Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of American online learning platform Coursera, says the company seeks to more than double the number of its learners to 100 million in the next 2-3 years, and expand the number of degrees it offers on its platform. The Mountview, California-based company currently has 44 million learners and 1,700 companies are using its platform, and it offers 15 degree courses.
The company also announced a partnership with the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta for two online certificate courses aimed at a global audience. Maggioncalda, who was in India to launch the company’s Coursera for Campus programme, said the company is already working with 10 universities in the country, and sees more such partnerships.
Maggioncalda, who has been at the helm of the company for about two years, spoke to Fortune India on the sidelines of the recently concluded World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit. Edited excerpts:
Tell us about your new partnership with IIM Calcutta. Are there going to be more such partnerships?
The Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta is the first IIM or Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to partner with Coursera. We have, over the past seven years, partnered with more than 170 universities around the world, typically the best universities in every country, but we haven’t so far had any relationships with IITs or IIMs. They (IIM Calcutta) are going to be authoring two certificate programmes; one is a ‘management sciences certificate’, the other is a ‘supply chain analytics certificate’. They will be focussed on bringing the quality that you would get from professors at IIM Calcutta. They will have live engagement as well through Zoom (remote conferencing services company) and Slack (team collaboration software tool), and they are thinking about contextualising it to Indian management practices and the Indian supply chain, which would be a valuable thing for India. It will come out in 2020.
You also recently launched Coursera for Campus. Tell us more about that.
Coursera for Campus allows any college or university to subscribe to courses on Coursera and make those available in a blended fashion to the students on it. One piece of it is offering cutting-edge data science, technology, and business courses, making those available to students on campus. The second piece is that we will not only be allowing universities to subscribe to the content but we are going to provide free access to all the authoring tools so any university can author private courses for not only their on-campus students but for their alumni, for lifelong learning, for their faculty for faculty development, and for their staff for staff skill development. What this will do is that it will allow universities to upgrade their curriculum, teach more job-relevant skills, and in the long term also learn how to do effective online digital teaching themselves. We have rolled this out to 20 of our university partners. We already have 10 Indian universities for Coursera for Campus.
There is a lot of competition in the educational technology (edtech) space; even traditional publishers are stepping up their game when it comes to digital learning. How do you differentiate yourself?
We are the largest global player; we have 44 million learners around the world. We have access to a very large global population of learners and we have a technology platform that allows you to author and deliver courses very rapidly and at a very high scale and quality. The second piece of this is—Coursera for Business, Coursera for Governments, and now, Coursera for Campus. If you come to Coursera as an author, you have access not only to learners, which is B2C, but also to institutions (B2B); our promise to educators is that we can help them reach a global population that is something which is very difficult for others to copy. On the employer side, when we think of competition, we can offer the employer the ability to transfer their talent using some of the best content in the world.
You were the head of a financial company (Financial Engines) for a while; how is that different from running an edtech firm? What are some of the principles you apply from that experience at Coursera?
I definitely apply all the same management principles. The industry is very different. Financial services firms have a lot of money and they sell products that sometimes harm people, sometimes they sell very expensive products that people don’t really need. What we were trying to do at Financial Engines was to provide independent low-cost financial advice. In the edtech space, the challenge is a little bit different. It is not so much about trying to protect people from bad products, it’s about helping people get more access. Working with universities is very different than working with financial institutions. And I think one of the biggest differences that I really enjoy is that financial business is more of a traditional business model, it (Financial Engines) was a SaaS company whereas Coursera is a platform. Having a platform business model is more dynamic than a traditional business model.
What is the revenue breakup like? Does more revenue come from individuals or institutions, and how do you see that change in the future?
Our biggest source of revenue, over 50%, is B2C. The next biggest revenue is Coursera for Business and that is growing at a rate of 100% a year; it is growing much faster than B2C, it is much smaller but it is going to catch up. The third source of revenue is degrees. Whether it is through business or consumers, people buying degrees from universities delivered online on Coursera, that’s the smallest but it is growing faster than anything else. In three years, they will all probably be equal.
What are your revenue and growth targets?
We focus on how many learners are we helping, we call them registered learners. We are currently at 44 million. We want to get that number to 100 million pretty soon...in about 2-3 years. Last year, in 2018, we grew faster than 50%, but that’s very hard to keep up. We think about targets associated with bringing more degrees available on the Coursera platform. Today, we have 15 degrees and we are going to be expanding the number of degrees on the platform.
How does India figure in your global scheme of things?
India is the second-largest population of learners, after the U.S., on Coursera. The U.S. is at 13 million, India is at 5 million, followed by China, Mexico, and Brazil. Look at the demographics of India, 1.3 billion people with a million people per month coming into the workforce. India is going to have a billion working-age people within the next 5 to 10 years. For any education company, India and China have to be really important parts of your strategy and so it is. One of the tricky things is that even though India is the second-largest in terms of learners, it is not the second-largest in terms of revenue. What we have decided is that working through institutions is a really important part of complementing that B2C offering—having free courses so that people can use Coursera and try it in a freemium kind of model. [We are working with] businesses, governments, and universities so individuals can get access to Coursera through these institutions, this is the way we think we are going to be able to best serve India.