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These Edupreneurs are Aligning Investors with their Vision and Disrupting the Industry Entrepreneur India interacts with Chaitanya Kalipatnapu, Co-Founder, and Ashwin Damera Co-Founder and Director of Eruditus Executive Education who are on a mission give a new dimension to edutech sector

By Bhavya Kaushal

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Eruditus, an educational platform that delivers high-quality blended programs globally in partnership with reputed academic institutions including INSEAD, Harvard Business School, Wharton, MIT, Cambridge, Berkeley Haas and Columbia Business School was recently in news for bagging $40 million in Series C round of funding, led by Sequoia India along with participation from existing investor Bertelsmann India Investments. The company was founded by Ashwin Damera and Chaitanya Kalipatnapu in 2010.

Entrepreneur India interacts with Chaitanya Kalipatnapu, Co-Founder, and Ashwin Damera Co-Founder and Director of Eruditus Executive Education in an email exchange. Kalipatnapu asserts that the birth of Eruditus Executive Education was not a "tipping point" but a journey stemming from the awareness that the educational ecosystem has some gaps which needed to be bridged.

Ashwin Damera and Chaitanya Kalipatnapu

The Birth of an Idea

Kalipatnapu was constantly beset with the question, "How can we provide world-class executive education to working professionals in India?" This question led to the birth of Eruditus. So was it a eureka moment? Definitely not! He further adds that it's not a single moment or tipping point but rather a process of identifying a huge gap in world-class professional education programs available and the impact that such programs can deliver.

Investment and Expansion

Digging into the aspects that led to the bagging of such a staggering amount of funding from Sequoia, Damera says that India's most sought after investors contacted them and the process began. And what led to convincing the investors? Kalipatnapu says that aligning is a better word than convincing! "It's more about finding the investor who is aligned with your vision and model, rather than convincing them." And then the three elements he gives for "aligning" investors with your vision of the company cover various important strata of business. First, it is identifying the market opportunity and its growth potential, second, how is your business model uniquely placed to serve the opportunity? And third is to identify your team's pedigree and skills. He adds that the last point will help "to deliver on the opportunity and the unique capabilities your venture has."

Damera says on where the funds will go, "We plan to use the funding to expand our operations to China and increase our footprint in Latin America, besides introducing more courses in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, among others. Seventy per cent of our students are based outside of the United States, and this fundraising will help accelerate our mission of making high-quality professional education more accessible and affordable.

These programs are usually of 6-8 months, in duration, and use a mix of on-campus, off-campus and online delivery. Damera feels that their USP is their collaborations with the best universities in the world. Working with MIT, Harvard, Columbia, Berkeley, INSEAD, Cambridge, Kellogg and expanding access to their courses is one of the strong standpoints of Eruditus.

These topics have currently taken the world by storm and Eruditus plans to nurture the seeds of technology among the young shoots of the world. For now, the group is focused on achieving these two aspects!

Disrupting the Industry

The education sector nowadays is seeing a lot of competition. Many start-ups are emerging to disrupt the existing norms of education. Eruditus has major competition in the Indian unicorn, BYJU's. But Damera remains unfazed. "Eruditus created a new market in the professional education space by introducing blended (classroom + virtual learning) management programs by top-ranked universities for working professionals in India. There was no other similar solution before Eruditus." This year 30,000 students have accessed high-quality university education via the Eruditus platform. This is what makes it disruptive.

Damera also argues that Byju's is not in the professional education space, but in the K-12 education space and therefore not a competitor to them.

Expanding Ranks in Asia-Pacific

Damera says that their industry is worth $280B. Have a tunnel focus on the three pillars – school collaborations, global student enrollment and very high learning outcomes-can help them combat competition and the pressures of the billion-dollar-market.

While their expansion rate is quite high, what are their plans specifically for the Asia-Pacific region? Damera replies that they see a lot of potential in India and China, two of the largest markets in Asia. "About 14 per cent of our students come from India and we intend to increase that. And later this year we will make our foray into China."

This year seems interesting owing to the amount of value China puts in its education system. This year might give Eruditus ample of opportunities to come out with some amazing manifestations.

Bhavya Kaushal

Former Features Writer

I am a work-in-progress writer and human being. An English graduate from Delhi University, writing is my passion and currently, I was Entrepreneur India's start-up reporter. I love covering start-ups and weaving their stories into unforgettable tales with the power of ink! 
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