Business Today

Small start, big finish

The vocational and skills training market has spawned scores of successful entrepreneurs. Many are expanding into secondary and higher education, says Saumya Bhattacharya.

Saumya Bhattacharya | Print Edition: September 20, 2009

Market size (Growth)
Vocational & Training: $1.4 billion (10%)
Test Preparation: $1.5 billion (15%)
E-learning: $.04 billion (40%)
IT Training: $1.8 billion (40%)
Market size for 2008
Unlike K-12 and higher education, profit-making is allowed.
Recognition: Only for ITIs and polytechnics.
Authority for registration: State Government.
Authority for affiliation: Directorate General of Employment and Training, National Council for Vocational Training or State Council for Vocational Training.
Industries such as logistics, healthcare, construction, hospitality and automobiles need trained manpower.
New and viable business models in technology-enabled education.
2.5 million getting vocation training annually against an estimated 85-90 million people needing it from 2008-13.
Source: Technopak
Recent Developments
Career Launcher readies university launch in 2010.
NIIT University rolls out in September 2009.
Everonn, a technology-enabled education player, has entered formal education; to set up colleges.
Matrix Partners India invested Rs 100 crore in IIT test prep company FIITJEE.
Career Point that started as a test prep outfit has recently raised Rs 50 crore in equity capital from Franklin Templeton Private Equity Strategy.

In 1982 when Rajendra Pawar and Vijay K. Thadani started their first NIIT centre in Mumbai, education as a business proposition was a laughable idea and the computer a complex entity. But, in their search for the gold vein, Messrs Pawar and Thadani had spotted a glint here, a nugget there: IBM had introduced the personal computer in 1981, the Computer Society of India had said Indian industry was hamstrung by a lack of computer professionals, and India at that time had 6,00,000 unemployed graduates. The NIIT founders saw the mother lode: making industry and education talk.

Today, NIIT is one of the world’s leading education companies, centered on the premise of employability, which in turn has become a multi-billion-dollar business that has set the pulse of old and new entrepreneurs racing. “Earlier, the word private and education could not be said in the same sentence. Now, the opportunity around employability is huge. A hundred such NIITs can exist,” says Thadani, 57, CEO, NIIT Ltd.

The vocational and training business is a baby in the education business landscape, accounting for less than 10 per cent of the whole pie. But it is poised to grow the fastest, between 16 and 40 per cent a year, depending on the niche, according to Technopak. And what is the opportunity size? “India’s human capital is the biggest entrepreneurial opportunity on the planet,” says Manish Sabharwal, Member, National Council on Skill Development. Uma Ganesh, CEO of Global Talent Tract (GTT), which entered the market in 2009, has a value figure: Rs 40,000 crore just in India.

No wonder then, that everybody wants in: new entrepreneurs, established players in school and higher education, private equity investors and foreign players. The terrain covers everything from test preparation, training and assessment to curriculum, teacher’s training, technology delivery and products.

Among those already in: Navneet Publications, which is into stationery and e-learning, test preparation biggie FIITJEE and Mahesh Tutorials with its 50,000 students. Knocking at the door is higher education and schools major Manipal Education, armed with a tieup with City & Guilds of the UK. “With over three million Indians graduating every year, at least one million per year will need employable skills and that is where GTT intends to capture a major share,” says Ganesh.

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