India is one of the fastest growing markets for digital learning for Skillsoft: Apratim Purakayastha

India is one of the fastest growing markets for digital learning for Skillsoft: Apratim Purakayastha
Apratim Purakayastha, CTO, SkillSoft
17 Jan, 2020

SkillSoft, the US-based corporate education software provider, has had a presence in India for more than a decade now, with over 200 clients in the country. Its client roster here includes Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India, HCL Technologies, JSW Steel and Tata Communications.

The firm currently employs 600 people in India, of which a significant portion is engaged in providing engineering support and content development for the global operations. Overall, the India workforce accounts for 30% of its global headcount. 

Founded in 1998 by Charles Moran, Skillsoft, owned by private equity firm Charterhouse Capital Partners, offers cloud-based learning and performance support resources to enterprises. The platform consists of 120,000 pieces of content, including over 7,000 courses, 65,000 videos, and 46,000 book options. 

In an interview with TechCircle, CTO Apratim Purakayastha said the company remains very invested in India, not just for engineering talent or content development, but it considers India a top market for corporate elearning.

Edited excerpts:

Could you share a brief overview of the services offered by Skillsoft at present?

Skillsoft is a global corporate learning provider, delivering technology and content that drives business impact for modern enterprises. The platform comprises three systems that support learning, performance and success: Skillsoft learning content, the Percipio intelligent learning experience platform and the SumTotal suite for Talent Development.

Percipio delivers an immersive learning experience. It leverages engaging content, curated into nearly 700 learning paths (channels) that ensure that customers always have access to the latest information. 

Our training content solutions cover a slew of topics including leadership development, business and management skills training, digital transformation and compliance training and more.

What are the diverse needs of different types of learning, and what are some of the key challenges enterprises face with building modern platforms?

Since every learner is fundamentally different and has different goals, we have witnessed that there are various methods of learning. One of them, for instance, is performance enhancement. If you’re working on Excel and you must do a pivot table, you’re looking for a quick module wherein you can learn something quickly and just move on. You’re not looking to become an Excel expert. That’s called micro-learning.

In some cases, let’s say you’re preparing for a meeting with a customer and you need to know quickly about negotiation skills. You’re not looking to become a professor of negotiation skills, but you quickly need to have some pointers. It’s not five-minute learning but you’re ready to spend half a day. You watch some videos, take a course. That’s called macro-learning because you’re spending a significant amount of time. For this, the platform must be well curated because you cannot spend half a day searching for the right course.

Then there’s something called deep learning. Suppose you’re trying to become an expert in Python programming, well that’s going to take more than half a day or maybe even a month. You need to go through a few courses, certifications, tests, or labs.

Therefore, the learning platform must allow learners to choose the program that suits them best. Sometimes in an organization, even a single learner can require micro-learning, macro-learning, and deep learning. Any platform that is calling itself a modern learning platform should support all of that. Additionally, since today’s learners are mostly on the go, you must focus on delivery mechanisms as well. 

With emerging technologies becoming more important, how are today’s enterprises positioned to meet the skills shortage in these areas and how is Skillsoft helping such enterprises?

To be honest, many organizations today lack the know-how required to embrace technological disruption. Technology is moving much faster than organizations' capability to change.

There needs to be a complete leadership change in terms of building a growth mindset and maintaining continuous curiosity. Employees need to understand that what they know today can become irrelevant in two years and that they need to master what they know today. But, you always need to look out for what’s going to come in two years.

In this regard, Skillsoft helps its customers in several ways. First, we offer a significant amount of course material for domains like data, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) which are a precursor to automation or robotics. The digital learning industry is witnessing 10-14% growth year-on-year, especially in terms of content. So, Skillsoft is very well positioned to help organizations with this digital transformation.

A single person cannot be an expert in all the new technologies and advancements. Management needs to have broad exposure to all of these. At the same time, they need to create agile teams. They need to build subject matter experts in these areas, and fast. Then, as and when required, these experts can be brought together in an agile team to execute a particular project and then move on to another one.

How competitive is the Indian market from Skillsoft’s point of view?

Skillsoft has been in India for more than a decade and serves over 200 customers across different verticals ranging from medium-sized organizations to large scale enterprises. We do not compete with B2C players here in India.  India is truly one of the fastest growing markets for digital learning for us. 

When you look at the number of people entering and coming of working age - an estimated 25-26 million professionals – it is significant. With such encouraging numbers, the Indian elearning market looks promising for us.

Skillsoft helps companies unlock the potential in their most valuable resources and assets which is, people. Our learner-centric approach allows us to focus directly on the learners’ needs and thereby helping organizations unlock their true potential.

Some of our customers from India include Deloitte, HCL, JSW Steel, and Tata Communications.

Tell us about the scale and scope of your operations here.

In India, Skillsoft is present in Hyderabad and other metro cities. We have more than 600 people in Hyderabad, which is almost close to 30% of our whole company. From a human capital point of view, we’re very invested in India, in terms of hiring engineering talent, engineering content development.

We believe that in addition to providing intellectual property to our global markets, India itself is a big and emerging market for corporate eLearning. We focus a lot on technology and developer kind of content here, because of the country's robust IT heritage.

Because the market is diversifying here, we are also finding a lot of demand in our business skills, digital transformation, and other content along similar lines. 

We opened a third facility in Hyderabad early last year. This facility supports the aim to double the current Percipio engineering team in Hyderabad and gear up to scale higher growth in the current center of excellence (CoE).

With a growing number of millennials now becoming part of the workforce, what should enterprises do to support the overall ecosystem of learning for them?

Organizations should make learning available to the millennials everywhere – right from their workstations, laptops to mobile devices so that they can access it anytime and anywhere. They need to make learning a part of their flow of work and make it a habit by introducing gamification into learning. 

Learning is not about clicking something and watching for some time. It should be interactive, engaging and social for millennials.

Large organizations are betting big on data, analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Indian companies across verticals like banking, finance, insurance, IT are showing a shifting mindset when it comes to adopting new-age technologies. Growing the in-house talent with these new-age technologies is a game-changer for them.

What’s your perspective on the key aspect organizations need to keep in mind while preparing today's workforce for tomorrow's digital tools?

There are three aspects that organizations need to keep in mind. The first one is digital competency; in terms of usage of digital principles. Usage of mobile devices, usage of messaging to shorter communication cycles. Second, being, building a fundamentally agile culture, which is data-driven and flat - not driven by hierarchy or process.  That will make companies more efficient and more responsive to change. The third is psychological. Companies must somehow inspire a growth mindset with every employee. Move away from performance measurement which looks back. Move into the growth mindset in terms of offering new challenges, new assignments. Managers must become less about command and control and become coaches and enablers. That’s how modern companies should think.

What are some of the key trends to watch out for in the IT sector for 2020?

AI and its derivatives such as data science and machine learning will affect our lives deeply in 2020 and beyond. IT professionals will, thus, must acquire in-depth skills around these domains in order to remain relevant in the dynamic business ecosystem.

Another major trend to watch out for is the use of blockchain, especially in retail and financial services. Professionals will need to acquire skills such as smart contracts, Hyperledger, and cryptographic hash functions.

Finally, leadership skills are becoming a top priority among IT professionals. This is because IT is no more about a few programmers in a corner. It’s very agile. Working in an agile team requires professionals to wear multiple hats - alternating between becoming a leader and sometimes a contributor.