Edtech unicorn upGrad’s road to becoming an integrated lifelong learning platform

In a recent conversation with YourStory’s Daily Dispatch, Mayank Kumar, Co-founder and MD, upGrad talks about the responsibilities that come along with achieving the unicorn status and discusses future roadmaps.
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Edtech player upGrad entered the unicorn club this year after raising $185 million from Temasek Holdings Ltd, International Finance Corp, and IIFL Group. Founded in 2015, it is the largest online education platform in India that focuses primarily on higher education and career upskilling, and provides help in a range of different areas.

Mayank Kumar, Co-founder and MD, upGrad shares in a conversation with YourStory’s Daily Dispatch that achieving the unicorn status is a matter of excitement and pride for the company, but the stakes are high as well. "The expectations to deliver returns to a set of investors also increase. There is a sense of responsibility that comes with the status in terms of making sure that the company can deliver returns to the shareholder, returns to the customers, and provide a great place for learners and employees."

Commenting on upGrad’s revised ESOPs scenario, he says that ESOPs are an integral part of any organisation’s growth, and the employees are giving their ‘sweat and blood’ in building the company. “We genuinely feel that without the support of the employees and more importantly support of the families of the employees, I don’t think we would have been able to build what we’ve built so far,” says Mayank.

He adds that the leadership believes that every person who puts in the hard work ends up becoming part owners and thus, some amount of responsibility comes into the picture with the ESOPs.

Mayank mentions that today, upGrad has become an integrated lifelong learning platform that helps people across age groups (18-50/60 years) to move up in their career at different stages of their journey: college students and as well as working professionals. With the merger or consolidation scheme, they believe that they aren’t separate companies but a single entity that is holding customers from the age group of 18 to the age group of 50-60. The company’s vision is to become a career partner for a wide range of age groups.

He adds that the company intends on exploring the existing space in India thoroughly via organic and inorganic approaches, and be two to three times larger than any competitor in the space. Apart from that, they have a clear focus on establishing upGrad outside India in developed markets of the US, the UK or Southeast Asia, or emerging markets similar to India like Africa.

“I think both going deep in India, enhancing and establishing a leadership position, and establishing a presence in developed markets as well as developing markets is what we are currently working towards right now,” says Mayank. 

While talking about courses, Mayank highlights a few domains which are receiving ample traction. The entire data ecosystem which consists of analytics, AI, machine learning, etc, is in high demand. Apart from that, the management portfolio is receiving a fair amount of traction as well.

He concludes by saying that hitting the public markets is definitely a plan but not in the immediate future as he believes that “there is a fair amount of work” to be done. There is a lot of groundwork that needs to be done before heading out for an IPO.

Edited by Kanishk Singh

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