Rising edtech player upGrad mapping out plans to enter Vietnam

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Spotting the growth potential of edtech in Vietnam, upGrad is preparing to enter the market. Ronnie Screwvala, co-founder and chairman of upGrad, shared with VIR’s Van Anh how India’s No.1 edtech platform plans to conquer the market.
rising edtech player upgrad mapping out plans to enter vietnam
Ronnie Screwvala, co-founder and chairman of upGrad

Why did upGrad choose to enter Vietnam market and why now?

Vietnam represents the right level of openness of people because they are hungry to learn more. They do not have a sense of “Oh I already know everything”, they are very clear on where they are and they are ready to learn more.

Additionally, Vietnam has a very strong culture of entrepreneurship and ambition, and I believe what we have created can benefit the country. 

Normally, when it comes to lifelong learning, there is no real timing. However, three years from now, Vietnam will be a completely different country – and that will be a good time for upGrad to be there. This is why we are starting to enter the market right now.

Edtech is still a novelty in Vietnam, with potential consumers still familiarising themselves with it. As a newcomer, how will upGrad approach the market?

The first thing is to understand the learners in every sense. For this, it is necessary to do a lot of market research. Our learners are a diverse group, with ages from 18 to 48, from ungraduated to graduates and industry professionals with varying degrees of experience. With such diversity on our hands, we need to understand their ambitions, what they feel they are lacking, and how we can fill in those gaps. 

The second approach is to partner and create strong alliances. There are two parts to this, universities and corporate partners. Regarding universities, obviously, we will bring in our already established international partnerships, but we also need to partner with local universities. Thus, we are currently working with partners like IIT Madras, MICA, NMIMS Global Access, Jindal Global Law School, Duke CE, Deakin University, Liverpool John Moores University and others, making them understand what we bring to the table with our tech platform, our learning experience that goes way beyond just a Zoom camera kind of situation.

The third is forming strong partnerships with corporates. We will help them to understand that their workforce does need to upgrade themselves every 2-3 years. This includes discovering what they are doing about it and how we can help them. We can get people to do 6-month, 1-year or 2-year courses, but if the corporates do not understand such needs, it can slow down the speed of transition.

So, to sum up, it’s all about understanding our consumers – our learners, university partnerships, and doing a lot of work with corporate partners, help them understand the training needs for their learning population.

Vietnam already has a colourful palette of edtech companies and startups. What are your advantages over other online education players?

I believe competition helps grow the market. Online learning is here to stay, so having multiple players is particularly important.

We see ourselves not just as an international player but as a domestic and local player. The best way I can show you how we measure up against the competition is our completion record. Completion records in the general online learning market are ranging from 5 to 35 per cent. upGrad’s records for the last five years have been consistently 80 per cent. That means we truly focus on outcomes.

We achieve this by handholding people in their jobs, either to try and get a job or to get multiple interviews, or to train them in their job, and also to receive promotions. We are a lifelong partner.

We do believe that this is the differentiator that we bring to Vietnam, and we believe in this dynamic market where we will see a massive need for our courses.

You said your platform goes beyond the simple live streaming of classes, which is what most online learning platforms do at the moment. So what are the key features of your platforms that help you transcend this?

One key feature of our platform is that from the minute you enter the platform, you are allocated into a group. Online learning can be very lonely, so from day one, we create an environment where people know each other.

The second key feature is peer-to-peer learning. Yes, you learn from your lecturers, you learn from your professors, but peer-to-peer learning is essential in a technology platform. On upGrad, if you have a doubt or a question, you can post it in a forum and within 10 minutes to one hour, at least four or five of your colleagues will be able to give you an answer. If it does not get answered, we have a mechanism where an industry professional will answer it within one day. Nevertheless, we still encourage a lot of peer-to-peer exchange.

The third feature is grading. In college, you get to know your results after each term. For us, grading happens almost every 3-4 weeks where we are giving you constant feedback on what you are doing. Additionally, thanks to the use of AI, we can use a lot of data to provide feedback on how a student is learning.

And lastly, our counsellors also observe the statistics collected by AI and other technology solutions. For example, if you watch one part of a particular class three times, your counsellor will be able to ask if you are having trouble understanding the part of the subject and offer to help. That is the power of technology that makes it a very serious element of online learning.

It is often a subject of complaint that the curricula of Vietnamese universities are outdated and does not match learners’ actual demand. Do you have any strategies to address this issue in your cooperation with local university partners?

That is a worldwide issue and not only true for Vietnam. The beauty of online learning is that we can always innovate and do many different things to make a subject 10 times more interesting, thanks to the way one teaches, delivers case studies, or discusses a problem. With our online learning platform, we can have the best teachers from the best faculties to come teach and impact millions of people.

In our courses, about 80 per cent of subjects are non-live, meaning that we have time to prepare and get the learning experience as well as the way people teach just right for each of our classes. Additionally, most of our classes are done by industry professionals, people who work and bring their entire story to life so that learners could learn from them in a much more practical manner.

By Van Anh

Nguồn: Vietnam Investment Review

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