The Idea Called UpGrad: A Start For Start-Ups

This is the second of a three-part series written by Co-Founder and CEO, UpGrad, Mayank Kumar
Faced with the challenges that I spoke about in my previous post (The Idea Called UpGrad: Why Education Is Serious Business), my co-founders and I set off on what would not just be an arduous journey, but possibly a back-breaking one. Were we going to make it through the other end? Was there to be an end, at all?

Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs…

We launched our first Leadership & Management program. Why Entrepreneurship?

  • If learning should lead to increased employability, generate more jobs and higher pay grades, then won’t entrepreneurship, in the next decade, be the largest needle mover for new jobs in the country?
  • Can entrepreneurship really be taught? Our answer was ‘yes’. That answer, unfortunately, made it challenging.
  • We thought that if we need to see whether online works or not, we would need to take a program, which for most people might be categorized as ‘a nice thing to do’ and not necessarily something they ‘need to do’. We dove headfirst to challenge that very assumption.
  • And finally, it was a great case for us to display the power of online, as well as its engagement and learning hooks.

Not just a content library…

When we started this program, we got many questions and assumptions ranging from –
Can entrepreneurship be taught?
Whatever there is to know is available online for freeand
If you don’t do it yourself, what can a program teach you?
With all these questions in mind, we were very clear on what we wanted to achieve with this program, and that was providing clarity of thought to aspiring entrepreneurs.
We were also very clear that we did not want this to just be a content library rather the program must have a tangible impact on an individual’s career and profession. We ended up successfully training 400+ entrepreneurs.
Mayank’s recent article in YourStory on why online education is more than a content library

And the journey begins…

We kick-started this program in November 2015, after which we started two more batches in April and June 2016. Our fourth batch recently went live in October 2016.
We have got 5000+ applications till date, across batches and, after filtering them through a selection process, we admitted a total of 400 to our class, in a very short period. Each of them has paid INR 50,000 for this three-month program – a first in the online space in India (we’ve had more firsts since).
Top 5 Questions Entrepreneurs Should Be Asking Themselves

 I’m graduating today… online!

Of our first batch of 100+ participants, our completion rates were 95%+ (which is unheard of in online education) projecting a very high level of engagement. We had the first ever online graduation ceremony for this first batch!
The Start-Up Guide: What Do Investors Look For?


When our batch started; 50% of the students were still in jobs but looking to get clarity from our program on when they should make a switch, and of that 60% are now out of those jobs and starting up their own enterprises!
50% of our program participants could launch their product in the market post completing the program and 10% of them got their first funding – partly based on the confidence they got from the program and partly from the Pitch-Day we hosted for all those who had completed the program.
These are small numbers, given that India will need 100X of this to start up but it’s a good star and a very strong affirmation that online learning in India will have its skeptics but only results will show otherwise.
When we decided to measure the impact on our graduating class, we were surprised to find that:

  • 90% pivoted their business model 
  • Half of our participants launched their product 
  • One-third saw an increase in their revenue; attributed to the program  
  • And half of them found the right business partners, in their batch-mates

These are encouraging signs for building the ecosystem for online education. Building the credibility of online education is going to be important and I think this impact assessment that we conducted has validated our approach.

In my next post, read about the launching of our Data Analytic Program and how we proceeded with it.

What are the different kinds of entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is of paramount gravity for both the begetter of business and the economy as a whole. There is an array of types of entrepreneurship; here, four significant ones are discussed. Small-scale entrepreneurship is the concept of starting a small business with own money or some loan, without the plan to scale it up into a large company. A scalable startup plans to offer a unique idea, service, or product for sale with a plan to grow with the help of investors. A large company is not new but a business diversification by an existing conglomerate. Social entrepreneurship is not driven by the motive of profit earning but by social and community welfare.

How is online learning and distance learning different?

Often used in place of one another, online learning and distance learning are two different concepts. In both, the learning site is non-identical from the teaching site. The learning takes place through different modes, print, electronic, etc. The substantial difference lies in the interaction, its level, and mode. In online learning, the interaction between the teacher and student takes place in virtual classes and one-on-one mode also. This is absent in distance learning, where there is no interaction, or it is through messaging apps or discussion boards. In online learning, the exams are conducted digitally, while this is not the case with distance learning, where one has to be physically present in the examination hall. The difference also lies in the teaching methodology, where online education tends to resemble the offline mode with a blend of technology. But in distance learning, the students get the study material and are supposed to prepare independently.

How does online learning benefit companies?

Online learning is not only meant for full-time students but also for part-time or full-time employees. It helps companies cut their physical training and education costs, which sometimes include traveling, residence, etc. E-learning takes 40%-60% less time than conventional learning. It adds to the basket of benefits that online learning offers. It provides worldwide accessibility to learning opportunities which fits any number of employees as per their lifestyle and pace of learning.

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  1. Thanks for the support Chrinstine! Glad you liked this post/our Blog. Stay tuned for many more such pieces from UpGrad and we will be happy to hear if you have any preferences or specific areas you like reading our posts in.

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  1. Thanks for the support Chrinstine! Glad you liked this post/our Blog. Stay tuned for many more such pieces from UpGrad and we will be happy to hear if you have any preferences or specific areas you like reading our posts in.

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