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This Ed-tech Startup Helps Working Professionals, Students Upskill Great Learning has till date impacted the lives of over 500,000 learners across the world

By Debarghya Sil

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Great Learning
Mohan Lakhamraju, Founder, Great Learning

We are living in the 21st century, wherein everything is spontaneous. In this cut-throat era of competition, a slight delay in saying "yes' or "I can' might put you off from that dream project of yours. To be ready for any challenge related to work, one has to be mentally prepared and have the skills to tackle it. Yes sure, your three-five years in college must have helped to get the job, but in this age of technology, when nothing is stagnant, one has to adapt to the changes and be ready to learn to be in the competition. A professional or a student has to upskill to match with the phase of the world. It not only increases the chance of getting that project/job but also doesn't hold you back from switching jobs instantaneously and confidently.

Understanding these pain points and witnessing a gradual shift in mentality among people regarding higher studies, Mohan Lakhamraju along with Hari Krishnan Nair and Arjun Nair founded Great Learning in 2013 to upskill working professionals and students.

In an interaction with Entrepreneur India, Lakhamraju talks about the journey of the startup and how technology is now disrupting the education sector.

"Finding Quality Education"

Lakhamraju's journey in the education sector started much before Great Learning. Alumnus of some prestigious education institutes in the world such as IIT-Bombay, University of California, and Stanford Business School, Lakhamraju after his stint as a managing director at Tiger Global, stepped into the education sector with an objective to provide quality education. "India has a lot of higher education institutes, but lacks in delivery of quality education," he said. He said that due to dearth of quality high education, there are a significant number of graduates who are unemployed in India.

However, in 2009, technology was yet to penetrate in India, so he had to opt for offline education. He worked with Great Lakes Institute of Management and continues to serve as the vice-president and chief executive officer.

"I always wanted to leverage technology to provide high quality education and make it accessible to everyone," he added. By 2013, Lakhmaraju observed that online education was gaining momentum across the world. He was in talks with Coursera's founder who was his classmate and understood the trend. This is the year when he founded Great Learning. Lakhmaraju believes that high quality education requires human assistance and self learning alone is not enough. This is why he along with other founders built a platform which is a combination of technology, content and human assistance.

Great Learning today boasts of 90 per cent completion rate.

"We want to achieve good learning outcomes, if not better than what happens in the campuses," he mentioned.

"Upskilling Is Essential"

According to Lakhamraju, the world is changing at a faster pace which will require professionals to keep up with requirements of the workplace. This has resulted in people to learn and rescale themselves which was not earlier present.

He said earlier, people used to do a master's programmes and made an entire career out of it. Another factor that has increased the popularity of upskilling is the presence of online courses.

Lakhamraju follows the mantra of "Jo sikhta hain wohi agey badhta hain," (Those who learn will achieve success)

Lakhamraju said earlier a professional has to juggle between his work and studies. According to him, professionals had to go for night classes which hampered their work-life balance.

Now professionals and students can upskill themselves at their own convenience.

"Flipped Classroom Model"

Great Learning offers programmes in career critical competencies such as business analytics, data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, cyber security, strategic digital marketing, design thinking, executive management programme, and more.

The startup provides these programmes in blended, classroom and online mode. In the blended mode, the startup delivers the learning content half on online and the rest offline to strike a proper balance.

The edtech firm has three different segments of programmes on the basis of their duration. There is a certificate course which is from six months to 12 months. There is a degree programme which lasts for 18 months to 24 months. The third programme is "bootcamp programme' which young professionals take to develop a new skill within four months of time. This is a full-time classroom programme that starts from the morning and concludes in the evening.

The above three courses cost from INR 75,000 to INR 6 lakh.

Great Learning's programmes are developed in collaboration with academic institutions such as McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford Center for Professional Development, among others, and are constantly reimagined and revamped to address the dynamic needs of the industry.

Lakhamraju said people with age from 21 to 60 years participate in their courses.

Great Learning follows a flipclass room model which provides a hybrid learning experience for online learning students. Explaining about the model, Lakhamraju said their model is a combination of asynchronous and synchronous learning experience. He said in asynchronous mode, a student or professional will consume the content at his free time whereas in the synchronous will consist of live lectures where a student has to make time and be available in the class.

Great Learning currently has students from across 140 countries of which they have paid users from 85 countries.

The startup has till date delivered close to 30 million hours of learning and has over 500,000 learners.

COVID-19 Impact

As with most other businesses, Great Learning also took a hit at the beginning of the lockdown. However, the startup's resilient nature helped it to get back on its feet much stronger. "From 2 April, we noted that people got accustomed to the new normal and utilized the free time by learning new courses," he added. The company did not lay off or deduct salaries of their employees during the months of lockdown. For the financial year 2020, the startup booked revenue of INR 325 crore, an increase of around150 per cent over financial year 2019, which is likely to rise and be reflected in financial year 2021.

The startup has also offered their courses to over 700 companies to help their employees upskill.

According to Lakhamraju, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology for education. "The biggest change that has happened due to COVID-19 is that all the stakeholders that are involved in the education ecosystem, have realized the power of online learning," he added.

He said education and healthcare are the two sectors which have embraced technology the least, but due to the pandemic there has been a significant change. As a part of their growing plan, the startup has now started offering their courses in vernacular languages and is increasing their courses portfolio. The startup has also roped in Indian men's cricket team captain Virat Kohli as their brand ambassador recently.

Debarghya Sil

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Correspondent

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