Why Hero Group’s Akshay Munjal decided to venture into the edtech segment with Vired
In an interaction with YourStory, Akshay Munjal of Hero Group talks about why he decided to launch edtech venture Hero Vired, tackling India’s unique employability paradox, and the team’s alignment with the Aatmanirbhar Bharat vision.
The Hero Group has announced its entry into the edtech segment with Hero Vired. Founded and run by Akshay Munjal, the edtech venture will focus on skilling for robotics, AI, and machine learning.
Akshay Munjal is the founder of BML Munjal University. From conceptualising it in 2011 to admitting the first set of students in 2014, he has been a part of the institute’s entire journey, with current operations also taking place under his guidance. Currently, there are over 1,600 students in various disciplines, including PhD.
Akshay has been instrumental in raising funds for the university, and has formed seven academic partnerships and 150+ corporate tie-ups across the world. He set out to create an experiential learning-based university to equip the new generation to find gainful employment.
It was inaugurated in July 2017 by then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee. The university has already published 150+ research papers and is filing 30+ patents this year.
Prior to setting up the university, Akshay helped turn around the operations of Hero Mindmine, a professional skills development institute. While evaluating and restructuring the training and development programmes, Akshay came across the challenges faced by students in higher education.
In a conversation with YourStory, Akshay talks about Hero Vired, its plans, and what sets the platform apart from others.
YourStory (YS): Tell us about the new venture, and what got you into edtech?
Akshay Munjal (AM): Hero Vired is an edtech venture under the umbrella of the Hero Group. This is envisioned to offer an end-to-end learning ecosystem to provide learners with overall professional development and make them industry-ready for emerging jobs and professions.
Let’s look at the example of engineering in India. Our country has 36 lakh engineering seats, out of which, only 18 lakh seats are occupied today. When you look at the stats released by the government, less than 80-85 percent of engineering students in India are employable.
We realised that this problem cannot be solved by creating more colleges or universities, but by taking a different approach. One way was to focus on improving skills.
India currently faces a unique ‘employability paradox’ - there is a shortage of highly skilled professionals, yet graduates find it difficult to secure suitable jobs due to lack of skillsets that are imperative for Industry 4.1.
In today’s dynamic competitive environment, emerging technologies and new-age skills have disrupted the nature of jobs and the competencies required to do them.
With Hero Vired, we want to fill this gap and play an active role in realising the government’s vision of a self-reliant India by training professionals for Industry 4.1. That’s why we forayed into the edtech segment.
YS: With so many different edtech companies in place, why start another one? How is it different from the others?
AM: While there are many edtech platforms in India already, none of them is trying to solve the problem of deep skills. Moreover, these companies operate in different segments in edtech, focusing on K12, test prep, certificate programmes, and higher education.
With Hero Vired, we are entering the segment where we act as a viable option for a master's degree. We have built a technology platform that is at par with the best in the world and not just in India.
Over time, we will build capabilities to offer hybrid degrees, using our existing expertise from BML Munjal University by leveraging our physical assets to offer the best of physical and online worlds.
YS: What does the platform offer?
AM: Hero Vired will offer a mix of programmes, some aimed at working professionals with classes over weekends, and others for young professionals looking for a more intensive full-time experience.
The programmes are designed to provide a premium learning experience through highly engaging one-on-one interactive sessions with all learners for live online classes, doubt clarification, and more personalised mentorship sessions.
The Hero Vired Learning Experience platform has been built to offer features that make learning impactful via gamification, interactive support, peer-to-peer communication, high-quality content, and high-engagement-driven online instructor-led classes.
We are offering industry-relevant certificate programmes in finance and related technologies, data science, machine learning and AI, full-stack development, game design, and fostering entrepreneurial thinking and innovation.
Future programmes will cut across fast-growing domains such as design, electronics, leadership, health management, and emerging technologies.
YS: What is your business model?
AM: If you take a look at the history of education, there were two kinds of universities – one that created knowledge, and others that disseminated it. For us, this venture is a model for the dissemination of knowledge through partnerships with the best universities in the world.
We have collaborated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the world’s foremost learning and innovation community Singularity University, and learning experiences powered by Codecademy.
We believe in harnessing their expertise and knowledge in online learning, skilling and upskilling, and delivering it to our students and professionals. With decades of experience in this field, we understand the need for a skilled workforce that can contribute to India’s evolving industrial landscape. We have always ensured that the dissemination of practical knowledge is benchmarked with the highest global standards, and Hero Vired is a step ahead in this direction.
YS: What are the investments made and what are your future plans?
AM: As of now, the Hero family has supported the venture with upwards of $10 million and the group has the capability and the capacity to put in more capital as and when required.
We have already hired individuals for key leadership positions at the company and will continue to expand our team throughout FY22.
We will also be looking for partners who can bring in value that is above and beyond the capital alone. We’ve been very strategic over the last two to three years, making investments in companies that we feel have synergies with what we do and vice versa.
We have completed around 22 investments, out of which five to six are in the edtech space. We are trying to create an ecosystem that will reimagine the Indian education landscape.
Edited by Kanishk Singh