracting students from across the world. Talerang now has students from the US, Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore, and others.

With a team of 20 core employees, the upskilling startup has seen a spike in enrolments in the past few months - applications have doubled for all courses, a stupendous growth of 100 percent.

According to the team, Talerang’s programmes that lead to placement opportunities are seeing massive traction as people are looking for not just training but also access to internships and jobs.

The team’s vision is to make 20 million students work-ready by 2020 and expand Talerang’s reach across the globe.

The upskilling startup also aims to work with educational institutes and the government, and reach all strata of society.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai


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