Divyam Goel Shares How His Edtech Start-up Is Making Individuals Without Prior Experience In Coding Employable
In India 56% of employers are estimated to have a hard time finding appropriate talent. Globally, India is the only country with a working-age human surplus. AttainU was founded to ensure that our demographic numbers convert into a dividend instead of a burden. Sadly, the industry says that only 3.84% of 1.5 million engineering graduates (per year) in the country have the technical, cognitive and linguistic skills required for software-related jobs in technology companies.
Also according to a NASSCOM report brought out with Zinnov, Indian startups will create 12 lakh new jobs by 2025. The question arises, whether there are enough skilled professionals to fill these roles? In this context, we at Stoodnt.com got in touch with Divyam Goel – CEO & Co-founder, AttainU – an edtech startup from Bangalore offering online software engineering courses basis Income Share Agreement(ISA) model to individuals with no prior experience in coding, to make them employable.
Divyam Goel comes from a deep tech background and believes education is one of the most important challenges that need to be solved in India. After graduating from IIT Bombay he moved to Bay Area after a short stint with Microsoft in India. Divyam was part of the team which set up growth engineering at Uber. Eventually, he moved to India with the Next Billion Users (Google Pay) team at Google. Divyam wanted to work on an impact first problem and use his skill set to solve for scale, and that is how AttainU was founded in 2018.
AttainU currently offers 7 months full-time, software engineering courses for individuals looking to learn to code, without any prior experience or background in software engineering. AttainU’s uniqueness lies in its focus on not only increasing employability skills and life skills but also its Income Share Agreement (ISA) model where students pay for the course only when they get a job. AttainU works with companies to understand practical job requirements and the courses are designed keeping that in mind.The company also has several corporate tie-ups to enable quick absorption of students. AttainU has received 40,000 applications and uses a rigorous process to shortlist deserving candidates.
The young-preneur shared some interesting insights on skill development and how AttainU is contributing towards skilling India.
A selected excerpt –
A little bit about the inception of the company?
There are 24 million students enrolled in colleges across India. Even after spending a significant amount of time and money, more than 80% don’t get a job or a satisfactory job. We believe a significant number of these students if provided the right platform can do much better in their careers. Before the idea, the problem had to be identified and most importantly I needed to have enough rational conviction that this is a problem I wanted to spend the next 10 years working on. With this in mind, I spent the next 8 months diving deeper into and separating the first principle facts from the fluff in the education domain in India. During this phase, I spoke to over 150 people at length covering the entire vertical, kindergarten to professional skilling as well as the entire horizontal vertical from the work NGOs were doing in the extreme rural areas to the premium IB schools of the country.
Research led us to two realizations – 1) to be able to solve a problem at scale in a free-market approach, a for-profit model is the most efficient way, 2) it makes the most business sense to start with the problem where customer motivations are most aligned to benefit from the solution.
With the above two realizations, we narrowed in on the higher education space – starting with recent college graduates as our main target audience. Being first-generation college-goers, it’s upon graduation when students get disillusioned and have the highest motivations to learn the right skills which companies are looking for.
Once the exact niche space and the problem were settled upon, we had to then identify the go-to-market solution. For this, we built upon the insights from the past and present. These included the fact that self-paced recorded solutions to education don’t work. We as human beings don’t have enough motivation to follow through slightly longer, slightly complicated solutions by ourselves. Also, there were some companies, trying out online live college simulation models in different domains, in different parts of the world and were seeing a very high level of student engagement in the same.
What does it do differently?
We have built a vertically integrated platform first solution covering the below three pieces –
Enrollment/Counseling – this is where we help the student to figure out their fit for the course, which is based on their aptitude, inclination and most importantly ability to put in the required effort.
Skill Building – this is the main central piece which allows us to deliver high-quality learning outcomes at scale. The crux here is maintaining high student engagement during the course. This is achieved through facilitating highly immersive interactions with instructors, mentors and peers focused around a centrally defined course path built-in line with industry partners and delivered by industry expert faculty. Delivery and measurement of granular learning outcomes are built in to make sure each student is on the expected learning trajectory.
Placements – it’s unfair to talk about higher education without providing career support. This is where we prepare the students for placements, do the match-making and facilitate the interactions between our industry partners and students.
Income Share Agreement – this is a deferred fee payment model conditional to employment. This makes sure that we have skin in the game and aspirational students can afford this high-quality education irrespective of their financial background.
We are one of the very few companies working on a deferred payment model for students to enroll in our courses. What sets us apart is:
Zero to One Skilling –
Our learning tracks provide a zero to one learning opportunity i.e. neither our industry partners nor we care about the degrees a person has. We take students from scratch all the way to expert entry-level software engineers in the industry. We have also had students, without any degree or with diplomas skilled through our programs and get placed in the end.
Online Model with 90% Completion Rate –
In the past edtech platforms like Coursera and Udacity have struggled with completion rates. Though our high-engaging managed marketplace approach we have been able to achieve 90% completion rates in an online education model. This makes it possible for everyone to benefit from our courses, without the need to move cities and take on additional living expenses.
Completion Rates – Coursera 5%, Udacity Nanodegree 12%
What impact has it created till now?
We exist for the success of our students. Our goal is to not only prepare our students for their first interview, but also for financial success and intellectually fulfilling careers in future-proof domains. This is in line with our core value of creating a skills first college alternative.
Majority of our students are those who have been victims of the broken education system in India and either due to lack of finances or exposure did not get the right platform to evolve their skills. They come from varying educational backgrounds, some don’t even have any degree and a few others have multiple gap years due to family obligations in between. At this point, right after our first batch itself, we are seeing our graduates not only doing well for themselves, but also being among the best performers at their respective companies. As a result we have companies coming back to us keenly waiting for our next batches to graduate. These are strong signals of the future where degrees are losing their shine in front of skills.
How many individuals/ professionals have the organisation catered to?
Over the last 10 months we have received 50,000+ student applications. Out of which after our counselling and benchmarking we have been able to enroll 700+ students in our batches. Since February we have also been able to increase our batch sizes and frequency while keeping the outcome quality intact. At this point we are starting batches of 200 every month. Our first batch recently graduated at a 90% completion rate and 70% students got pre-placement offers. At this point we are already working with 150+ hiring partners to time and cost efficiently meet their hiring requirements.
In times such as the current one where fewer jobs are being created, and many organizations are reducing their workforces owing to the downward trend in the world economy, how can AttainU help professionals survive?
Based on our combined Software Engineering Careers of 40+ years, at AttainU we realize the importance of fundamental software engineering concepts over teaching specific tech stacks. The fundamental conceptual understanding and problem solving aptitude prepares our graduates to meet and evolve as per the fast changing demands of the workforce over the years to come.
Further the economic downturns we might be hearing about are temporary, we have to assume that same as historically, over sufficiently long time periods the economy is going to keep on growing as the human race develops. Especially when we talk about software, software is still finding more and more use cases in every domain with better and innovative solutions to a variety of business problems. At the ground level industries are having a hard time finding qualified work-ready professionals who can help them use software to meet the demand of their customers efficiently.
What are the five most important skills for today’s engineers?
We are living in a world of accelerated advancement. What this means for the tech industry is that as new technologies become available for use, the industry wants to apply these (hardware -> internet -> big data -> cloud computing, machine learning -> artificial intelligence -> data science) to more efficiently serve their business needs. Because of this, the industry needs the employed workforce to learn these new skills to be able to implement them.
Above mentioned regular skill upgrade is only possible when the fundamental conceptual understanding is very solid and then an individual is able to build on top of those and pick up new skills as needed. A typical coding boot camp however just focuses on certain very specific technologies and hence its graduates suffer at the time when they are required to upgrade their skills. This is where AttainU’s philosophy of building a college alternative differs. AttainU focuses on fundamental conceptual understanding rather than teaching only particular technologies. In this regard, we are closer to a college preparing it’s graduates for a career in Software Engineering rather than only for the first job. AttainU’s curriculum and pedagogy are designed to teach the software engineering concepts in a technology (language/framework) agnostic way to ensure that our graduates are equally, if not better suited for a software engineering career as compared to CSE (Computer Science Engineering) college graduates. Due to this philosophy, we don’t need our students to have any background in software engineering before starting the course, all they need to have is a high growth potential including the will and wherewithal to put in the required effort. 40% of AttainU students come from a non-coding background. As proof of the value proposition, we have had people without any degree go through our courses and get placed into fast-growing software engineering careers.
What is the right time for today’s millennials to start learning these skills?
The right time to learn these skills is right after 12th standard.
Due to the undue pressure and supply-demand gap, India has the highest youth suicide rates per capita. By removing all the location and money barriers we are making high-quality, outcome oriented education accessible for all willing to put in the effort. This is aimed at systematically fixing the core education systems in the country and will lead to the death of money mongering coaching brokers. Through a scalable platform of first approach to education, we want to get rid of this demand-supply gap and enable all to maximise their potential.
Your future plans
Future Plans – Over the next year we want to cater to 8000+ students, expand into more software related tracks, enhance our tech platform and optimize our completion and placement rates further. We see AttainU evolving into a horizontally diversified college for life platform.
Anything else you want to share?
We are internally iterating upon and refining our intelligent tech platform. This will include many first of its kind cutting-edge features including the ability to facilitate the courses through remote instructors, automated preemptive escalations and nudges. Being online allows us to collect a lot of learning and engagement data on a per student basis, we are using this to build and train outcome prediction and student classification modules.
Author: Baishali Mukherjee
Profile- An independent writer and journalist for last nine years; presently working with Education World, Entrepreneur India, Scrabbl.com and Stoodnt.com. Worked as the content head for four books and have articles and features published in leading print and digital media spaces.
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