Delhi-based edtech #startup Coursebirdie teaches the latest and most in-demand business, design and tech skills that people need to stay productive and relevant throughout their career.
Abhishek Singh was working with an accounting startup in Scotland and running a side project that helped students with course and college selection. He was managing the community and would also be involved in post-study work discussions.
After a few months, Abhishek realised that a large number of students, even those who studied from good universities, remained unemployed for more than six months after graduation because the learning outcomes did not match the market demand.
Thinking that he needed to do something, he reconnected with his friend from engineering–27-year-old Abhilasha Chauhan, who was working at a Palo Alto-based cloud collaboration startup. The duo decided to work on this as a side business.
Coming from a small and remote village in Himachal, Abhilasha experienced inaccessibility and poor quality education. Seeing her passion and drive to empower people with real-world skills and hands-on education, Abhishek was totally convinced to start a business with her.
The duo met few times and put forward their ideas before they decided to take it further. However, it took almost six months to organise their very first workshop which was a success and all 30 tickets were sold out in just five days.
“We would hunt the best instructors in the town and arrange workshops bi-monthly. It was exciting and after few months we decided to leave our jobs and focus exclusively on organising workshops. We returned to India since our employers wouldn’t sponsor our visa if we’re not working for the company,” says Abhishek.
Working on the online model
Back in India, they decided to bootstrap and started organising workshops in Delhi and Bengaluru. After six months, they decided to scale the business and teach online to reach a larger audience. This was the beginnings of Coursebirdie in Delhi.
The platform teaches the latest and most in-demand business, design and tech skills that people need to stay productive and relevant throughout their career. Abhishek says that they teach 21st-century skills such as user experience design, web and mobile app development, digital marketing, product design, machine learning, data science, and product management.
“We teach using short online classes and in-person workshops that are organised in three cities: Berlin, Paris, and Amsterdam, with more cities on our radar,” adds Abhishek. The team currently is also working on a new product called Courses, which are long yet compact, structured learning programmes that take people from beginner to job ready in just three to six months.
What does it do?
These are geared towards people who are looking to change career or advance their careers. The learners include university graduates, working professionals, aspiring and established entrepreneurs, freelancers, and businesses. Some are looking to learn new skills, some looking to upgrade, and others are looking to make a change for themselves.
Coursebirdie charges a one-time fee, after which students can access the class content or attend in-person workshops. Abhishek says that they had earlier tried the subscription-based model, but it didn’t work well. For individuals, online classes and workshops start at $29 (Rs 2,000).
The classes are short pre-recorded video lessons that cover basic, yet essential understanding of a topic. The class duration can be anywhere between 60 and 180 minutes and includes multiple video lessons, where each lesson duration is roughly 14 minutes or less.
Since there are no start or end dates for classes, learners can watch them at their own pace and schedule. They opt for online classes to stay updated and relevant with all the latest design and tech skills.
Working on the challenges
When the duo started and pivoted to the online model, they knew nothing about video or audio production. Sorting out the whole production process–from scripting to setting up a studio for video and audio recording to post-production–was a big challenge.
“We had decided to not use any PowerPoint slides and instead record high-quality good videos. We overcome the challenge by learning the complete video production process and setting up the first studio. We also hired people who were just out of colleges, very creative, and have the enthusiasm to try things in a different way,” adds Abhishek.
The duo say that hiring experts who are passionate about a skill and teaching it to others, reaching out to interested candidates through job boards, and organising instructor-focussed meetups wasn’t easy. The real breakthrough came when they started working on a product called Talks.
Talks is a video interview series where instructors chat with leading entrepreneurs, investors, and tech professionals and they share personal lessons and insights on a topic.
In India, broadband penetration is low, and even when a household has broadband, the speed is not true broadband. Says Abhishek,
“We’re fixing this by working with few partners who have expertise in encoding video content for a better video experience. This would allow learners from tier-2 and tier-3 cities of India access our classes, courses, and other online learning content.”
A report suggests that India with its current needs has a requirement of over 700 million skilled workers by 2022, to meet the demands of the economy. But even with over 15 million youngsters entering the workforce every year, over 75 percent are not job-ready.
It is, therefore, not surprising that there are a number of startups that are striving to solve this problem. Though there already is Coursera, Udacity, and edX in the space, several startups are viewing this segment.
There is also WAGmob that focuses on sales force training; it was recently acquired by EduCast. Ronnie Screvwala and Mayank Kumar have started UpGrad, which focuses on skills training and follows a similar industry mentorship model. There also is Simplilearn and Great Learning.
Coursebirdie pivoted to online model in August 2014 but released their first seven online classes in February 2015. “Within a week of launch we had 3,000 learners, and by April 2015, we have taught close to 8,000 students,” says Abhishek.
He adds that they are a profitable company with a revenue in dollars over six figures. They also claim to have helped almost 42,000 students from 111 countries across the world.
The team has grown to 22 members, located in our office and studio in New Delhi, our studio in Berlin, Germany, and remotely across the world.
“Our future plan is to release some new products, hire key people, and invest in customer support, and great design. We also are working on new product Courses, which are designed as per industry standards. It is a combination of multiple classes, talks, and projects, and takes students from zero to skill ready in just a few months,” says Abhishek.
The team has also introduced Design Labs, where they pair you with incredible designers who have helped some of the most successful companies to obtain high-quality design work. These designers are hand-picked pros who have years of experience with great companies and startups.