For all those who have been curious about why Ronnie Screwvala, the pioneer of cable television in India, spent 15 -20 years in the media industry and then moved on to co-found EdTech start-up upGrad in 2015, the entrepreneur and philanthropist let us in on the answer during a conversation with Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director, The New Indian Express, and author and senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai, on TNIE’s Expressions, a series of live webcasts with people who matter.
“Education, like the media, is storytelling. Because, at the end of the day, you will remember those two professors who taught you because of the way they taught you. And at the university level, you will remember the case studies. It’s all storytelling, in one form or the other,” said the 57-year-old lucidly on why upGrad clicks.
Matter of growth
Going on to talk about how his EdTech venture has grown by leaps and bounds owing to the lockdown, Screwvala shares, “Today, we conduct online classes for over 1,600 students at a given time and they are lively and interactive. The feedback system is much faster online. For example, if there is a student who watches one video five times, our counsellor notices it and gives them a call to check if they need help with understanding the lesson.” He estimates that the growth their platform was expected to hit in four years will be achieved in 18 months.
The deep learning courses are offered mostly for working professionals who don’t have to quit their jobs anymore if they wish to up-skill themselves. Talking about the most popular courses on upGrad, the entrepreneur says, “About two years back, it was all about Data Science and today, it still is. An MBA in Data Analytics will get one much more traction than an MBA in HR or Marketing,” He also lists Product and Digital Marketing and MBA as their most popular courses.
He reveals that they will launch a soft skills platform soon, which will teach one everything from how to tackle the first day in office to office politics. “This is because often employees tell us that the person is smart, but they can’t speak up confidently in a room. So, soft skills are an important part of learning,” he explains.
Helping out rural India
Talking about the non-profit organisation Swades Foundation he started in 2013 for rural empowerment, Screwvala informs that they work with 2,200 villages and have been working on reverse migration. Initially, migrants were reluctant to go back to their villages stigmatised by the thought of being termed a failure, but today, the pandemic has erased that. “Now that they have gone back, between agriculture, entrepreneurship and animal husbandry, there is a lot to be done,” says Screwvala and the foundation is helping them with all three.