Screwvala’s Indian Edtech UpGrad is Set for Unicorn $1B Valuation

UpGrad is an Indian startup that aims to provide higher education & specialized studies through digital platforms. The startup is currently valued at $900 million and seeks to impact the 5 million Indian workforces by 2025.

By Rashmi Sahu Jul 6 2021 7:12PM 3550 Read
How UpGrad is Building an Online Learning Empire with Universities?

UpGrad is India’s leading online education platform that facilitates higher education and specialization studies for students. UpGrad has partnered with many colleges, including MICA, BITS Pilani, IITs, and Cambridge Business School to provide distance learning & the startup is currently valued at over $850 Millions. Digital Marketing, Data Analytics, Digital Technology Management, Data-Driven Management, and Product Management are some of their most popular courses.

UpGrad Startup – Key Highlights

Startup NameUpGrad
FoundersPhalgun Kompalli, Ronnie Screwvala, Mayank Kumar, and Ravijot Chugh
Valuation$850 Million Valuation (April 2021)
Revenue$ 22.4 Million (FY20)
Parent OrganizationUpGrad Education Pvt. Ltd

UpGrad Startup - Founders

  • Ronnie Screwvala, Chairman Ronnie Screwvala is a well-known figure in the Indian television business. He is the producer of the UTV Group (formerly known as Walt Disney India), the Swades Foundation, Unilazer Ventures, AIESEC India’s Board of Advisors, and RSVP Movies. Ronnie has secured many influential places in top magazines, including:
    • “Jack Warner of India” - Newsweek
    • “Asia’s Most Powerful People” - Fortune Magazine
    • “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century” – Esquire
    • “100 Most Influential People in the World” - Time Magazine’s 2009
  • Mayank Kumar, Co-founder & MD Kumar is in charge of the company’s general operations. He graduated from IIT Delhi with a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from the Indian School of Business. BW (Business World) awarded him the prestigious BWDISRUPT 40-under-40 Achiever of the Year Award’17.
  • Ravijot Chugh, Product Development Ravijot Chugh graduated from IIT-Delhi with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and was named to Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30 list in 2018. In San Francisco, he also co-founded, a social travel business.
  • Phalgun Kompalli, Sales & Marketing Phalgun is an IIT Delhi graduate with a bachelor’s degree in technology. Phalgun was a Principal with The Parthenon Group, an education strategy consulting business before UpGrad and has worked in higher education and technology-enabled learning in India, the United States, Brazil, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
UpGrad Startup - Founders UpGrad Startup - Founders

UpGrad Startup – Brand Name & Tagline

  • Name: The startup’s name includes two terms – “Up” & “Graduate”, where “Up” means having a creative edge over others and “Graduate” has a lovely ring to the name, thus the name - UpGrad.
  • Tagline - “Building the Careers of Tomorrow”

UpGrad offers graduation and post-graduate programs to help people improve their lives and professions.

UpGrad Startup – Business Model

UpGrad is primarily a direct B2C firm in which the customer enrols in the program and pays for it (in advance). The program cost at UpGrad reflects the company’s commitment to placing students. Only 50% of the program fees are recovered from the student if they are placed after completing the program. This is India’s first pricing plan of its sort.

Note : Companies also pay UpGrad for educating their staff as part of their enterprise business.

UpGrad Startup Challenge – Building Trust

The main challenge for the startup was persuading recruiters that online education could be just as demanding as traditional schooling. One of the negative perceptions of online education is a widespread belief that online education is a waste of time. Unfortunately, it was difficult for UpGrad to show the contrary through its product, customer experience, and success stories to users & companies.

UpGrad Startup – Top Competitors

Several characteristics put UpGrad apart from the competition. Some competitors include:

  • Udacity
  • Unacademy
  • Coursera
  • Byjus
  • Vedantu,
  • Udemy
  • Wifi Study
  • Simpli Learn
UpGrad USP : The hand-holding mentorship offered to each student is one of the key USPs of UpGrad.

UpGrad Startup – Acquisitions & Mergers

UpGrad Startup has made a few acquisitions, including:

Oct 2016Pyoopil Education Technologies Pvt Ltd
Oct 2018AcadView
July 2019CohortPlus
Nov 2020The Gate Academy
Dec 2020Rekrut India
May 2021Impartus

UpGrad Startup – Future Plans

UpGrad aims to work on four central pillars in the future to grow the number of learners and revenue:

  • In the subsequent years, the startup plans to offer 35 new diversified online programs.
  • UpGrad is planning to keep up with the increased demand & would begin offering discounts & coupons every month rather than every quarter as previously.
  • It would be the first university in India to provide university-approved degrees via blended, online degree programs.
  • It will target the 40 million-strong South Asian migrant community throughout the world to expand its global reach.

UpGrad Startup – Awards & Recognition

UpGrad has won several awards & recognitions for revolutionizing the ed-tech market in India from top bodies, some of which are:

  • “Startup India”, an initiative by the Government of India, has appointed UpGrad as its official partner.
  • In 2017, Mayank Kumar, Cofounder UpGrad, was named Achiever of the Year by Business World
  • UpGrad won the “Top 10 Most Innovative Companies Award” by Fast Company in 2017
  • In 2018, it was featured on LinkedIn’s Top 25 Startups List.
  • Best Tech for Education Award in 2019 by IAMAI
  • Phalgon Kompalli and Ravijot Chugh (UpGrad’s Cofounders) were featured on the 2018 Forbes 30 under 30 List.
  • Best Education Brand Award by Economic Times
  • UpGrad’s “PG Diploma in Machine Learning & AI” with IIIT Bangalore is the #1 course on AI in India.

UpGrad Startup – Funding & Investments

UpGrad was founded in 2015, and all the founders did the initial funding. The company is currently valued at $850 Million and aims for $2 billion in revenue by 2026. It has received funding from the following investors:

April 2021Temasek$120 Million
April 2021World Bank’s IFC$40 Million
August 2020IIFL Income Opportunities Fund$6.8 Million

UpGrad Startup – Partnerships

UpGrad has collaborated with many top institutes to educate its users through the best experience, including:

  • BITS Pilani
  • International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-B).
  • MICA.
  • Cambridge Judge Business School.
  • HDFC Life for insurance-related courses.
  • Duke Corporate Education (Duke CE).
  • Institute of Management Technology (IMT Ghaziabad).
  • IIT Madras, for certification course on Machine Learning and Cloud.

UpGrad Startup – Work Culture

The following are the significant attributes of UpGrad’s work culture:

  • Leadership - The leadership team is very personable, the organizational structure is flat, and staff is encouraged to take on new projects.
  • Employee Education - UpGrad encourages its employees to take advantage of cheap courses to keep updated with changing times because it is a firm that promotes upskilling.
  • Innovation - UpGrad, as an ed-tech firm, believes that technology is the way of the future. As a result, the staff is continually encouraged to embark on new projects in various departments.

UpGrad Startup – Marketing Strategy for First 100 Clients

UpGrad conducted many offline events to market its project to the first 100 clients. In addition, the founders individually addressed the students. Before registering, students had to upload their video biographies and SOPs (Statement of Purpose). They were then provided free access to learning materials for two weeks. The purchase option was made accessible to them only after they had experienced the free material.

Rashmi Sahu
Rashmi Sahu View More Posts

I am an aspiring English Scholar. I am currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in English Literature, after which I will do my masters in the same field. I am a fresher in the world of content writing. But a part of me knows that I have it in me to do it. This is the reason why I want to make content writing a possible career option. I am well equipped with the knowledge. All I need is a platform to show my skills. And I know that I can prove myself to be worthy of this title. The title of a Content Writer/Developer. I like content writing because it gives me the freedom to explore creativity in words.

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