For existing workforce to be at par with the industry demands, upskilling and reskilling is the answer to fill the demand-supply gap and in turn open new career opportunities, feels Krishna Kumar.

As Digital Economy Training Company, Simplilearn to Stay Focused on Delivering Outcome-Centric Programs

In professional skilling and corporate training, Simplilearn has come a long way in about 10 years and is now coveting an INR 500 Cr revenue figure by 2021. With the highest course completion rate in the digital corporate training segment, the company offers a practicable mix of self-learning and instructor-led live classrooms for working professionals.

Courseware World recently had an exhaustive interaction with Mr. Krishna Kumar, Founder and CEO, Simplilearn. The interview embraced some fine as well as broad themes concerning the company, and the e-learning industry as whole.

Excerpts:

Courseware World: Let us first congratulate you on achieving the feat of one million+ successful clients at your online learning platform. Back in 2010, there was hardly any reskilling related online learning platform as yours. How did this idea of preparing students and professionals for a futuristic digital-age emerge?

Krishna Kumar: Thank you. Simplilearn came into existence about 10 years ago. It all started with a personal blog in which I shared learnings related to project management. The blog saw a lot of traction and this transformed into the idea of an online learning platform. Simplilearn was founded with the mission to help working professionals upskill and re-skill in order to meet industry demands and stay relevant.


CWW:  As per the e-learning market trend in India, the professional reskilling segment is leading all the others with a major 38 percent revenue share. What as per your opinion is spurring this growth? How do you see it in terms of future opportunities for Simplilearn?

KK: The e-learning industry in India is prolific in nature. Witnessing a steady, year-on-year growth rate of 25 percent, the industry is projected to reach USD 1.96 billion by 2021. We are in an era of digitization where technological advancements have an impact on almost every aspect of our lives on an ongoing basis. With businesses experiencing the benefits of technological tools, there is a demand for skilled workforce who is technologically adept.

For existing workforce to be at par with the industry demands, upskilling and reskilling is the answer to fill the demand-supply gap and in turn open new career opportunities.  However, for most working individuals, enrolling in a full-time college course is a challenge owing to various factors.  It is e-learning which brings to them an easy-to-access solution to help build a skillset to meet market requirements.

Today, with new technologies like AI and ML transforming sectors, the future will witness businesses implementing these technologies along with creating new job roles. It is this growing trend that will drive future opportunities for Simplilearn.


Digital skills are growing in popularity among Indian professionals, especially in the fields of data science & business intelligence, cyber security, cloud computing, and agile & scrum claiming the top spots in 2019.


CWW: Which digital skills courses are the most popular among Indian professionals in 2019?  Share with us your observations on how popularity of certain courses waxed and waned in time and how Simplilearn responded to those changes. What average shelf life can you assign to a digital course?

KK: Digital skills are growing in popularity among Indian professionals, especially in the fields of data science & business intelligence, cyber security, cloud computing, and agile & scrum claiming the top spots in 2019. With data being a core part of all businesses now, the data science & business intelligence has seen the greatest growth in the past year at 79 percent.

Additionally, with more and more workloads moving to the cloud, cloud training continues to be a strong growth driver in the industry today. Simplilearn has seen a 40 percent growth in cloud program enrollments this year. Cybersecurity on the cloud, as a result, has grown as well at 43 percent. 

Additionally, the industry is moving towards the consolidation of roles. “Full-stack” roles are emerging in all domains. The erstwhile “big data” career has morphed into a data engineering role that has to take on more responsibilities. The same is true of digital marketers and developers.

In lieu of these market dynamics, we have made relevant changes to the course structure and content. These changes are necessary to respond to the changing industry dynamics with a greater focus on the domains that are growing rapidly and where consolidation of roles is happening.

As an example: The big data programs have now been changed to be more aligned to a “data engineer”. Since the market landscape is changing pretty quickly, Simplilearn makes minor updates to these programs quarterly, and larger changes on a 12-18 month cycle.


…we believe that Simplilearn has the highest course completion rate in the industry amongst its competitors who are at less than 15 percent.


CWW: What sets your courses and teaching-learning strategy apart from similar other such reskilling platform providing companies?

KK: The key differentiator that sets us apart is our high-touch learning model. We are a digital economy training company and our key focus is to deliver outcome-centric programs. Content plays a key role in all our programs. In order to build world-class content that syncs with ongoing industry trends and requirements, we partner with global domain leaders and experts. 

We offer a blend of online self-learning and instructor-led live classrooms. This gives our learners an edge over those who use other online training platforms. Our programs are designed such that learners can access the program content at any time and place, making this a convenient option especially for working professionals who face time constraints. Learners have an option to attend multiple classes from trainers across the world and also interact with fellow learners. This is where Simplilearn stands out amongst other players in the market. 

Simplilearn is part of a learner’s journey from the day they choose our programs and all through the completion of their assignments and till they achieve their course completion certificates. With this, by the end of the training, our learners are ready to implement the skills acquired on the job and aim at promotions, salary increases, and career shifts. And, this is why we believe that Simplilearn has the highest course completion rate in the industry amongst its competitors who are at less than 15 percent.


At Simplilearn, we believe in investing a lot on building real-life-scenario-based, course-end projects which allows the learners to attempt and get it evaluated to get a completion certificate.


CWW:  What according to you is the state of corporate e-learning in India today? What necessary changes would Simplilearn like to introduce in present corporate learning and skilling system in India?

KK: With the advent of new technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, etc., companies are now implementing and experiencing the value that these technologies bring to their business. This in turn is translating into an increasing demand for skilled workforce and the creation of new job roles.

For enterprises, it becomes essential to upskill and reskill existing employees in order to meet with evolving industry and client demands. In a dynamically evolving ecosystem as such, corporate e-learning in India is rapidly gaining popularity with enterprises tying up with edtech companies like Simplilearn and the likes.

In today’s fast paced world, where professionals have to address the skills gap while working on existing projects, it is very important that they are given a very focused and precise content that is blended with an easy to use platform with an instructor available on demand. And, at the end of the intervention professionals understand where the gaps were and what outcome they achieved through this training.

At Simplilearn, we believe in investing a lot on building real-life-scenario-based, course-end projects which allows the learners to attempt and get it evaluated to get a completion certificate.

As we understand the appetite of the market and the need of the hour, we strongly believe that blended learning approach is the way to go. Pull-based learning (video content or books) works extremely well when the learner is self-motivated. However, a more synchronous learning experience that blends static e-learning modules with live mentors, live virtual classes, and hands-on practice drives higher learner completion and improves retention.

In addition, learners’ preferences are also inclining towards platforms that optimize learning accessibility on the go, all the time, everywhere. In lieu of this we are constantly working towards bettering the overall learner experience which is proving to be extremely valuable.


As the need for digital skilling is moving at a swift speed, some of the other skills that are parallelly gaining momentum are soft skills training, design thinking (DT), and product management.


CWW: IT-related reskilling and upskilling seem to be currently dominating the online learning market. Do you think other sectors and industries may follow suit in adopting online corporate training and certification programs? Which other skills do you see as having potential for corporate e-learning in future?

KK: The rapid integration of new technologies and thus the creation of new job roles in the IT sector are major factors for IT-related skilling and upskilling. However, the benefits of these technologies are gradually being experienced by other sectors which in turn will lead to the demand for skilled workforce.

Eventually, other sectors and industries will also adopt online corporate training and certification programs. The trend has already started and we are witnessing increasing interest from learners from non-IT sectors. As the need for digital skilling is moving at a swift speed, some of the other skills that are parallelly gaining momentum are soft skills training, design thinking (DT), and product management.

DT is more of a process optimization technique, which is applicable across all industries. It enables organizations to create organizational roadmap and strategy; learn to cultivate an innovative user-centric culture; and apply DT process for problem solving, product development and growth; thereby analyzing user needs and finalizing product goals. Similarly, product management is also relevant across industries and is gaining immense traction.


Today, Simplilearn has helped more than one million professionals and 1000 companies across 150 countries get trained, acquire certifications, and reach their business and career goals.


CWW:  For any company, there is an inevitable journey before it establishes a firm foothold in any region. How has been that journey for Simplilearn in India? How has simplilearn assisted companies in meeting their training goals?

KK: Simplilearn has come a long way in the last 10 years. From providing skilling programs for working professionals, today we are also part of the corporate skilling wave through our tie ups with enterprises engaging in employee skilling programs.  We offer an array of programs ranging from data science to machine learning to digital marketing, and so on.

When an organization is looking at getting a training partner onboard, they are essentially looking for experience, expertise and execution. With our decade long operations in this space, we have built strong capabilities to understand and deliver what companies need to address and meet their business goals.

Today, Simplilearn has helped more than one million professionals and 1000 companies across 150 countries get trained, acquire certifications, and reach their business and career goals.


CWW:  How is Simplilearn’s market presence in India in terms of revenue and profits? What are your short-term and long-term goals in terms of revenue and product diversification, both for Indian and international markets?

KK: We aim to reach INR 500 cr revenues by 2021 at the back of four pillars.The first pillar is our international operations. Over 60 percent of our company’s business comes from our international business. There are more than 300,000 learners, upskilling from US and other markets. We will continue to expand our international operations by strengthening our presence in core markets like the US and Singapore.

The second one is domestic operations. While 70 percent of our domestic business comes from Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi, we have set strong targets from other markets like Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata where the demand for digital skilling is growing at a double-digit rate.

In March 2019, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to upskill learners in digital skills. As a part of the MoU, 33 of our courses are accredited by NSDC, making us a key contributor to the government’s Skill India program.

The third one is deeper curriculum in key skills areas. Our main focus is to get deeper into categories that are going to dominate the tech space which includes cloud, data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. In addition, we also emphasize on hands-on experience to our learners which allows them to get an edge over the rest by working on projects that are real-time.

And, the fourth one is growing enterprise segment. We derive around 30 percent of our business from enterprise reskilling and upskilling. Currently, we are working with over 200 enterprises across the globe. On a cumulative basis, we have around 1000 enterprise customers including fortune 100 organizations.


With a network of more than 1.5 million schools, 18,000 higher-education institutes and even more corporates and startups, the market for e-learning in India is enormous.


CWW:  How do you think the Indian e-learning market is shaping up in terms of overall growth, i.e. revenue, market expansion, learners’ preferences, etc?

KK: According to a Google-KPMG report, India’s online education market is set to grow to USD 2 billion and the current user base will grow at 44 percent CAGR to 9.6 million users by 2021. This growth can be seen in correlation with technology transformation and increasing focus on digitization.

The rising number of smartphones and increased internet connectivity are allowing e-learning platforms to reach individuals at their fingertips. In addition, the latest e-learning contents are curated to present a holistic picture with audio and video, which intends to make learning more engaging and appealing.

On the other end of the spectrum, businesses are turning digital. With this upheaval, there is a necessity to adapt to the future with the right skills – especially digital skills. Professionals are catching up by upskilling and reskilling while students are learning as an add-on to their existing curriculum. 

With a network of more than 1.5 million schools, 18,000 higher-education institutes and even more corporates and startups, the market for e-learning in India is enormous.