Industry body Nasscom believes close to 40% of the information technology (IT) and outsourcing workforce in the country needs reskilling over the next five years to keep pace with newer technologies. Bengaluru-based Simplilearn, which provides online certification courses in emerging digital domains such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, blockchain, cybersecurity and cloud computing, is bullish on the increasing demand for preparing the existing and future workforce to be industry ready. In an interview with Fortune India, Krishna Kumar, founder-CEO of the education technology company, talks about Simplilearn’s journey and how the company is not just focusing on individuals, but a large chunk of the business today comprises of enterprise clients in India and the U.S.
In 2009 Simplilearn started as a blog mostly providing free training modules through videos and blog post to people. How has been the journey so far?
Our journey has been exhilarating so far. Simplilearn has moved in the right direction in cadence with the evolving needs of learning and job requirements of the industry. The last two-three years were crucial for our growth as technological advancements such as automation and AI drove the need for reskilling and constant learning across the minds of working professionals and enterprises. With one million learners across 150 countries, we were also able to double our learner base in the last two years. And one of the main factors that accelerated our business has been the ability to build outcome-centric training in high growth domains that are in demand across organisations. Our business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) businesses grew rapidly, we were able to double our employee headcount. We are now a team of over 800 between India and the U.S. We’ve been growing at 50% year-on-year profitably.
Till two years ago, Simplilearn’s main focus was individuals directly enrolling on your platform for certification courses. Today enterprise clients are the key focus. What led to this shift?
While we have an increased focus on our enterprise training business, B2C still continues to be the key revenue contributor and growth engine. It was in 2016 when we began focussing on the B2B training business. With the emergence of digital transformation across enterprises, reskilling became a boardroom discussion. Moreover, most of our individual customers belonged to Fortune 500 companies and we foresaw a tremendous business opportunity as our courses were aligned perfectly with the domains that enterprises want to reskill their talent in.
We customised our learning programmes for enterprises based on their industries and offered them via online self learning and live virtual classrooms which benefited companies that had teams dispersed across geographies. As we progressed, we tasted success in this model and hence we decided to grow the B2B business as a separate offering from B2C. However, our focus still lies in B2C, but we have put together a separate team who drives the B2B business.
How’s the client mix in the U.S. and India market?
India and the U.S. have been primary growth markets since the beginning and continue to be so. Together, they contribute 80% of the firm’s revenue. 40% of our users are from the U.S. and the market has been instrumental with our foray into the enterprise training segment through our acquisition of Market Motive. [In 2015, Simplilearn bought Silicon Valley-based Market Motive, a digital marketing training company to boost its presence in the U.S.] Apart from deeper penetration in India and the U.S., we are actively working in regions such as U.K., Europe, Middle East, Australia and Singapore.
At present, how big is enterprise business? What’s the revenue contribution?
Our enterprise training division has witnessed a steady 100% year-on-year growth, contributing 30% to the company’s revenue. Our rapid growth has led to partnerships with Fortune 500 companies in IT/ITes, telecom, consumer goods, automobile, and Image result for banking, financial services and insurance, as we help them in their digital transformation journeys. We are also working with enterprises in India to train their fresher hires while they are in their final semester as part of their on-boarding programmes.
So far, how much funding you have raised? Any plans of raising funds this year?
We have raised $28 million so far from Kalaari Capital, Helion Venture Partners and Mayfield Fund. This include: Series A of $3 million in 2012, Series B ($10 million) in 2013 and our last round of $15 million was in 2015. Currently, we are not actively looking to raise funding.
With skill requirements for jobs changing at a rapid pace, how do you see the future of online courses for professionals?
The digital talent shortage has widened, threatening to create a bottleneck for enterprises that are struggling to achieve their digital transformation objectives. The reskilling phenomenon has led to a wide acceptance of online professional training as a category. With government and the industry re-emphasising on skill building, professionals are proactively investing in reskilling to remain employable and relevant. Also, with a gap between academia and industry requirements, skill-based online courses are affordable and accessible to the deepest roots of the country and will play a key role in helping youngsters from tier II and III towns build their careers. As technologies like AI, robotics, big data, and cloud evolve further, education tech as an industry will grow in bounds. Trends like hands-on learning, bite-sized learning coupled with virtual reality, AI and gamification will change the tone of the online learning landscape in the coming years.
How effective are online certification courses in the current job market? What are typically the popular courses in the U.S. and India?
Reskilling has become prominent over the last three-four years with digital transformation becoming the core of businesses. Online certification courses have earned credibility from industry bodies and enterprises around the world and are an effective and economical method for professionals who are hamstrung for time to invest in upskilling themselves. The U.S. and India are similar in the course consumption patterns as both countries are a technology and innovation hub. Data science, blockchain, AI, machine learning and deep learning are some of popular courses where we’ve witnessed an uptick in consumption in both these markets.