Ronnie Screwvala floats online education venture, to initially invest around $16M

Media industry veteran Ronnie Screwvala, who has turned into an entrepreneur cum private investor after selling UTV to Disney, is foraying into the online education sector with the launch of U Education, according to a press statement.

This is the second independent venture of Screwvala who had earlier floated Unilazer Sports as a new unit focusing on sports management besides being involved with sports academies by creating IPs and franchises in two or three select sports disciplines.

U Education would be focused on higher-learning and will provide flexible and personalised education to working professionals, and will cater to the specific requirements of new-age industries.

The venture will strike partnerships with global universities and build other affiliations besides offering specialised courses. U Education will offer graduate and post-graduate degrees across a diverse set of courses. The faculty is being built and the enrolments will start by end of the year.

The proposed venture involves an initial investment of Rs 100 crore (around $16 million) in the first phase which go mainly into content, interactivity, platform, technology, assessments, adaptive learning, marketing and building a national footprint.

"This sector is ready for disruption and innovation. The aspiration and ambition of young India has grown manifold. There is a willingness to pay for quality education and the digital and next gen models are gaining acceptance amongst students, institutions and employers," Screwvala said.

He added that the plan is to have a diverse set of offerings starting from management, law, marketing, finance, technology, engineering to more in entrepreneurship, new economy expertise, and to cater to the growing sectors of sports, media, fashion, travel, hospitality and tourism.

The firm has roped in Mayank Kumar as a co-founder and managing director of U Education. He comes with a decade of experience in the education sector across various geographies globally.

Kumar, who earned his Bachelor's degree from IIT Delhi and an MBA from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, is currently working as a vice-president at Bertelsmann India Investments, a corporate VC fund focusing on education and digital sector. Prior to Bertelsmann, he had worked as a senior principal at the Parthenon Group, an education focused strategy consulting firm and Tata Strategic Management Group.

"Our goal will be to foster the next level of degree education/learning and train the next generation Indian workforce to take on the industries of the future," Kumar said in the statement.

Screwvala had floated Unilazer Ventures around three years ago after selling UTV to Disney. Unilazer Ventures has been focusing on making private investments in segments like consumer, services, agriculture, healthcare, education, micro finance, etc.

Most recently, Unilazer Ventures backed Big Data firm Indus Insights besides firms such as mobile ads venture SilverEdge, restaurant chain operator Impresa Hospitality. In the past he has also invested in Lenskart.com, EkStop.com, INI Farms and Himex. In the education services space Unilazer is a shareholder of schools operator Tree House Education.

With Unilazer Sports and now U Education, it is moving beyond being an investment firm to become a holding company of new businesses.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)