In 2009, when Krishna Kumar started a blog called Simplilearn—which, in his words, was born out of his passion for teaching—he perhaps didn’t have an idea it will turn into one of India’s largest edtech companies. Today, the company, which provides online certification training courses to both individual customers and enterprises, has acquired 1 million learners from 150 countries. “We must be doing something right to get here,” says Kumar. In an interaction with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that, being Bangalore-based, Simplilearn knows the global edtech market better than any of its competitors. Kumar, who had earlier co-founded TechUnified—a software product company which he exited successfully in 2007—also says that, in terms of business, 2017-18 was a turning point. Excerpts:
When you started Simplilearn as a blog, did you believe it would turn into a big edtech company?
While I did foresee that the blog had potential, the initial thought was not to build it as a “for-profit” company. One thing led to another, and today we have acquired 1 million learners from 150 countries—we must be doing something right to get here. What definitely helped was our focus on providing outcome-based training, measured through our students getting either better-paying jobs or better roles within their organisation.
Is Simplilearn any different from other edtech players?
We’re a digital economy training company, and the only focus is on delivering training that’s outcome-centric. Content plays a key role, and we partner with global domain leaders to build up-to-date content that is in sync with current industry requirements. With a blend of self-learning and instructor-led live classrooms, we provide anytime, anywhere learning to professionals who are hamstrung for time. Your courses, it appears, cater primarily to the IT/ITeS industry… Our courses appeal to anyone working for digital economy. Most big enterprises spend a lot on building digital capabilities and have large teams of employees working in that area. Today, we have some of the world’s largest FMCG companies, largest financial institutions as well as global telecom players as our customers. These are the sectors spending big time on reskilling for the digital age. In India, IT companies are one of the biggest employers, and we have a lot of customers from this sector. Having said that, we do plan to add more courses in high growth areas. We will work with organisations from different industries and tailor the learning content and delivery accordingly. We look at the demand pattern and keep launching courses from time to time.
What is the difference between your B2B and B2C offerings?
We provide training in in-demand digital technologies such as AI, machine learning, big data, analytics, cloud computing, digital marketing, cyber security, among others. While all our courses are outcome-centric, what differentiates B2C from B2B offerings is the kind of outcome. For B2C customers, the outcome is more driven towards new jobs, promotions, salary increases and career shifts. On the B2B front, the desired outcome is to help enterprises sustain their culture of continuous learning, and ensure the employees become digitally competent and are ready to apply new skills on the job.
What all have you achieved outside the country?
Our focus was to be a global player. The acquisition of Market Motive helped us set up operations in North America in 2015, and today we have offices in San Francisco, California, and Raleigh, North Carolina. The US and India are our primary growth markets, contributing to 80% of revenues. Today, 45% of our users are from the US—that market has been especially instrumental in the enterprise training segment. The remaining 20% of our users are from the UAE, Australia, Singapore, the UK and Europe. From a business point of view, which has been your best year? Every passing year makes the company stronger, but 2017-18 has been a turning point in our journey. We have seen strong traction in all our business units. This has set foundation for sustained growth.
Indian market is getting increasingly competitive; how can you maintain—or even increase—your market share?
We have been leading the “reskilling” phenomena. There’s nothing more significant than the need for continuous learning in this fast-changing environment of digital disruptions. Going forward, we will continue our endeavour towards meeting the reskilling needs of both the professionals and enterprises, and bridging the skill gap in the digital economy.
Lastly, how did you decide upon the name Simplilearn?
I was looking for a short and easy-to-pronounce name for my blog, and during the search I came across Simplilearn. I checked with a group of friends and family, and everyone liked the name. That was a good validation that this name will resonate well with the users as well.