Aptech, which started as a computer education provider in 1986, has since transformed into a career education company. “This transition into a global career education company is a conscious decision,” says Ninad Karpe, MD & CEO, Aptech Ltd. He also believes that the Make-in-India initiative provides a huge opportunity for the private sector to be part of nation building at the grass-roots level. In an interaction with Vikram Chaudhary of The Financial Express, Karpe adds that skill-based training is going to be the backbone of the Make-in-India initiative and the best way to ensure that vocational training serves its intended purpose is through PPP. Excerpts:
Vocational education is crucial for the success of the Make-in-India initiative. What role can the private sector play?
The private sector can help improve the infrastructure of the existing vocational training institutes, bring contemporary course curricula to these centres, train the trainers, etc. In fact, engaging in vocational education as part of CSR—in exchange for which they can be given tax concessions, infrastructural benefits, financial aid and funding—is one way of bringing private players into the field. They can also take a particular centre under their wings to provide trade-based training. After such a training, the onus must partly be on the private sector to absorb these skilled workers into their organisations. At the same time, they must ensure that their existing workers are not made redundant because of the influx of new skilled workers. This can be done by conducting training programmes within their organisations to skill workers, assess and re-skill existing workers, and sustain that skill in order to maintain a high level of productivity. So, in both ways, direct and indirect, the private sector can play a role in expanding the reach and quality of vocational education.
You mean public-private partnership is the way forward…
Vocation-based training is the missing link between education and employment. However, with the launch of the Make-in-India initiative, vocational education has been pushed to the forefront. The best way to ensure that vocational training serves its intended purpose is through PPP. While the government can provide the opportunity for growth and development of skills, the private sector must take on the role of consumer of these skilled workers as well as a sustainer of the talent through re-skilling initiatives.
What are your views on affordable education loans, credit guarantee fund and micro-financing facility to students? Do you think enough was done in the Budget as far as these initiatives are concerned?
Lack of education, employability and employment attributed to unavailability of funds is a matter of grave concern. Financial inadequacy should not be a reason for the majority of our population to be left skill-less and redundant. This Budget has focused on education in an inclusive manner. It has made provisions for education loans for the girl child as well as financial aid for the needy. The Micro Units Development Refinance Agency (MUDRA) is a major step towards breaking the financial barrier of underprivileged students. The credit guarantee fund, which provides loans without collateral to students, is another strategic step that can reap the benefits of India’s demographic dividend.
At the same time, the government must not go back on the progress made with the introduction of these initiatives. Skill-based training is going to be the backbone of the Make-in-India initiative. The government must strive hard to increase the number of skilled workers in order to successfully compete with other nations. Our demographic dividend is a huge asset; we should now take all possible steps to ensure better facilities for skill formation.
Coming to Aptech, it was the leading computer education provider a decade ago. However, over time, new players entered the field and took a large share of the pie. Was Aptech’s evolution into a career education company, and not just a computer education provider, a conscious decision?
Education is a dynamic industry and it can accommodate lots of enthusiastic, passionate and result-oriented players. Aptech’s transition into a global career education company is a well-thought-out and conscious decision.
Will you enter niche but profitable segments such as live virtual classrooms, edu-tourism, etc?
As I said, education is a dynamic industry and there are lots of opportunities to look at. At present, one of our major focus areas is Online Varsity—the collaborative, cloud-based learning platform. We continue to look at options besides the conventional.
A few years ago you said that you want to be India’s largest global education company. How near are you to the target?
We are closer to the target and are also expanding very well in the emerging markets. The strategy of multi-country, multi-product expansion has paid off well and the brand is now recognised the world over for its quality and reach.
Are you following the franchise model for growth?
We have faith in the franchising model and will continue to grow with the same model of business. Globally, we are present through all our education training sub-brands in over 40 countries. In fact, we follow the franchise model across all education brands. In some, we have taken the business partnership, master franchising for a specific country or regular single-brand franchising route.
How many training centres you have in India? What is your plan for FY16?
We have over 850 centres across India. While the IT training market has matured over the past two decades, the next round of growth is coming from animation education and from the tier-2 and tier-3 towns.
What sort of arrangement do you have with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC)?
Aptech and NSDC have had an agreement since 2013 to provide training for a multiplicity of disciplines that will supply manpower to several key areas of our economy. According to this arrangement, Aptech would form a separate SBU and attempt to train more than 2.33 million people nationwide over a period of 10 years in sectors such as banking, financial services, insurance, entertainment, organised retail, etc.