Interview with Satish Rajagopalan, CEO, Apna Course

EdTechReview has been extensively covering interesting players and cutting edge developments in Education Technology. In our quest to review every EdTech in the world, today we would like to present to you an EdTech startup called "ApnaCourse".

Please note that the replies are exact words of Satish, CEO, ApnaCourse and they have not been edited.

1. What would be an elevator pitch for someone who does not know about your company?

ApnaCourse is India's leading MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) platform.

It is the World’s First Training Platform for Globally Recognized Certifications, fully ONLINE, absolutely FREE and delivered by Globally Renowned and Certified EXPERTS!

Domains for Training include Financial Management Certifications like CFA, FRM, CFP et al., Project and Quality Management Certifications like PMI-ACP, PMP etc., IT Services and Security Management Certifications like ISTQB, CISA, CISM etc., and certifications like Business Analysis and more.

2. What is your company's core value proposition? What problem are you solving and for whom?

The Core value proposition is to provide Training on Globally Recognized Certifications with Quality, Comfort and Affordability. Most professionals look to get certified on certifications like CFA, PMP, ISTQB etc to propel their career paths. ApnaCourse helps these professionals get trained for those certification exams and succeed.

3. What has been the market response till now? How do you plan to check on the user (for whom you are solving problem) satisfaction?

Market response has been very positive. We have had good responses to the 3 courses that are live on our platform currently and significant interest to the other 6 courses that are planned for release in the coming 5-6 weeks. Moreover, the time each participant spends on our platform is significantly increasing each day. We have had many participants go through the entire cycle of learning at ApnaCourse, taking up the Certification exam and passing that successfully.

We provide interactive Chat, Email and Phone support to the participants. Issues both technical or otherwise are addressed spontaneously by our team to ensure complete user satisfaction. We also track participant’s progress and ensure continuous hand-holding and doubt resolutions.

4.    What inspired the idea of ApnaCourse? What is the driving passion for this company? What is your vision?

ApnaCourse was born out of a real life situation. While I was at Mumbai, my friends used to appear for the CFA and FRM exams and would enrol for classroom training. Although the trainings were on weekends, work schedules caused them to miss many a classes. Moreover, the quality of faculties at these institutes were not of high standard. Students who had just passed the certification were roped in as faculties for the next batch. This triggered an idea to start and Online Platform and rope in the best faculties in that domain. The idea has evolved over time to what is ApnaCourse today.

Our driving passion is to leverage on the limitless potential of technology to make wonders happen.

Our vision is to be the leader in the e-training space very soon with our un-paralleled value proposition.

5. What is the stage of the product? Where do you see ApnaCourse in 6 or 12 or 18 months from now? (e.g. product milestones, team size, potential growth/revenue targets).

We launched ApnaCourse in August, 2013 (6 months back) and over the period we have undergone a significant learning curve with developments happening every day. Today the product caters to 1000+ users and growing rapidly. In 6 months time we expect ApnaCourse to have 20,000+ users with 12+ Courses. In 12 months, we believe we can touch 200,000+ users with the 20+ Courses that we have identified. Our team size has grown from a 3 member team in August, 2013 to 12 members today. That too would grow significantly in months to come.


6. What is the biggest need for your company at this point of time? (e.g. funding, development, market access, channels, publicity)

It has taken time for the market to accept our value proposition. Given the nascent concept of MOOC, people have been sceptical about the courses being offered free on our platform. This has changed over the last 2-3 months where we have seen most of the registrations. The pain point continues to be market visibility and communication of the value proposal. We believe to overcome this hurdle over the next few weeks through forums, blogs and reviews like EdTechReview and others.

7. What are your views about the growth of the Education Technology industry in India?

India is catching up to the use of technology in Education. While some key advancements have been made in ICT, it still is meagre when compared to the more developed nations. Hence, while the market is still immature, there is great potential with nearly 50-60% of this population in the category of 18-34 age group. Thus, over a period of 1-2 years, we believe this market will begin to accept the technological advancements in Education and the market will boom.  

8. Tell us about your team, who do you have supporting you? How did this start?

I started on my own in August, 2013 but was very fortunate to have been joined by 2 colleagues I knew from my earlier days. The Head of Operations, Mr. PandurangaVittal is someone I have worked with very closely in my prior company. The Business Analyst, Mr. Sushant Malangave is my MBA college-mate. The other team members have joined us over time. We have spent days over days with multitude of interviews to find the right candidate. We are happy we spent our efforts fruitfully given our team today.

We were also fortunate to have been acquired by the Spearhead Group, in the initial days of our launch. Now, as a subsidiary of the Spearhead Group, we get the expertise of the board members to help us along with their contact base. It also helps us to outsource activities like HR, Payroll etc and helps us focus on our core business. We are also funded by Spearhead.

9. What/Who motivates you? Any thought leader or companies with innovation which you follow for success? (whether in the EdTech space or in general)

Udemy, as an organization, motivates me. I have been fascinated by the way they rope in industry stalwarts like Jack Welch and others for their Online Courses. I too strive to bring in a similar value proposition on Quality by bringing in the best faculties for any Course.

10. What are the biggest challenges of your edtech company?

Our biggest challenges were acquiring our First Faculty and Getting my core team. Faculties were heavily sceptical about our online product. It took a lot of efforts to convince them and after many weeks we got our first faculty to sign up. Today, we have faculties writing to us directly and asking for partnerships. As ApnaCourse stands today, I personally believe there are no new challenges, just opportunities to grow bigger.     

11. Who would you call your competitors? And how are you different?

Frankly, we are not pitted against any existing player. This is because we are both an MOOC and an e-training provider. MOOC’s like Coursera or Udemy are not in the space we are in and training providers like Simplilearn are not affordable like we are. Hence, being low on price points, providing quality with renowned faculties and being Online as an MOOC, we are unique in today’s marketplace.

 

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