Kim Smith and Julie Landry Petersen of the distinguished non-profit venture philanthropy firm ‘NewSchools Venture Fund’ offer an interesting definition of education entrepreneurs: “visionary thinkers who create new organizations from scratch that redefine our sense of what’s possible”.
Atul Kumar, Paramdeep Singh, Pawan Prabhat and Sarita Chand are four visionary thinkers who have redefined our sense of entrepreneurship in education through their brainchild Pristine (http://www.edupristine.com): a leading worldwide provider of high-end finance training programs.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Atul Kumar, MBA from IIM Indore, B.Tech from IIT Kharagpur, Expertise in Private Equity
On the idea behind Pristine and the road ahead…
The perceived need to change the finance pedagogy brought the founding team together. We were particularly upbeat about the potential of Test prep and Skill enhancement space. On the demand side was the huge student need for personalized guidance for competitive examinations and coveted degrees. On the supply side, we were particularly drawn to the Asset light model of the online mode, focused on maximizing “at large” gains while minimizing the load of “in-house” resources.
For the funding, we approached investors only when we had run the business for a couple of years, in other words not before putting our money where our mouth was. Once we had created a successful business model in finance education, our investors were only too happy to provide growth capital for further expansion.
I see our future growth emanating from student enrolments as well as institutional tie- channels though we expect the retail channel to be more productive as in the past. We have till date roped in more than 10,000 individuals through our courses and a substantial amount of our sales happens through referrals and repeat business. We have good corporate tie-ups with key Fortune 500 companies for providing training subscriptions.
Paramdeep Singh, B tech & M tech, IIT Delhi and IIM Indore, Expertise in financial services, consulting and training
On Pristine’s content-driven value proposition…
EduPristine invariably engages professionals from the industry for everything that we do. Multiple quality checks by in-house managers ensure content relevance and effectiveness while use of swift softwares guards against plagiarism. Since the courses are developed with inputs from our large pool of professionals, they are always job-relevant with the right dose of academia. Through continuous industry interaction, we keep pace with the latest developments in our field that eventually reflects through our courses.
Customers have access to open forums to raise their doubts which are unmistakably cleared within two business days. EduPristine has a strong culture of customer feedback which ensures continuous content refinement and better service for our customers.
Majority of the other online education providers are potent platforms for courses created by individuals. Though this inclusive approach helps on the quantity front, the quality is often overlooked. Pristine controls the whole course creation process from beginning to the end. That spells our edge.
Pawan Prabhat, MBA IIM Indore & B Tech IIT Mumbai, Expertise in Risk management and Investment banking
On Competition and Sustainability…
There are quite a few players in the online education space but I would say that the overall quality is not very good. Our role model is Lynda which creates its own courses. Edupristine’s phenomenal leaps in online finance training can be gauged from the fact that while it took Lynda as many as 17 years to make available 1500+ courses spanning 85000+ recordings, Edupristine took all of just one year to develop a rich database of 1000+ recordings encompassing several finance courses on diverse topics.
As mentioned by Paramdeep, EduPristine is very particular about customer feedback. It keeps us well informed about the need for new courses and helps us bring out new products in line with market needs. Pristine’s singular success has reinforced the belief that capital can never prove to be a constraint for a good business proposition. Our success has also demonstrated that it’s advisable to target a volume-driven market to start with such that it becomes easier to scale up once the enterprise gains perceptible momentum.
A judicious blend of instructional coaching and self-paced learning is increasingly alluring student population worldwide towards user-friendly, easily accessible and cutting-edge online vehicles of learning. As such, we see huge growth in the field of online education. At some stage, we might need to go public to scale up our bandwidth to address the humungous demand.
Sarita Chand, MBA from Symbiosis, Pune, Bachelor of Finance and Investment Analysis from CBS, University of Delhi, Experience in Strategic planning and Restructuring.
On Technology initiatives…
Technology is beyond doubt a key enabler of our business. We have an in-house IT team which continuously updates itself on the latest technologies relevant to the world of education. We have been one of the early pioneers of online classes and an active proponent of open source technologies. Also, given our large student base, we are quickly able to test new technologies and judge the efficiency of tools and utilities.
More about Pristine:
What began as a humble 200-square feet start-up in Goregaon, Mumbai is today a 50-member strong, India-based leading global player providing high-end finance training programs to students, professionals and corporates across India, Mauritius and Singapore. An authorised training provider for international certifications such as CFA and FRM, Pristine’s management team have IIT-IIM backgrounds and rich relevant experience with top-notch companies like Goldman Sachs, Accenture, Reliance PE, S&P and Standard Chartered.
Pristine has raised its Series A from Accel Partners and its angel round from Dr Mark Mobius & Rajesh Sehgal of Franklin Templeton. In a notable recent development, the same Accel Partners and a couple of venture capitalists have invested $103 Million in Lynda.com – an online learning portal imparting training through instructional videos across multiple disciplines. Since Accel is well known for its knack of growth-stage investing ahead of the curve, Edupristine is now being seen as the emerging “Lynda.com” in the sphere of Finance education.
With a strong pool of more than 1000 finance faculty, Edupristine now plans to generate more than 5000 recordings over the next 1 year and 50000+ fresh enrolments by the year 2015. The company estimates its target market to be over USD 9 Billion through focused investment towards quality online content, world class infrastructure and agile digital marketing. The company expects to double its revenues in FY 13 and is confident of achieving revenues north of USD 20 MM in the next 3 years.
Prsitine’s growth bears testimony to the fact that a judicious blend of Online and Offline Education & Training is well and truly emerging as the next big scalable business making a phenomenal social impact as well. Going forward, it would be interesting to see how Pristine responds to the cultural sensitivities of its global delivery model and the intricacies of academia-industry interaction for the larger cause of financial education.