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'Designing' Disruption In The EdTech Space The Design Class aims to put India on the global map of premium design education

By Soumya Duggal

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Samarth Bajaj, co-founder and CEO, The Designer's Class

Much like designer items in the market, a quality design education in India is rather a luxury that consistently eludes the common person's grasp. Often expensive and inaccessible, design schools are mired by infrastructural issues and archaic curricula. By 2020, Samarth Bajaj had researched these problems for a decade without arriving at any plausible solutions. All this changed when COVID-19 hit the country that year, bestowing a certain necessity on the concept of digital education in India.

It was the first time that Bajaj perceived a real opportunity to build a design-based EdTech platform—the country's first—and consequently co-founded The Designer's Class with entrepreneurs Adheesh Nahar and Vishal Bajaj. Since August 2020, he has functioned as the CEO of this venture, which he calls "the result of a decade-long journey fuelled by a dream that is now finally a reality".

The application and necessity of design in today's world is apparent and endless. There are anywhere between 100 and 150 different verticals in the field. Design engulfs everything around us: from what we wear, to the products we use and consume, to the spaces we live and work from and to even how we present ourselves and communicate with each other.

"Design as a career is far more lucrative today and this generation has the inclination, the opportunity, the aptitude and the gumption to make their design dreams a reality. We have one definitive mission: to democratise design education by making it affordable, accessible, relevant and engaging for all design enthusiasts, regardless of their age, income bracket and geographical location," explains Bajaj.

The presence of ambition, however, does not eliminate the possibility of challenges. The latter, Bajaj and his team have encountered aplenty: "We began The Designer's Class in the thick of the pandemic—a most difficult time to start a company. Our first challenge was to put together a good lean adaptable team by overcoming two issues: The world was dealing with a severely unprecedented situation, which made it difficult for the focus to be on work for many, making the resource pool smaller than usual; then, there was a tech frenzy, which led to a massive inflation in the salary expectations of tech professionals across the nation. Good tech resources were very difficult to find and extremely expensive for a start up like ours to afford."

Notably, till the last year, the start-up world was focused mainly on growth and valuation, instead of value. Its lack of attention to good unit economics and limited cash burn is widely considered today as a contributor to the current funding winter. "I believe that a combination of the bottom-line of the balance sheet and the satisfaction of customers is what truly define a company's value. We weren't keen on succumbing to the pressure of chasing unsustainable growth, which made securing funding tougher for us. It took us a while to find like-minded investors; like mindedness being a very important factor to keep in mind while raising money. Today, luckily we have a pool of investors who have invested in our vision and share the same principles," says Bajaj.

These days, the start-up ecosystem is going through a rather turbulent phase—a stark contrast to the golden era which was prominent just a few months ago. Ed-tech is a major victim of this sudden change, rendering rampant cost-cutting and lay-offs inevitable for survival, mainly because liquidity in the market has dried up. "This is proving to be a major worry for companies that were relying on frequent rounds of funding. However, companies like ours that focused on building a healthy foundation by realising the importance of achieving robust profitability are in a good position. It enables us to be self-sufficient with the added benefit of receiving the new-found interest of investors," he states.

The founders of The Designer Class consider their startup unique for focussing exclusively on design and offering sought-after services in the field: comprehensive courses developed by leading design academics and taught by industry stalwarts; provision of credible certifications, serious internship opportunities, and an exclusive design community; and several others. "The Designer's class has been built with the intention to pioneer a revolution in the world of design education world over," claims Bajaj.

With operations currently spread across the B2C, B2B and B2G segments, The Designer's Class is executing growth plans in all these three sectors. "In the B2C sector, we will be active in six different design verticals by August 15: fashion, interiors, make-up, jewellery, photography and wedding décor. We will also introduce courses in 15 new verticals of design by March of 2023. Additionally, we are expanding to new Indian markets, especially in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, as well as international markets, initially targeting the South Asian diaspora. We are also developing a state-of-the-art hybrid model that will equip us with a structure to rapidly grow in the B2B and B2G segments."

"We will work relentlessly to put India on the global map of premium design education," he pledges!

Soumya Duggal

Former Feature Writer

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