Chennai based technology company Zoho announced its foray into the e-learning market today, with the launch of an independent, bootstrapped platform called TrainerCentral. The announcement marks the Sridhar Vembu-led corporation’s foray into a burgeoning e-learning market. In an interview, Aarthi Elizabeth, Chief Brand Evangelist at TrainerCentral spoke about what went behind creating the platform, how it differentiates itself from competitors like Udemy, Coursera etc. and how it looks to work together with other Zoho products like ManageEngine and Qntrl in the long run.
What are the pain points Zoho is trying to address with TrainerCentral?
There are hundreds of creators, solopreneurs and trainers who are entering the market every single day. According to research, there are about 50 million creators at any given time, but only two million are making money out of it. 95% of creators out there do not have a platform, this is what we are looking to tap. We wanted to target these trainers and give them the flexibility to become entrepreneurs without depending on a big marketplace player. We want to move away from an institutional learning approach where everything is bound by a campus or four walls. This is why we also decided to be launched as an independent individual brand, rather than just another product from Zoho.
The platform looks a tad similar to offerings from Udemy and Coursera, how is TrainerCentral different?
These companies fall under the marketplace category, which means as a trainer or an independent creator, the user will have to register and host the course on their platform. They take a cut of the course fees and only then will the course reach the learners. With TrainerCentral, you need to create an account, build a website and start reaching out to learners.
We want to capture the independent solopreneurs and carve a niche for them. With these marketplaces, the solopreneur is always lost in a sea of creators and it is difficult to create one’s own brand and stand out, and that’s where we differentiate.
What type of numbers are you looking to touch in about a year from now? How will this division complement the other divisions of Zoho?
We are looking at atleast a 10x growth in terms of revenue and customers in the next one year. In terms of contributing to Zoho, we are new and not sure how much we will be able to contribute to the parent company. We work closely with Zoho, which means that eventually we will be able to integrate with all of the other applications.
Why do you want to integrate with other CRM applications, what advantages will that provide?
TrainerCentral is its own mini-ecosystem, but our users have their own tech stacks as well, so they use multiple different tools, with some wanting to integrate into other solutions.
This is why we are looking at integration not only with CRM, but with other web conferencing solutions, payment gateways and payment systems. A CRM integration can help users to pull out reports and data, and target the audience with individual courses.
You mentioned that a trainer can build a website within 30 minutes, what goes into the backend for such short development times? Is a low-code/no-code platform involved?
Yes, TrainerCentral is a no-code platform, which allows users to create websites with just a drag and drop feature for different elements, which are collated to create the website. The website is powered by HTML and CSS, which renders well on the desktop and mobile browser.
Is the platform targeted at B2C companies/ solopreneurs? Does it cater to the B2B audience as well?
Right now, the platform primarily targets B2C. But we do have a big organization that used Trainer Central to train about 12,000 of their employees on live courses and recorded content.
The live sessions can be scaled up to 1000 attendees per session. We are working to increase this number. We aim to grow alongside the trainers and creators and move towards the enterprise market.
While it is primarily for B2C, we are targeting B2B as well. An enterprise feature is where an admin console can manage multiple trainers, and each trainer’s metrics can be monitored in terms of performance and revenues. It can definitely be used for B2B cases as well.
How are the pricing and the plans classified?
It is based on the number of trainers that are served. Say you have three trainers on the platform, the plans are designed according to the number of trainers, and not based on the number of learners who access the website or the courses.