An Edtech Making Indian Engineers Industry-ready

Skill-Lync has developed coursework in partnership with industry experts, wherein the courses not only have training videos, but every student also ends up working on projects with the aid of industry-oriented software tools

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Chennai-based Y Combinator (YC)-backed e-learning platform for engineering education Skill-Lync began in 2018 as a YouTube channel sharing engineering tips, and today it is an e-learning platform that provides advanced engineering courses.

Skill-Lync

Founders Suryanarayanan Paneerselvam and Sarangarajan V. Iyengar had been highly impacted in their education life due to the lack of quality and application-based learning in the Indian undergraduate student system. Skill-Lync fixes this for prospective students by developing coursework in partnership with industry experts, wherein the courses not only have training videos, but every student also ends up working on projects with the aid of industry-oriented software tools such as MathWorks, ANSYS, Converge, GT-Suite, and so on.

India claims to produce sevenfold times the number of engineers as that of a country like the US. But the harsh truth is that over 95 per cent of these engineers do not have even basic coding capabilities and end up in glorified data-entry jobs. It’s even direr when one looks at core engineering fields like mechanical, electrical, and civil. Other than some lab work, students have no exposure to the latest trends or software that are in demand. An edtech like Skill-Lync, in the meantime, does complete industry mapping, identifies the market gaps, the roles that corporates are looking to fill, empanel experts from Fortune 500 companies and curates courses that are project-driven offering valuable tool and software skill-building.

Skill-Lync claims to have a team of around 300 people as well as 200 instructors, who have more than ten years of experience in the industry. Sixty per cent of these people are from India and the remaining 40 per cent are from the US. These people usually work in top OEMs such as Ford, Tesla and General Motors, among others.

Entrepreneur India got in touch with Skill-Lync to understand how the company functions as well as how future prospective students can gain by enrolling here. At the same time, the institution’s alumni claim to have built an electric car BiW in just four months. A BiW is basically Body-in-White and it means a car’s body sheet without any moving parts welded together.

A team of four students developed a full-fledged BiW model for an electric vehicle (EV) car from scratch (under the guidance of industry experts from Renault Nissan – India and Japan), Mercedes-Benz (India and Germany), and Scania, Sweden. Generally, the time taken by an OEM to develop a fully functional/producible BiW stands between 2.5 and 3 years. But the students at Skill-Lync were able to complete this BiW project in less than four months. These students had earlier completed Skill-Lync’s Masters Certification Course on Automotive BiW Design and Development which is a six-eight-month-long engineering course. This course, formulated by industry experts, helped the students in a huge fashion along with guidance from the various auto companies.

The project, the founder claims, is not going to end here. The students are also going to develop the cabin, bodywork, powertrain, chassis, and other add-ons to the BiW. This will help them to not only develop knowledge in the part that they designed but also on the car overall.

We asked the founders how the institute functions, and their business model. Skill-Lync chief executive officer and co-founder Paneerselvam told Entrepreneur India, “At Skill-Lync, we keep innovating and layering our courses with features and value propositions that will benefit our students. Some of the key highlights include—course certification—that can be auto shared on LinkedIn; intensive industry-oriented, project-based training; expert individualized technical support to help students when they get stuck; expert career guidance with placement assistance including masters and job assistance; resume support, mock interviews and tool tests; and paid internships as part of our Masters’ Programs - with exclusive industry projects.”

“Over 15,000 engineering students have registered to Skill-Lync courses that last for a period of eight months at the end of which a postgraduate diploma is awarded to the candidate. We develop niche courses in very specific areas. There are 120 courses on the platform and an additional 180 being developed. Around 60 per cent of these courses are in the Mechanical Engineering domain, 25 per cent are in Electrical and Electronics, 10 per cent are in Civil Engineering and the remaining 5 per cent of the courses are in Computer Science. Through the eight-month-long course, students are not only exposed to recorded lectures and live classes for clearing doubts but are also able to work on simulation and computational tools, and industry projects. Each week, the students are supposed to complete classes for 20 hours. Post course completion, they receive a certificate. Students are asked to pick a particular subject or domain and understand the topic at hand. The longer-duration courses require students to spend about 40 hours per week. We basically help engineers specialize in streams that might not be part of their regular coursework in an engineering college. Once we do that, companies readily hire these students because they have developed industry-relevant skills in a subject matter that was not part of their normal coursework. We have a range of pricing plans depending on projects offered, support, placement assistance, and the market demand for the topic. Skill-Lync has over 70 specialist courses of three-month duration (priced between INR 21,000 - 45,000) and Masters’ Programs priced from INR 1.2 lakh to 3 lakh. To aid students, we offer easy interest-free monthly payment and loan options,” he continued.

Over the last two decades, there is an ever-increasing gap between what industries expect and what students learn during their engineering education. This has caused a global shortage of high-quality engineering talent, the co-founder said.

With the rise in adoption of electric, hybrid electric vehicles, Industry 4.0, modern infrastructure development, and smart cities, the need of the hour is to have engineers who have knowledge of both engineering fundamentals and how they can be applied to solve real-world engineering problems through engineering design and simulation. In addition to this, the rapid adoption of new technologies by industries has also created a need for constant upskilling of engineering professionals, Paneerselvam further elucidated.             

Skill Lync’s ability to understand the demands of the industry through their deep industry partnerships and expert network, has allowed them to create technical content that matches the present and future requirements of industries across the globe. This is reflected in their programs in fields such as embedded systems for electric vehicles, VLSI, chip design, modern construction management, autonomous vehicles, electric vehicle development, and many more.

The company has raised a total of $20 million in funding, so far. They have raised a Seed round of $2.5 million postg-raduating from YC, and their recent Series A was about $17.5 million. 

The company claims to have very strong unit economics, with their goal to grow tenfold from where they currently are.

“There are a million engineers graduating every year, which means in the age group of 18-26 there are 8 million engineers India produces. One-fourth of the world's engineering talent. With very young demography, India has the unique opportunity to build engineering talent for the world. Our ability to create high-quality engineering talent will be the goal for the future,” Paneerselvam explained while specifying the kind of research that has gone into their establishment and procedures.

Paneerselvam believes that while edtech has thrived over the last three years, higher education as a segment has not been addressed in a fundamental way. The engineering sector especially needs an overhaul. The ever-increasing gap between what industries expect and what academia teaches creates a gap and they aim to fill that gap very soon. Companies like upGrad, Simplilearn, Edureka, Great Learning focus on the computer sciences aspect of it, whereas Skill-Lync focuses on all aspects of engineering, and that is where they build their difference.

“We have a strong opportunity to be the leading player not only in the engineering education space but also in the whole of higher education across the globe. We believe there is an opportunity for us to replace engineering education with an alternate platform that is more job-leading. We want to be the talent providers to the world. That is what we will be working on over the next 2 years,” he commented while stating his next trigger of growth for the company.