Mayank Kumar, MD, UpGrad Shares Insights on Benefits of Online Education for Working Professionals

With a goal to significantly leverage technology to transform the way education is delivered in the digital age, UpGrad has created a world class team that is committed to provide the most engaging online learning experience to students.

In order to know more about the changing landscape of higher education in India and the potential of online learning, we interacted with Mayank Kumar who is the MD at UpGrad.

Watch the interview video or read the transcript below.

Tell us about UpGrad in shortest number of words.

UpGrad is an online education platform targeting working professionals helping them achieve their professional potential; especially folks who have 3-5 years of experience and are figuring out as to what to do next is where UpGrad plays a role by providing quality rigorous post graduate programs online.

What has been the market response till now? 

We have launched quite recently, and our first program has just started on 25th November. First program is in the area of entrepreneurship, this program is priced at INR 50000 and has seen interest coming from all over the country and even outside. We received interest from over 10000 students who wanted to know more about the program; and from there on we put them through a rigorous application and selection process so that we may end up enrolling around 600 students which would by any standard will be the largest entrepreneurship program in India.

An our aim is to come up with best products and programs for working professionals and get better response with each program we launch.

What inspired the idea of UpGrad? What’s your vision for UpGrad?

I have been in the education space for the last 9-10 years both as an advisor as well as an investor. The following observations inspired me to start with UpGrad.

  1. India has the largest number of college going population (age 18-24) to which the current number or the current pace of growth in brick and mortar institutions cannot serve.
  2. Needs of the industry is changing rapidly. There is a need for working professionals to upgrade their skill continuously. And for the same, they do not have a lot of options as the current university system has not kept pace with the changing needs of the industry.
  3. I found that online education companies are doing good work but still are missing many pieces in terms of modern way of program delivery.

Tell us about your team, who do you have supporting you?

We are 4 co-founders:

  •        Mayank Kumar, Co-founder & MD
  •        Ronnie Screwvala, Co-founder & Chairman
  •        Ravijot Chugh, Co-founder, Product
  •        Phalgun Kompalli, Co-founder, Operations

Ronnie and I met accidentally. When somebody introduced us, one thing connected to another and took us to where we are right now . With Ravi and Phalgun, I used to work earlier, and that’s how the team came together.

Apart from this we have a content team which includes both academicians and course production members, a focused team on technology and user experience, and then a team working on sales and support who are continuously supported by Co-Founders.

Walk us through UpGrad’s learning experience for any online learner who signs up a course on your platform? How is emphasis given on student engagement for the e-learners? How is UpGrad is trying to leverage the same for industry relevant learning?

Learning experience is very important even online.

  • Our approach is very simple that an individual should learn the concept.
  • Given that it is an online environment, the advantage we have is that we can make that individual experience those concepts and elements in their learning journey. For eg: If you are learning about Branding, you can live the life of the Founder of Zomato, how he thinks about Branding in his company.
  • Allow the individual to apply what he has learnt to his own company.

There is a strong focus on flipped learning where students come to the class after going through the lectures and real life case studies of successful entrepreneurs and over the course of time, interact with fellow students to come up with the answer and solution in their context. This is overall a very engaging experience.

Talk about some of the upcoming in the courses.

  •         Entrepreneurship.
  •         Data analytics and Data Science.
  •         Product Management focusing on Digital Business.
  •         Digital Marketing
  •         Deciding on whether it would be - Intrapreneurship, Corporate entrepreneurship program OR Angel Investment

UpGrad is well funded and backed by Ronnie Screwvala. But what is the biggest need for your company at this point of time post funding?

For us building a top class team is the biggest need so that we can achieve the vision of creating that great product and scale up in the future.

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

It is an early stage but existing universities offering executive programs in the market or offering distance education programs for the same. Within the non-formal companies like SimpliLearn and Edureka are doing something similar to us.

What are your views on the changing landscape of the higher education in India? What are the possibilities of partnership with universities, colleges?

For us partnering with universities would be relevant but that’s a decision we might take on a case by case basis. We may come out with our first university partner announcement very soon. For the changing landscape of higher education I would say the following observations are important for universities to understand.

  • Online will become more dominant. It will be a necessity rather than a good to have thing.
  • There has to be more industry academia cooperation. We will have to make learning a process rather than an event in someone’s life.
  • People will come more and more for the learning and less for degrees.

What/Who motivates you? Any thought leader(s) which you follow for success?

I think from a company’s point of view to continuously innovate, we can look up to and learn a lot from company like Apple because it is not easy to stay relevant with continuous innovation happening; and that’s the DNA of the organization.

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