This edtech startup is focusing on employability to help students in Tier II, III cities

The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focuses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. This week, we look at edtech startup Sunstone, which hones employability skills, offers placement assistance, and is active in 35 cities across India.
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Higher education startup Sunstone Eduversity, which has registered 10X growth in the past two years, ventured into undergraduate programmes for the first time in 2022. 

Founded in 2019 by Ashish Munjal and Piyush Nangru, Sunstone works with academic institutes to upskill students for employability. It offers career-oriented training interventions for undergraduate and postgraduate students. 

Ashish Munjal, CEO and Co-founder, Sunstone says he realised early on that the education system in India’s Tier II and Tier III did not offer the same educational opportunities as availed by students in Tier I cities, “widening the skill gap over the years”. 

It was to bridge this gap that Ashish and Piyush founded Sunstone, which offers outcome-based courses in partnership with leading colleges and private universities in a hybrid model across India. 

The Gurugram-based startup recently announced the close of its Series C round of $35 million led by WestBridge Capital and with participation from Alteria Capital. 

The fresh capital will be used to “expand into new programmes and new geographies, with a key focus on undergraduate tech programmes”. 

“It’s clear that lack of legacy higher-education institutes in Tier II and Tier III cities has made opportunities slim in comparison. We are partnering with institutes in these cities to solve the issue of quality and relevant education,” Ashish says.

The Gurugram-based startup has now expanded its presence to more than 35 cities and 40 institutes

Sunstone had raised $28 million in a Series B round led by WestBridge Capital in October 2021. The round also saw participation from existing investors Saama Capital and Alteria Capital as well as Work10m, a work-focused fund by Pankaj Bansal, Group-CEO of PeopleStrong. 

“Over the last year, we have seen Sunstone grow and continue to upgrade the quality of education provided to every student. Seeing the ever-increasing demand and its potential to be a major disruptor, we are excited to double down our investment to support its mission of transforming the higher education sector in India,” said Sandeep Singhal, Managing Partner, WestBridge Capital, at the time of the funding.

Focusing on employment

According to the India Skills Report, an average of just 35-40% of management and engineering graduates are found to be employable. The lack of industry-relevant curriculum, practical experience, and employment-centric education becomes even more prominent in semi-urban areas, rural regions, and parts of India that fall at the margins of accessibility. 

Ashish says that while building Sunstone, “the most important issue was one of employment post studies”. “The principal reason for moving on to higher education for a majority of aspirants is job opportunity, leading to financial security,” he says.

Sunstone works closely with corporates to develop industry-ready programmes for both postgraduate and undergraduate students, with a special focus on BFSI, business analytics, logistics, sales management, retail, digital marketing, and others.

“Modern jobs have become more skill-focused than degree-focused. There is a supply-demand mismatch in the job market. While students complain about lack of jobs, companies and recruiters have a hard time finding suitable candidates that meet their skill requirements,” Ashish says. 

He adds that this is “the exact problem that we are trying to solve”. 

What next?

Sunstone’s focus is on emerging towns and cities where there is a lot of untapped potential and a dearth of opportunities.

The startup has partnered with Propelld and Credenc to give 0% interest EMI education loans to students enrolled with Sunstone edge.

“We are oriented towards building trust for the entire education category and building awareness around the possibilities and opportunities that education has to offer,” Ashish says. 

Sunstone plans to expand to 100+ cities in the next two years.

Edited by Teja Lele

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