According to Global Information Inc., the Global Market for eLearning is set to reach $169 Bn by 2018, this robust market outlook has changed the online education landscape. In today’s competitive world where skills are becoming obsolete with every passing year, acquiring certifiable skills to stay up to date in the industry is of utmost importance. Globalization and the increasing need to remain competitive are driving professionals to turn to certifications in order to upgrade their skills and enhance their employment prospects. This need has led various professional certification training companies to come in and tap the market opportunity.
Funded by Helion Venture Partners and Kalaari Capital, Simplilearn is yet another platform that caters to the growing demand for professional certification by offering 24/7 online training, blended classroom training and exam practice tests. Till date, Simplilearn has trained over 1,00,000 professionals in over 150 countries around the world, and is poised to expand its existing portfolio of 80 courses across 11 categories.
We caught up with Krishna Kumar, founder & CEO of Simplilearn.com to understand the need of online training and professional certification portals in India, key trends and lessons from his entrepreneurial journey.[Edited Excerpts]
Inc42: Why did you launch a portal for online training and professional certification courses? Why not something else? Is the market opportunity promising here?
Krishna: After I sold my first venture I took off and started a blog. As I had an expertise in project management, I started giving tips through my blog to the aspirants. Within, 9 months of starting the blog I had almost 3000 followers of my blog. This is when I understood the need of training bodies for working professionals to help them get certified.
Yes, there is a huge market opportunity and demand in the market for professional certification training. And we are amongst the global leaders in providing such training across 11 categories and over 80+ courses.
Inc42: There is a lot been talked about online Vs offline education? As per the market trends, what according to you are the major reasons for people opting for online education or vice versa.
Krishna: As per our experience, online is the preferred mode of learning over offline education. This is mainly with regards to higher education and reskilling. Working professionals in the age group of 30-40 and above, prefer getting trained at their own pace and their own convenience. Online gives them this liberty. Studying after working hours, at night, while on the way to office, there may be varied choice. Also online education is much easy on pockets when compared to offline mode.
However, it will be wrong to completely discard the importance of instructor led classroom training. We do provide such classroom training which is equally popular and there are people who still prefer the traditional mode of learning.
Inc42: What are the key problems that you are addressing through the platform?
Krishna: One major problem that I would say we have addressed is that through our platform we have not only made training accessible but have also educated those who were not aware about professional certification/reskilling and its importance.
Few years back, there was no such industry at all which would cater to the needs of the working professionals. We have established it and made it accessible for all the working professionals. Even though we are present globally, today we even see people coming down to India from different parts of the globe, and despite being on vacation, get themselves trained for certification.
Inc42: What all kind of courses do you offer via platform? How many courses are currently being offered and what new courses can we expect in the coming time?
Krishna: We have been offering courses across categories like Project Management, Agile and Scrum Certification, IT Service Management, Big Data and Cloud Computing, IT Security Management, Finance Management, Quality Management and few third party courses like SAP, Microsoft, Cisco and Software testing courses. Till date we have 80+ courses across the mentioned categories.
Inc42: Recently, Kashyap Dalal also joined in the company, what’s his role and how is he helping in moving forward the organisation?
Krishna: Kashyap Dalal has joined us as the Chief Product Officer. He will play a pivotal role in elevating Simplilearn’s business growth to the next level by building a world class online platform for delivering quality learning to customers across the globe. As head of the Internet business, he will also be actively involved in category diversification and various other initiatives to drive rapid growth.
Inc42: After raising $10 Mn in funding last year, how has been the growth, where were these funds primarily infused? Any plans for raising a new round?
Krishna: The company has been growing at a pace of 400%. With infused capital, we have been looking at strengthening our leadership team, further improving our course offering, course quality and increasing penetration on mobile devices. We are also looking at strengthening our global presence.
As of now, we are not looking at raising a new round. The focus is more on strengthening what we have already build with the funds we already have.
Inc42: Like there are other portals available Udacity, Udemy, etc how are you different from them?
Krishna: Between us and Udacity the difference lies in the type of courses offered. While Udacity looks at training people in Technology courses like Data Sciences and Web Development. We look a step ahead and provide training to people who are already working and taking up courses like PMP, ITIL, Six Sigma, PRINCE2 which will help them grow in their career. And Udemy is a platform which has varied range of courses from Programming, Yoga, Design, Photography, Spanish, Marketing, Guitar, Finance, Cake Decorating, and so on. Our own courses are in fact listed on Udemy and through their platform one can get enrolled for our PMP course.
We are much more focused towards providing training to working professionals to get reskilled and prove their expertise in their own area.
Inc42: In how many countries is Simplilearn offering its courses? How has been the response from other countries in comparison to India?
Krishna: We are present globally in more than 150 countries. With regards to response, I would like to mention that 70% of our business comes from the US, 20% from India and 10% from the rest of the world. This proves the response from other countries.
The main reason being that in some of the countries abroad, it is mandatory as per government rules to possess some of the certification to work in certain field which makes our industry more relevant for such countries. To cite an example: to work as a project manager in UK, it is government rule there that the individual has to be PRINCE2 certified.
Inc42: What’s the growth rate of the company on Y-O-Y basis ever since its launch?
Krishna: We have grown at a rate of 400% so far since inception.
Inc42: How many aspirants has the platform trained so far? Can you share a bit demographics about the popular courses on the platform, the ones people have opted more?
Krishna: We have trained 1,00,000 professionals so far through our platform. The most popular courses are, PMP, ITIL (Foundation and Practitioner), PRINCE2, Six Sigma, Cloud Computing and CSM.
Inc42: Sitting as the head, and taking the startup forward. What are the major challenges being faced by you in doing so?
Krishna: In the initial stages we had faced some challenges in the ability to create good quality online courses in a short time frame to increase our offerings and yet maintain the consistency. We also faced challenges with classroom delivery in 100s of cities across the globe without local employees. But nevertheless, we have been able to overcome these challenges with time.
One of the challenge I faced was also with regards to hiring the right set of skilled people with the right kind of attitude towards work.
Inc42: Three things you have learned from your entrepreneurial journey so far?
Krishna: 1. Perseverance: Things may take more time than expected…one needs to have patience to re-invent the business model multiple times.
2. Team: Focus on building great team. There is no substitute for that.
3. Customer centricity: What you do, keep your customer at the center of it. Listen to them and act.
Krishna Kumar, did his B.Tech from NIT, Surathkal, and started his career with Infosys as a software engineer, but soon his entrepreneurial spirit inspired him to start his own venture – Tech Unified. Krishna was the Co-founder & COO of TechUnified, which was acquired by a public listed company in February, 2007. Later, in 2009 he started Simplilearn.com.