UpGrad - Online Edtech Platform
Founded in 2015, UpGrad has built a large business providing trade programs in India. The company hit a $210M run rate in 2021 and was expected to double in 2022.
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Founded in 2015, Mumbai-headquartered UpGrad is an online higher education platform that provides industry-relevant programs. It teaches subjects including Marketing, Technology, and Management to students, working professionals, and enterprises.
Upgrad partners with universities to develop and promote courses. Partner institutions include universities like Duke, Purdue, Emory, The University of Arizona, Liverpool University, IIT Delhi, Michigan State University, and Swiss School of Business Management.
The company entered the unicorn club in 2021 after raising $185M in its second round of external funding, bringing its total valuation to $1.2B. It is backed by notable investors including IIFL Finance, International Finance Corporation, Temasek Holdings, and Unilazer Ventures.
UpGrad has received numerous awards for its contribution to improving digital education in India. In 2020 it was honored with “The Best E-learning Company of 2020” award by Business World and the “Best Communication and Teaching Platform” award by Entrepreneur India.
Business Overview & Products
UpGrad mainly offers courses in the following categories:
MBA and DBA
Software and Technology
Besides the educational platform, UpGrad has the following offerings:
UpGrad Rekrut: A recruiting firm present in over 72 cities to help organizations hire the best talent. It offers six solutions for other businesses: Rekrut Select, Rekrut Pro, Rekrut Flexi, Rekrut Futures, Rekrut Edge, Rekrut ROD.
UpGrad Alumni Network: An online community portal for UpGrad alumnis to connect with one another. The portal helps members register and attend alumni events, apply and post jobs and schedule and attend meetings.
UpGrad Jeet: helps candidates prepare for government exams through online coaching.
UpGrad Campus: promises to aid college students in securing quality jobs by giving them access to numerous certification courses and mentorship from industry experts.
UpGrad KnowledgeHut: a B2B solution that helps companies provide training to their employees through the catalog offered by KnowledgeHut.
The above 3 subsidiaries, UpGrad Jeet, UpGrad Campus and UpGrad KnowledgeHut have been merged into a single entity called UpGrad Education Pvt.Ltd with an aim to provide technology solutions for life-long learning.
The company has over 62,000 paid users belonging to more than 50 countries with the largest chunk coming from the Middle East, followed by the United States of America, Southeast Asia and Europe.
How It Works
UpGrad Education provides programs in the areas of data, technology and management to college students, first-time job seekers and working professionals. These programs are designed in collaboration with top-notch universities and focus on getting learners job-ready through aptitude training, resume building and mock interview prep sessions.
The company also offers programs with a guaranteed job at its completion for fresh graduates. Working professionals also have the advantage of going back to university without quitting their jobs, courtesy of UpGrad’s easy learning platform. On course completion, the learners become alumni of the partner university and also get to attend on-campus hackathons and graduation ceremonies. For enterprises that are looking to upskill their employees, UpGrad offers the option to train them on behalf of the companies.
The company also has an UpGrad basecamp, where learners get a chance to network and engage in peer-to-peer learning through offline meetups. They also receive career support which includes resume building, career landscaping, mock interviews and interview guarantees. The ‘Just in Time’ Interview Prep by UpGrad helps learners with last-minute interview preparation, guiding them through key concepts before interviews and mentoring them through the joining process.
Upgrad’s curriculum comes from lecturers of mentors who share their real-life experiences with the learners. The UpGrad Live platform is built to replicate a real-time classroom learning experience for enrolled students by providing greater interactivity, real-time doubt resolution, in-class concept check, and session analytics to gauge live session performances.
Business Model & Pricing
UpGrad has a two-way business model where it caters to both learners and learning providers. Through its edtech platform, the company connects expert teachers with individuals eager to learn as well as companies looking to upskill their employees.
UpGrad earns revenue from enterprises as well as individuals by offering them programs at reasonable prices that range from $3,300 to $6,750. While enterprises that send their employees to UpGrad for training pay the entire fees upfront at the time of enrollment, learners who sign up for programs are given an attractive deal. The candidate pays 50% of the fees at the time of enrollment and is only liable to pay the other half if they get placed after the program’s completion. This pay-after placement model is the first of its kind in India.
In October 2021, the company claimed it had crossed the milestone of $14M a month and achieved an Annual Revenue Run Rate of $210 Million. It also became India’s 3rd Edtech unicorn by raising $185M in a funding round led by Temasek, International Finance Corporation and IIF. The company’s consolidated revenue doubled to $40M in 2021 whereas its net losses increased threefold due to an increase in advertising and promotion expenses.
In 2020, the company witnessed a 100% growth in revenue, mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown which led to an increase in online education demand. That year it witnessed a 75% rise in app downloads, tripled its course offerings and scaled university partnerships.
In 2022, the company has more than 2 million platform users belonging to over 85 different countries and has closed 10 acquisitions. Its app has been downloaded more than 1 million times and has 62,000 paid users with an 87% program completion rate and 1 million+ learning hours to its credit.
Founder(s) & Team
Mayank Kumar: Co-founder and Managing Director at UpGrad. Prior to co-founding UpGrad, Mayank served as the VP of Education at Bertelsmann, where he was responsible for overseeing their education strategy and multi-million dollar investments in India. Post Bertelsmann, he became a Board Member of iNurture, an edtech company enabling career-ready formal higher education in India.
Phalgun Kompalli: Co-founder and Head of Sales and Marketing at UpGrad. Phalgun, an IITian, served as Principal at EY Parthenon, a leading global strategy consulting organization. He has also worked extensively in the field of higher education and tech enabled learning across several countries like the US, Africa, Brazil and Southeast Asia.
Ronnie Screwvala: Co-founder and Chairman at UpGrad. Ronnie was a key player in establishing cable TV in India, which is why he’s very well known in the Indian Television Industry. He also founded UTV Group which is now known as Walt Disney India and has helped improve the standard of living in numerous rural areas through his NGO, Swades Foundation. Ronnie has also been featured in the 100 Most Influential People list on the Time 100 (2009 issue).
Ravijot Chugh: Co-founder and Head of Product at UpGrad. Ravijot, an IITian has also served as a Product Lead at Housing.com, and Parthenon Group. Along with UpGrad, he has also co-founded 36hrs.in, a travel and tourism startup. Rajivot’s contribution towards improving the state of education sectors in emerging markets also earned him a spot in the Forbes Asia 30 under 30 list.
History and Evolution
UpGrad was founded in 2015 by Mayank Kumar, Phalgun Kompalli, Ronnie Screwvala and Ravijot Chugh with a conviction to bridge the gap between working professionals and rapidly evolving industry requirements. For the first 100 customers, UpGrad used several offline events to promote its initiative. The founders personally spoke to all learners and prospective students had to share their video profiles and SOPs (Statement of Purpose) before enrolling. They were then given 2 weeks of learning content for free. Only after experiencing the free content was the payment option made available to them.
In 2016, UpGrad acquired Pyoopil Education Technologies, a mobile-based SaaS (Software-as-a-service) product used by companies to deploy online training programs. That year it was also selected as the official educational partner for the Government of India’s Startup India Learning Program.
In 2017, UpGrad in collaboration with Invest India developed the Startup India Learning Program, a free four-week online learning program for entrepreneurs. The company also got featured in the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies Of India list by Fast Company.
In 2018, UpGrad acquired Acadview Software, an online learning platform for graduate students. It also got awarded the Best Education Brands award by Economic Times and got featured in Linkedin’s Top 25 Startups list.
In 2019, UpGrad partnered with Infosys and Wipro to provide upskilling solutions to its employees. The same year it acquired Cohort Plus, an online community for product managers and data science enthusiasts. The company also got accredited by National Skill Development Corporation and its courses were added to eSkillIndia, NSDC’s e-learning aggregator.
In 2020, UpGrad was chosen by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to make topics like artificial intelligence and machine learning accessible to all students. It acquired The Gate Academy, a coaching institute focused on entrance tests for government/public sector jobs, and rebranded to UpGrad Jeet. Rekrut India, a recruitment and staffing solutions firm was also acquired by the company in the same year.
In 2021, UpGrad went on an acquisition spree first by acquiring KnowledgeHut, short-term skilling and training courses startup and Impartus, a video learning solutions provider which it rebranded as UpGrad Campus. Later Global Study Partners, an Australian study abroad company and Talentedge, an online higher education company were also acquired by UpGrad.
The company also expanded its presence in Asia Pacific by setting up a regional hub in Singapore. Moreover it launched upLevel, a platform that provides corporations with an organization-wide on-demand learning capability.
The most prominent feature that makes UpGrad stand out from its competitors is the hand-holding provided to each learner. This practice is called ‘student mentorship’ and the team behind it is known as ‘Student Success’. The moment a learner is assigned to a batch, a student mentor gets in touch with them. Since day one, the learner/mentee and student mentor start communicating regarding program-specific topics. This makes the overall learning experience easier than ever. Moreover, the company has the ability to provide meaningful career outcomes for its learners. It is India’s only player in the higher edtech market that enables its students to achieve their fullest potential by providing a transition into their desired professional roles.
Originally the company was registered under the name, UEducation. However, during an activity with an external agency for logo and brand name generation, they came up with the name, UpGrad.
The global Ed-tech industry reached a valuation of around $85B in 2021 with India slated to become the Ed-Tech capital of the world with the industry being expected to grow over the next 5 years with a CAGR of 39.77%.
EdTech in India was the least funded sector till 2019 but the reliance on online education due to the pandemic catapulted the industry to be estimated at $750M in 2020 and over $1B in 2021.
Next Suggested Reads
upGrad to add 30 + Top Global Universities in next 12 months (India Education Diary, October 8, 2021)
Why education tech startup upGrad chose Midtown for its U.S. expansion (Erin Schilling, Atlanto Inno, October 1, 2021)
upGrad to upskill 1 lakh women in data and technology roles (Press Trust of India, Herstory, June 4, 2021)
Story of upGrad- India's EdTech Major Redefining Online Education and Learning (Motiverge, November 9, 2020)
Ep. 15: Focus, Choices and Empathy: The 3 Golden Words, The Ronnie Screwvala Podcast: Dreaming with Your Eyes Open (IVM Podcasts, July 30, 2019)
The Idea Called UpGrad: A Start For Start-Ups (Mayank Kumar, upGrad, December 8, 2016)