How edtech startup Skill-Lync is helping India's engineers become more employable
Engineering is the fourth-most opted domain at the undergraduate level in India. However, there is a disconnect between the curriculum taught at universities and the skills required in the industry.
While the country produces around 15 lakh engineers every year, 80 percent of them lack the necessary skills and are unemployable, according to an Aspiring Minds survey.
This was faced first-hand by Suryanarayanan Paneerselvam (Surya) and Sarangarajan V Iyengar when they went to study in the US and had to reorient their learning.
This led them to found Chennai-based engineering edtech startup—registered as EpowerX Learning Technologies—in 2018. It leverages technology to equip students with the required technical skillsets to succeed in their respective careers.
(L-R) Suryanarayanan P, Co-Founder and CEO and Sarangarajan V Iyengar, Co-Founder
When Surya completed his undergraduate studies in mechanical engineering from St Joseph’s College of Engineering in Chennai, he realised that would not be able to get a job in his stream with just an undergraduate degree. He decided to pursue a master’s at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.
Going to the West made him realise his degree did not equip him with practical know-how.
When Surya became a teaching assistant in 2012, he met Sarangarajan, who had also completed his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Alagappa Chettiar College of Engineering and Technology, and was pursuing his master’s. Sarangarajan would help the newly-joined Indian students to catch up to the education standards set by the university.
He and Surya teamed up to help fellow engineering graduates skill themselves, and started with students in Tamil Nadu.
During one of his trips to India, Surya approached his alma mater and suggested teaching a set of students pursuing mechanical engineering. He brought with him videos that Sarangaranjan had made to help students in the US.
On a trial basis, Surya and Sarangaranjan trained 30 students for three months.
“All these students got placed in their specialisation,” Surya, Co-founder of Skill-Lync, tells YourStory. “Based on this, my alma mater allowed us to teach more students.”
Started as a Facebook group, Skill-Lync evolved into a YouTube channel during the founders’ post-graduation with both founders uploading lessons.
By 2015, they were teaching 300 students in 12 universities in Tamil Nadu through private live classes on Skype. Even though the founders had full-time jobs—Surya was working as a product engineer at Cummins and Sarangarajan was Research Engineer at Convergent Science Inc—they would teach students in the after-hours.
Seeing such widespread acceptance, they quit their jobs and returned to India. In 2018, they launched the Skill-Lync platform. Currently, the startup teaches around 30,000 students across India, MENA (Middle East and North Africa), SEA (South East Asia), the US, and Europe.
Skill-Lync built inhouse Electric Vehicle
What does it do
Working on the lines of Coursera and edX, Skill-Lync offers students courses that supplement their formal education.
“We help engineering students upskill themselves beyond what is being taught in the colleges and ensure they have the adequate skills required to pursue higher education or find a job,” says Surya.
The startup offers courses that can be completed in two to 10 months, with the students required to complete at least 20 projects.
“These projects are comprehensive and cover almost all of the course,” he adds. “Each student gets a profile page which displays the projects undertaken, and can be shared with the employer or for masters.”
It also helps students find jobs after completing the course. It has partnered with 350 companies, including Nissan, Renault, Mahindra, and Tata Elxsi, for placements.
The startup claims the courses are created by 1,700 industry experts having at least ten years of experience in the space and a master’s degree, preferably from a western university.
It also has 200 technical engineers—having two to three years of experience—on its payroll, who mentor students and help with their queries. The company also has a career success team that helps the students with placements through interviews, resumes, and confidence-building lessons.
Skill-Lync has a team size of 2,500 members, of which 40 are in tech.
The company offers multiple subscription plans, with Basic costing Rs 25,000 per month for 10 months, Pro at Rs 30,000 per month, and Premium at Rs 35,000. Under the basic plan, the startup doesn’t offer job assistance and has a shorter access duration of nine months.
It has also partnered up with an NBFC (Non-Banking Financial Company) to help students avail loans.
The company claims it witnessed rapid growth achieving an annual revenue run rate (ARR) of $30 million. In 2021, the edtech startup saw an overall 200 percent gain in its revenues by doubling its partnerships and placements.
Until 2019, the company was focused on upskilling mechanical engineers, but in 2020, it started offering courses in electrical, civil as well as computer engineering. In 2021, the edtech startup diversified its course offerings, and claims 3X growth in enrollments and revenue across India and internationally.
Skill-Lync says it has helped over 1,000 engineers with career opportunities by partnering with leading companies such as Renault Nissan, Cyient, Altair, AMTZ, and Expleo, to name a few, for placements.
It also hired over 1,000 employees since November 2021, helping with the growth. Last year, the startup raised a total of $20 million across its seed and Series A funding rounds backed by Iron Pillar, along with Y Combinator and Better Capital.
It is also a Y-Combinator graduate from Winter 19 incubator class, giving it access to capital.
Amid accelerated digitisation induced by the pandemic-led lockdowns, online learning became mainstream and edtech startups saw record growth. A Statista report states that online education in India was estimated to increase from about Rs 39 billion in 2018 to Rs 360 billion in 2024.
According to Statista, in 2020, the Kindergarten to twelfth-grade education market had a market value of $1.16 billion. By comparison, the report notes that the skill development market was worth less than $500 million.
In 2020, the entire market was worth $2.8 billion, which is expected to increase to $10.4 billion by 2025, it added.
Surya adds that the company is aiming to be cash flow positive by August 2022 and is already revenue positive. The startup aims to reach 5-6 percent of India’s engineering pool.
“We believe that in 10 years, we will be the leading platform for alternate education,” he signs off.