Lead Story

Why Ronnie Screwvala could hit paydirt once more

The serial entrepreneur has backed upGrad which is growing 100% year-on-year

Ronnie Screvwala, Co-founder, UpGrad (centre): In designing our courses, we focus on ‘careers of tomorrow’ and look at larger-volume ones

If you are familiar with the show ‘Friends’, which ran between 1994 and 2004, you would also be familiar with the fear of being made redundant at your workplace. Offices are getting younger and hipper, so anyone upwards of 35 years is peering over the brink of a VUCA or volatile-uncertain-complex-ambiguous world. The only way to hold on, and may be even thrive, is to keep upskilling. Serial entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala has made this massive market opportunity his business.

He, along with Mayank Kumar, Phalgun Kompalli and Ravijot Chugh, founded upGrad in 2015. This Mumbai-based start-up offers an online, higher-education platform for anyone between 18 and 48 years, drawing a salary of anything between Rs.600,000 and Rs.1.2 million, and it is doing extraordinarily well. Over the past three years, the start-up has grown at over 100% year on year! Here are the numbers: in FY17, their gross fee revenue (which includes GST and the partnering fee paid to an educational institution) was Rs.200 million; in FY18, it shot up to Rs.570 million; and in FY19, it multiplied to Rs.1.2 billion. In FY18, their net income (after expenses) was Rs.364 million and, for FY19, it more than doubled to Rs.852 million (See: Catching up). It has 53,000 users, makes average revenue of Rs.250,000 per user, and boasts of university partnerships with IIT Madras, IIIT Bangalore, MICA, NMIMS Global Access, Jindal Global Law School, Duke CE, Deakin University and Liverpool John Moores University among others. Investors came calling in 2018 and there was talk of the founder selling 10% stake at $40 million, val


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Indians tend to be a thrifty lot but there are a couple of things that they unhesitatingly overindulge on – education and weddings. Serial entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala has found a sweet spot in education that has not been explored as a business opportunity yet in India. So here he is, back in the start-up game with a bang, targeting working professionals who need to upskill.

The five-year old start-up seems to have the wind behind its back and is growing by leaps and bounds.