Learning it the simply way

Written by Anand J | Updated: Apr 14 2014, 08:25am hrs
Anand J Krishna Kumar, founder and CEO of Simplilearn, an

e-learning company, turned entrepreneur after he was made to sit on the bench at Infosys, Bangalore, for six months. He left Infosys with three others and together they founded TechUnified, an IT services company that got acquired by ORG Informatics in 2007.

It was not to build a product. We did not know what a product was. We just did not want to sit on the bench. In 2000, the job market was good and we realised the worst case scenario was not bad and it is good to try entrepreneurship, says Kumar. But the tide turned with September 11 and the dot com bust followed in 2002. But Kumar says he was lucky. In fact, we got our first funding on the morning of September 11 and the twin towers came down in the evening, he says.

Simplilearn, Kumars second venture, also saw a bit of luck. The professional certification training company, started as an eponymous blog that he had launched while on sabbatical after his exit from TechUnified. After exiting our earlier venture, I had cash and was not thinking of another things at that moment. I was giving training for a few courses but then started getting a lot of followers and requests on the blog for other courses started coming in, Kumar says.

Simplilearn is in the business of re-equipping working professionals with IT skills and till date it has trained over 1,00,000 professionals in over 150 countries. The company has tied up with certification agencies and provides training for professionals online. The courses include Project Management Professional (PMP), ITIL foundation, CSM, PRINCE2, Six Sigma and other Security courses for the IT industry. The firm also offers other courses in big data and cloud computing.

The company has grown at a rate of 400% over the past year and is planning to expand its current portfolio of 80 courses. Five thousand e-learning students benefit from its classes every month and 200 new customers are being added every day.

According to the company, it earns 50% of its revenue from the US, 30% from India and is at a break-even stage. It is operating at a monthly run rate of around R8 crore.

According to Kumar, the online education industry earlier used to function like a marketplace where teachers and students met for virtual classes. The trainer model has its limitation in scaling up, says Kumar, because it is dependent on the trainer taking more classes. His company is therefore investing in courseware and expanding its video offerings. It is spending R1 crore every month on improving the courseware, with more than 100 people, out of the total employee strength of 500, engaged in course development.

We are increasing the interactivity we have in our teaching module and are preparing them for these certificates as our training content matches the standards that many corporates want. We guide the trainers about how a course is taught. We tell them what needs to be taught in the first hour of the training, what examples are to be taken; everything is written down, Kumar says.

Simplilearn is also taking the course on to the mobile platform. Even now, all our courses are available on mobile but we are working under the assumption that the customer accessing it on the mobile is only using mobile learning, he says. The company is also looking at acquiring opportunities, especially in the US, that will be a combination of new markets and complementary courses. It plans to tie up with corporates for the next stage of growth. Instead of selling it to one guy at a time, I can sell it to a hundred people. In India we have already tied up with a few clients in the major metros in the last few months. We are looking to do that in the US also. If it works, it will be a big game changer, he adds.

Recently, Simplilearn raised $10-million in Series B funding from Helion Venture Partners and Kalaari Capital. We will raise funding if we get a good acquisition target. We are looking at how quickly we can reach $100 million target in annual revenue. That would be a right revenue to any kind of value unlocking, Kumar says.