Here is a story of how an entrepreneur started out blogging as a part-time occupation which has now turned out to be a training and certification place for thousands of people across the world.

Founded by Krishna Kumar in 2009, Simplilearn.com is a startup focussed on the training and certification sector. Kumar, an engineer from NIT, Surathkal has a dozen years or so of experience working in the Indian IT sector. Krishna like a lot of other tech entrepreneurs started his career with Infosys as a software engineer, but soon his entrepreneurial spirit inspired him to start his own venture – TechUnified. He co-founded TechUnified, which was acquired by a public listed company in February, 2007. Prior to its acquisition, the company had been making products in areas of mobile banking, voice banking and telecom self-care. So, how did this idea germinate from running a blog to certification? “In a span of 9 months I trained 3,000 people in 100 countries and that is when I thought of taking it into the mainstream,” says Kumar.

According to a study by ASSOCHAM, higher secondary market spends are estimated to reach $20 billion by 2015 and companies like Simplilearn.com are trying to capitalise on this. With study centres across the globe, Simplilearn.com offers over 50 certification courses in Project Management, IT Services Management, IT Security Management, Quality Management, Financial Management, and Technology Certification. Simplilearn.com has trained over 35,000 aspirants across 135 countries, including those from the world's leading Fortune 500 companies.

At present, they conduct over 300 classroom trainings per month across the world. Simplilearn.com is Global Registered Education Provider (REP) of Project Management Institute (PMI) in the US, Accredited Training Organization (ATO) by APMG International, UK, Accredited Examination Center (AEC) by EXIN and PEOPLECERT. Also, all the courses offered at Simplilearn.com are accredited and approved worldwide. Students taking up these courses can use the online forum provided by the company to interact with each other. The company has set up call centres in different countries for queries regarding the courses.

For online training courses, a student will receive a soft copy of the certificate through email and if a student has chosen classroom training program, Simplilearn issues both a hard copy as well as a soft copy of the certificate.

Initial challenges

The company faced some challenges in creating quality online courses in a short time frame to expand its offerings and maintain consistency. “Also classroom delivery in 100s of cities across the globe without local employees was an issue at first,” he said. So, in a segment that is seeing a lot of new entrants coming and existing players like NIIT and Educomp, how does this company differentiate? The USP of our business is blended learning model, accredited course content for online courses, 24/7 customer support and money back guarantee,” says Kumar.

According to company officials, the uniform method of training across geographies, ensuring repeat customers through better value for money, availability of course content across different media like, iTunes, online, e-learning modules, paper and webinars are some of the areas where it has had success. “Global Training Model with a back end in India and sales across the globe is another key differentiator,” says Kumar. With this success, Simplilearn has received growth capital funding from Kalaari Capital formerly known as IndoUS Venture Partners (IUVP).

Future Plans

The company plans to offer specialist management certification/diplomas going ahead. It plans to partner with specialist schools and online universities to explore creation of specialised courseware like online marketing, project specific management expertise, IT management skills etc. Specialist certifications such as a Masters programme with specific emphasis on project/cost management are expected to be the most aggressive growth segments within the training industry.

Another area of opportunity that the company sees is in domain specific certifications. There are very few players that have the expertise to offer in-depth training for domain specific certifications, according to Kumar. SimpliLearn will explore partnership opportunities with a few firms that offer domain and vertical specific certifications. “We can leverage internal expertise of building e-learning content and aggressively marketing such courseware through their global delivery platform and introduce service lines where the partner’s expertise in course content would be crucial,” says Kumar.

While others are building their business in an organic manner, Simplilearn plans to make acquisitions, even though it is not sitting on a huge pile of cash. “SimpliLearn will evaluate inorganic growth through acquisition of niche regional players especially in US to leverage relationships with key corporate clients. Also, of specific interest would be regional players in various European markets that are reasonable large like Germany, France and Spain etc. to leverage local knowledge and course specific expertise,” says Kumar.

Kumar's passion is athletics and he hopes to make this venture into a marathon and not a sprint.

venkatesh.ganesh@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 7, 2013)
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