Saturday, June 7, 2008

Revolutionalizing E-learning.

E-learning comes of age

2001 was the year of the dotcom bust. That was also the year when Bangalore-based techies, KS Karthik & Anil Chhikara launched their e-learning co.

THE aftermath of the dotcom bust in 2001 was a tough time for technology entrepreneurs to start a venture as investors, customers and potential valuations suddenly vanished into thin air. So, when techies KS Karthik and Anil Chhikara came together with a startup dream, the path ahead was doubtless going to be thorny.

But, unlike other techies who put together quickrich dotcom businesses and went down with the web world collapse, the two Bangalore-based techies eyed the potential for training college graduates to be jobready for the software outsourcing industry and other sectors. In a city where giants such as Infosys and Wipro were beginning to hire vigorously, the two entrepreneurs sensed a growing need for structured corporate training.

Thus came into being 24x7 Learning with a mission to go beyond the regular definition of technology-enabled learning. “Since there are already a lot of players in the e-learning space catering to the primary and early education institutions, we decided that the focus should be on implementing our products at higher education namely colleges and universities to help them meet the corporate requirements,” says Mr Chhikara.

In six years, the company has grown to have more than 120 customers across industry segments such as information technology, retail, pharmaceuticals and hospitality. Its clients include Wipro, Satyam, Patni, Aditya Birla Group, Bharti Airtel, Ashok Leyland, Convergys, Accenture, JPMorgan and ING Vysya.

But, the ride was not smooth for the fledgling firm. “The internet bubble had just burst, there was no fresh investment coming through and the economy itself was swaying. Under difficult times, a lot of companies had announced budget cuts and the first axe came upon training costs. Thus we saw our market shrinking in our first two years itself,” Mr Karthik said.

The founders were quick to realise that success of any e-learning implementation was not about technology but about how e-learning fitted into the learning culture within any corporate organisation and how e-learning initiative was promoted internally within a company. “When we started, we had no plans to create a learning management system. We wanted to consult companies to implement a skill improvement system and then in due course may be look to acquire a product IP ourselves. But the initial hiccups forced us to come out with LearnTrac which now is our bestseller. Also, since we had not (received) venture funding during this phase, there was lesser pressure on us to do or die,” recalls Mr Karthik.

KS KARTHIK (SITTING) & ANIL CHHIKARA Founders, 24x7 Learning

So how did it survive this downturn? The company focused on innovation and invested in product development despite its low revenues. It also chose to let its business model be flexible. It thus evolved from being a consultancy to a product company.

Once it waited out the lean period, business started to pick up. Companies and educational institutions showed openness to adopt technology and implement novel ideas in training, helping 24x7 prosper. Today, the company claims to be the largest e-learning implementation provider in India and says its learners are dispersed across 25 countries. Seven out of 10 top software outsourcing companies and six out of 10 top business process outsourcing companies are its clients.

It has also made a dent into the university sector. BITS Pilani set up an e-library with 24x7 Learning’s technology, giving its students online access to hundreds of engineering and technical books.

So what lies next for this start-up? The company wants to work with state institutions to develop their distance learning programs. “What the universities have is purely raw content with them. We would look to develop the content online by using their curriculum,” says Mr Chhikara. Increasingly, state governments such as Maharashtra are realising the need for having a competent and skilled manpower to match the incoming investment. The company has already implemented its SkillBridge solution in SNDT University for nearly 1,000 students based on the institute’s own study material.

The firm hopes to close its current business year with a revenue of nearly $6 million. With research body IDC expecting the global e-learning market to touch the $28 billion mark by 2008, the company is readying itself to face global competition. “May be this competition would help us evolve further,” says Mr Karthik.

Article Resource:

Ritwik Donde is the Chief Editor in the The Economic Times, Mumbai and the article appeared in one of their successful columns on Entrepreneurship/Startups called "Starship Enterprise".

About 24x7 E Learning

Beginning as an 'eLearning' company and spreading roots as India's largest eLearning implementation company, they have grown into a company whose holistic solutions permeate to every individual in an organization, and in the process makes a difference to the nation's intellectual capital. 'Talent Lifecycle ManagementSM' is what they call it. It is a natural and enriching process that's responsive to dynamic market needs.

They help

  • Enhance the talent pool for enterprises at the pre-recruitment stage
  • Train existing employees to upgrade their skills
  • Nurture leaders for tomorrow

For more information on 24x7, log on Successful Entrepreneur - E Learning

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