‘Indian Learners Are Extremely Focused on Building Tech and Business Skills’

In an email interview, Raghav Gupta, India Country Director, Coursera tells BW CIO World how Coursera is rising to address the demand for quality courses to address the dire requirement for new skills. He talks about Coursera for Business and the high quality courses they are introducing in India, in partnership with esteemed institutions such as Indian School of Business (ISB).

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Raghav Gupta, India Country Director, Coursera

Bellwethers in the Indian IT sector are trimming their workforce and looking for new skills in automation, machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence, design thinking, R and Python programming. The need to reskill is more pertinent than ever. In the past year, India witnessed an uptake of high quality, flexible, career-relevant online courses. The maximum growth was witnessed in technology courses, which constituted 70 per cent of the 10 most popular courses. According to a recent study by Google & KPMG, the Indian edtech sector is likely to grow eightfold to become a $1.96 billion industry by 2021.

In an email interview, Raghav Gupta, India Country Director, Coursera tells BW CIO World how Coursera is rising to address the demand for quality courses to address the dire requirement for new skills. He talks about Coursera for Business and the high quality courses they are introducing in India, in partnership with esteemed institutions such as Indian School of Business (ISB).

BW: How do you see India as a market for Coursera learning /knowledge services?

Raghav Gupta: According to a recent study by Google & KPMG, the Indian edtech sector is likely to grow eightfold to become a $1.96 billion industry by 2021. The technology space is ever evolving. A big driver of this growth will be the growing need for technically skilled professionals, across industries.

Over the past two years, we have built a significant presence in India and the country is one of our fastest-growing markets and the second-largest both in terms of learners and revenue (after the US). Coursera platform has over 2 million registered learners in India out of a total of 26 million globally. India adds 60,000 learners every month.

Also, we are already witnessing India take the lead in adoption of our enterprise platform that allows companies to partner with us on employee learning and development. The Indian learners are extremely focused on building tech and business skills. We are investing heavily in growing these partnerships and in launching content that aligns with the needs of our learners in India.  In fact, we have over 12 enterprise partners in India using Coursera for Business to provide scalable training to their employees.       

BW: Most Indians access the Internet only through mobile phones. How are you reaching out to mobile users through m-learning? Is this available on both Android and iOS (Apple)?

Raghav Gupta: The steady rise in mobile internet usage and greater penetration of smartphones has made India a bullish market for mobile learning. We are witnessing consistent growth in learners using mobile to access Coursera platform. Today we have over 25 per cent of learners exclusively on mobile, and more than 96 per cent of our content can entirely be completed on the mobile platform -- both Android and iOS. Not stopping here, we are constantly working hard towards building a greater experience on Android and iOS.

BW: Bandwidth has always been a constraint in India. How have you worked around this limitation? Do you offer offline content (for offline learning?)

Raghav Gupta: For countries like India, where network speeds are often slow, and data is expensive, our team has worked hard to build a heterogeneous data-fetching framework to support a seamless online/offline experience. However, with digital transformation and improvements to our product, things have changed for the better. In a bandwidth constrained environment, Coursera allows learners to download the lectures and assignments, and then seamlessly upload them for a grade when bandwidth returns.

When it comes to offline content, the ability to download material to work offline is one of the most-valued features among our mobile learners. We have recently added more offline features to facilitate on-the-go learning like:

  • Save a week’s worth of content for offline access with one click
  • Save and submit quizzes offline
  • Control offline settings
  • View and manage all offline content in one place

BW: What kind of partnerships/affiliations do you have with Indian schools and universities?

Raghav Gupta: In India, Coursera has partnered with the Indian School of Business (ISB).  Under this partnership, we offer two specializations and two courses. A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment was ranked 4th most popular course in India on Coursera platform in 2016.  The course is based on the award-winning class offered both at the Indian School of Business and at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, developed by Prof. Raj Raghunathan. The other offering from ISB is Portfolio and Risk Management course.  The two specializations Indian School of Business offers are Business Technology Management for professionals in IT functions and the IT industry, and Trading Strategies in Emerging Markets for beginners in the financial market sector.

BW: What kind of recognition have you got from AICTE, UGC, the Department of Education (Government of India)?

Raghav Gupta: Our business model does not require recognition from these government institutions. We partner with the world's top universities and the educational institutions to offer online education.

BW: What kind of courses are popular in India?

Raghav Gupta: Over the past year, India has witnessed an uptake of high quality, flexible, career-relevant online courses. Maximum growth was witnessed in technology courses which constituted 70 per cent of the ten most popular courses, followed by courses teaching English for career advancement. We have seen a constant increase in the number of registered users, especially amongst technology learners. A few of the popular courses in India are Machine Learning, Introduction to Mathematical Thinking,  Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python), algorithms part I, R Programming, The Data Scientist’s Toolbox, among others.

BW: Are the certificates you issue recognized by Indian companies (for employment)?

Raghav Gupta: Employers are increasingly evaluating online courses more formally for hiring and their internal training. Coursera certificates are the most posted badges on LinkedIn, which positively indicates the significance given by potential & current employers. Earlier this year, Coursera released its 2017 Learners Outcome Survey results. The survey revealed self-reported outcomes for people who have completed online courses on Coursera platform.  We found that 89 per cent of Indian online learners who identified career advancement as a primary motivation, reported benefits like improving their job performance or starting a new career -- as compared to 84 per cent globally. In India, 46 per cent of career builders reported to have become better in their job, and 39 per cent reported to have improved their candidacy for a new job.

BW:  As the India Country Director, what are the goals you have decided for the next five years?

Raghav Gupta: We want to be the learning platform where anyone, irrespective of their educational and socio-economic background, can come to transform their life through high quality and extremely affordable online education. One of the most important ways we can impact people’s lives is by setting them up for success in both their professional and personal lives, by providing world-class learning content and the experience. A big part of our effort over the coming years will be devoted to building content and a product experience that achieves those goals.

BW:  What sort of growth do you foresee in your India business against the backdrop of the challenges the traditional IT industry is facing? Has there been a jump in demand for courses in the last six months to one year?

Raghav Gupta: Coursera has seen a 37 per cent increase in Indian learner registrations during the Feb-April period, compared to last year. This increase can be partly attributed to growing awareness among Indian employees that reskilling is the only way to stay competitive in the evolving technology environment.

Coursera has enterprise partners like Infosys, where we are providing Machine Learning courses for a group of engineers, TATA Communications where any employee from the company can train themselves around areas like digital transformation, Machine Learning, IOT, Cloud Technology, Axis Bank in skills like leadership and Data Analytics amongst others.



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