Q1. Tell us about the work your company does and how does it help in the progress of upskilling the youth?
The work that we at EduBridge have been doing over the last 11 years, starts from identifying the skills required by the recruiters; today as well as tomorrow; and we look at building that among the youth to ensure that they have these skills when we present them to recruiters to be employed within their organizations. This has been the underline of what we did right from day 1, we do it even today and we intend in doing that till the existence of our organization.
Q2. As we know you are an IIM alumni, who has worked in the corporate industry before starting EduBridge, what made you leave your job? Is this company something you had always dreamed of? What was the inspiration behind EduBridge?
EduBridge as an idea germinated in my mind back in 2008 while I was still working in Investment Banking at Edelweiss in Mumbai. Before that, I worked at Proctor & Gamble, as part of the Team, on their “Rural India Project” where we were expanding P&G’s operations into rural parts of India. On one hand, this experience brought to light the dearth of employment in these regions where the job seekers wanted employment and on the other hand, an organization like P&G, was struggling to find people who could do their jobs effectively. There was a lot of attrition and a lot of challenges in getting people to sell products in these areas. So in my vision, there was a clear market with a massive gap between a job seeker and a job provider, where I saw that both existed, but for some reason, would not be able to connect. That is where this idea germinated in my mind, which led to me doing a lot of research on it for almost a year. For this, I traveled to hundreds of villages over the weekends to do focus-group discussions and personal interviews with a lot of stakeholders and understand what would be the right product to address this gap. I don’t think I dreamt of starting EduBridge per se. I think what I was always clear about was that I would be starting a venture of my own. Born in a conservative Marwari family in Kolkata, I think this probably is in my blood. So even while I was working at corporates, I think the idea of starting an enterprise of my own was always running through my mind. I was always looking for that right opportunity and I think the great part about EduBridge is that it allowed me to marry my commercial interests along with the social interests. I think that’s when this idea struck me and was the winner in my mind and that’s where I took on from. And thus the idea of EduBridge started turning into reality. Finally, in September 2009, I quit my job and started with EduBridge in October 2009.
Q3. What is the expected employee strength or target population of the company?
The strength we have today is roughly at 400 employees and we expect to close at 500 employees by the end of March 2022. Up to March 2024, we expect that number to approximately 1000 employees since we are looking at expanding our online business a lot in the coming months and years. Through this division, we will add a lot of trainers and placement consultants for our students, so we expect the strength to grow in the next 3 years in terms of the people in our company. Currently, we are looking at impacting approximately 40,000 students and we expect that to exponentially grow as our online initiative takes off on larger scales. We expect that to exponentially grow and reach a million students a year hopefully within the next 3 to 4 years through our interventions and the additional employee strength.
Q4. What would you consider is the biggest impact of your company in the market?
The biggest impact has been the number of students that we were able to place already in the market. I believe the fact that we were one of the earliest companies, due to which we are one of the pioneers in this space has started vocational training in India. Also, another huge impact is the actual number of beneficiaries we were able to train itself. We have so far reached out to and transformed the lives of more than 150,000 youth already. Having impacted so many lives and indirectly having increased so many household incomes is something that is a tremendous achievement for us. For most students who were placed, their household incomes have increased by almost 80 to 100%, which is the kind of impact we have brought about already and we expect to be able to do that for many more students going forward.
Q5. In which fields/sectors/verticals does the company plan to expand?
Currently, our major focus is on the BFSI and IT sectors due to its demands. We believe IT is the sector of the future and it will almost become horizontal across different sectors and won’t just remain vertical. IT is probably the most important sector so we are looking at building IT-related skills among all our students. Apart from domain-specific knowledge, basic IT skills are built-in, across all of our students whichever course they opt for. Apart from BFSI and IT sectors, we will be looking at venturing into the Healthcare sector in a big way shortly. That is another sector that will have a lot of requirements and given the pandemic, the requirement is going to rise and so we would want to be able to serve the youth and corporates in that sector as well.
Q6. What is your future vision for the company?
EduBridge is and further wants to be that one, true, “Integrated Workforce Development” platform where every youth in the age group of 16 to 25 years, visits for any solution that they might need, to help build their career. Be it as their first-ever training need outside their formal education system, their first-ever job, career counseling, understand what is right or wrong for them, understand what are the various opportunities available for them, or even if they want to eliminate opportunities, we want to be that Workforce Development platform that every youth turns to when they want any answer to their career-related questions or concerns.
Q7. Tell us more about the industry and the competition in this particular segment. It would be great if you can share some market trends in the industry? What are your thoughts on the current state of E-education?
This industry is probably 10 to 12 years old now and relatively new in India. There are a lot of organizations that have entered this space in these years but I would say there are roughly 10 to 15 or maybe 20 larger organizations in this space who are looking at building large-scale solutions, to serve millions of youth every year. Some people are already training 5000 – 10,000 youth each year to even organizations who are training 200,000 to 300,000 students every year. But all of them are looking at establishing and growing towards training more than a million students every year as a collective goal. In terms of the trends that we see today, e-Education is the biggest trend that we have right now. Given the pandemic, it has only further expedited because all the physical training centers had to shut down/remain closed. We, ourselves have our 80 training centers which are currently closed, so the youth and businesses don’t have a choice but to move online. We can say that this situation was a blessing in disguise for e-Education, where learners had to adapt to learning online and the learning providers had to adapt to educating online. Because of this, we are seeing it as a trend and it is here to stay. There is a role for physical training centers once things get back to normal of course but I do think online learning is never going to go away. At best, there would be certain programs running in a blended manner, partly online and partly offline mechanisms and online learning are here to stay.
Q8. According to you, why is professional learning / self-upgrading so important right now?
A very simple reason is that we are in a world that is changing extremely rapidly. If you look at technologies, the job roles, the businesses, etc., everything is constantly evolving and upgrading. The fact of the matter is today the largest hotel chain in the world has zero physical hotels but they are the largest hotel chain in the world. The largest taxi company in the world owns zero taxis. Who would have imagined that 10 years ago? In this span of the last 10 years, this is the kind of change that we all have seen and experienced. So we are living in a world which is fast changing due to technology, due to a lot of innovation and so as professionals and as individuals we need to keep up with the pace of this change. We need to constantly learn, upskill and invest in ourselves. As individuals, as business leaders, or as professionals, we always plan what the company is doing, what my job is, or what am I going to do tomorrow. However, amongst all this, we never spend time planning our competencies. It is very important that we also in a similar manner plan for our competencies and maps it to what would be required by the world in a specific time frame in the future from now and we should look towards building that. This will be needed because, in this fast-changing environment, there is always a risk of getting left behind otherwise so it’s very critical to personal and professional growth for students, and business growth for a corporate.