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Online Upskilling Bringing New Dimension To Education In India: Dr Will Lin, Simplilearn

Simplilearn is aiming to help organisations worldwide upskill their workforce and provide personalised learning platforms for individuals to demonstrate mastery in particular areas and/or self-improve

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India’s edtech industry has shown massive growth in the last 5 years and it is growing fast with the current market size pegged at about 1 billion and estimated to become $30 billion in the next 10 years. The edtech space has attracted private equity investments of billions in the last couple of years, leading to the emergence of many edtech players in the space. The pandemic has further bolstered the evolution of the industry, with increased adoption by enterprises and learners alike, boosting the global shift to digital upskilling. Online learning, while it was present even before the pandemic, has now grown further with the Covid-19 lockdowns, given the acceptance and ability to remotely access digital learning programs and their location-agnostic nature.  

Dr Will Lin, Chief Marketing Officer, Simplilearn talks to us through the overall edtech space, his new role and the brand's strategies to win over its competition.


Q. How would you juxtapose the Indian edtech space with the global scenario? What are the areas that India still needs to brace up to? 

The Indian edtech space is booming with continued digital transformation and the curiosity among professionals to upskill to stay ahead of their peers. Despite challenges in some areas of the edtech space, the industry continues to do well. The Indian edtech industry’s future is pegged at $30 billion*, backed by the rapid advancement of technology in the education sector and the benefits being provided to the industry by the government. The edtech sector is also providing learners with the opportunity to study with international universities and experience global-standard upskilling, which would be beneficial in the long run.  

We can say that edtech has successfully brought international education opportunities closer to home. In terms of improvement areas, increased access to internet facilities especially in the hinterlands and reassuring trust of learners with secure access to the internet would aid the growth of the sector. Additionally, providing adequate dedicated budgets to help the edtech industry bridge the gap between the academic and working world would boost the scenario in India.  

Q. There's a lot written about how investments and job creation have been natural consequences of the increasing edtech players. From a marketer's point of view, what are some of the challenges and silver linings that this space offers?  

The ultimate challenge is how Simplilearn stays top-of-mind for learners among many competitors. How does Simplilearn reach out to the learners at the right time and the right place? How does Simplilearn communicate its values and differentiations against its competitors? Furthermore, more competitions mean it will be more costly to acquire learners. How does Simplilearn keep its rising acquisition cost in check while staying profitable?  

Fortunately, the learner population is huge. According to the World Economic Forum and PwC Upskilling for Joint Prosperity report, "half of all employees around the world will need reskilling by 2025—and that number does not include all the people who are currently not in employment.” Given Simplilearn’s current competitive and future positioning, it will play an integral role in helping organisations worldwide upskilling their workforce, and providing personalised learning platforms for individuals to demonstrate mastery in particular areas and/or self-improve. 

Q. Your new role at Simplilearn involves managing the company’s overall marketing advertising and sales strategy, driving revenue by increasing sales through marketing activities, etc. What does your marketing plan for the next 1 year looks like? What gaps are you expecting to fill and what will be your key focus areas? 

There are three overarching goals that I want Simplilearn to achieve:  

  1. Become the learners’ preferred destination by simplifying the process of finding courses meeting their diverse needs. 
  2. Become our B2B partners’ platform of choice by delivering the most cost-effective way to fill their classroom vacancies. 
  3. Establish our brand as the leading technology company in the edtech industry. 

The marketing plan is geared towards accelerating the attainment of these goals, which includes improving our site engagement with learners by providing them with the most relevant, targeted, and personalised information, acquiring the highest quality leads in quantity for our partners and deploying best-in-class data-driven brand & marketing strategies. By executing this plan, we are hopeful that we will further amplify Simplilearn’s brand awareness and customer loyalty, and to drive the transformation of marketing into a data and revenue-driven function. It starts now.   

Q. Over 4,530 edtech start-ups are operating in India currently. Who do you see as your competition? How are you making a difference in the game? 

In the edtech space, there certainly are a handful of companies that continue to do extremely well. We're well positioned to be one of them. This comes from the strong pedagogy, product expertise, and our world’s leading boot camp model. As a company, we are focused on equipping learners with the skills that are essential to succeed in the digital economy. This has enabled us to witness mindful growth consistently and with Blackstone's investment last year, this has only amplified. 

Industry reports indicate that 1.3 billion youth — the largest young generation in world history, are on the brink of entering the workforce. However, the global skilling challenge continues to persist. On this front, it is needless to say that education and skilling systems need to align with the new market demands that are continually challenged by disruptors, demographic change and the evolution of work practices. Our vision is to focus on bridging this very gap, enabling employment efficiency by skilling aspirants to successfully realise their careers. To achieve the same, we are diving deep into university partnerships for certification and post-graduate programs with our boot camp style learning methodology, as well as enterprise partnerships to successfully bridge the professional skill gap.  

Q. "Edtech is the new growth catalyst of the Indian education industry"- do you agree?  

Yes, the edtech industry has been acting as a catalyst in the Indian education industry. Since the pandemic, the edtech industry has helped a lot of students in shaping their skills and bringing programs that were once only undertaken globally, to the Indian market. This has further helped in closing in on the skill gap to a certain extent and students can grab job opportunities with global firms. Therefore, online upskilling is certainly bringing a new dimension to the education space in the country.  

Q. In the years ahead, will we see consolidation in the industry that will give rise to a few major players for each segment within edtech? 

A lot of consolidation is taking place in the market currently. It is to be believed that in two years in this space, there'll be two or three kinds of survivors—front runners, large, healthy companies—and there always will be start-ups or niche companies with newer products. However, I believe that the market shall be bifurcated and there shall exist only 2-3 kinds of clear, dominant players in the space. We do not expect a monopoly in the market as it is too robust and some people are large and growing along with being very well-funded. 

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Online Upskilling education Dr Will Lin Simplilearn