Upgrad eyes higher-ed space, global expansion as K-12 market slows


Upskilling unicorn upGrad, operated by UpGrad Education Pvt. Ltd, on Monday announced its foray into the offline higher education space as the K-12 market has started tapering off. 

The Mumbai-based startup will be investing $30 million (around 246 crore) in setting up of ten global campuses across India, US and other regions under its new brand UGDX, next year. These will include, five in India, three in the US and one each in Singapore and Middle-East, upGrad said in a statement. 

  “upGrad is already global with offices and is present across 10 countries around the world. Through these global campuses, we will be able to bring the best of faculty and curriculum to offer our learners a high-touch in-person format. Besides, India has one of the best talents when it comes to faculty in these new-age technology courses making it easier for us to expand and scale these capabilities to campuses outside,” Ronnie Screwvala, co-founder at upGrad, told VCCircle. 

With the launch of these campuses, upGrad, backed by World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and IIFL, is also aiming to rope in around 1,000 PhDs for specialised subjects. 

 “While the K-12 space has been witnessing a significant slowdown, the higher-ed segment is brimming with opportunities since it’s the space for high-value career ROI. upGrad already has over 150 PhDs as part of its team and has lined up another 1,000 to join. This model gives the faculty members the flexibility to also focus on research and publish papers alongside pursuing their passion for teaching,” Screwvala added. 

upGrad was founded in 2015 by Screwvala, Mayank Kumar and Phalgun Kompalli. It has been bullish on its acquisition strategy to grow its user base and adjacencies in other verticals including test-prep. 

On further investment plans, Screwvala said that the $30 million will suffice for upGrad’s global offline expansion plans. “We believe that the $30 million is sufficient capital for upGrad to expand across geographies. We already have three live and operational and the ones overseas do not have major infrastructure costs as we’ll build these tech schools inside existing universities that we partner with. And as these programs grow, the economies of scale will kick in.” 

Meanwhile, the edtech industry, which boomed during the pandemic as teaching moved online, is facing a major funding crunch and moderation in valuations with the reopening of educational institutions. With a focus on conserving costs, several startups have resorted to mass layoffs and cutting discretionary spending. 

Edtech unicorns Byju’s, Unacademy, Vedantu and other smaller platforms such as Lido Learning, FrontRow, Udayy, and SuperLearn have either fired or asked hundreds of employees to leave as they shut some of their operations to cut costs. 

 The broader startup ecosystem has also seen large layoffs with companies like FrontRow, Meesho, CityMall, Mobile Premier League, Cars24, MFine, Furlenco and Trell firing employees this year.

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