Bucking the trend of lay-offs in the edtech sector amid funding crunch, Upgrad on Wednesday said it is looking to add nearly 3,000 people in the next three months and is close to securing a fresh funding. The five-year old company, which employs 4,000 people at present, will increase its workforce to around 6,500-7,000 by August this year, its chairperson and co-founder Ronnie Screwvala told PTI.
The company, in which the co-founders own 60 per cent stake at present, is also looking at another round of fundraise, he said, adding that it is a “work in progress” and will be done “very soon”. As per reports, the company had crossed the USD 1-billion valuation mark last year itself in a funding round.
The comments came at a time when a number of startups in the education technology space like Unacademy, Frontrow and Vedantu resorted to lay-offs in the wake of problems on the business front and drying up of funding in what is being termed as “funding winter”.
Screwvala said there is a lot of opportunities which the education sector still offers in a country like India where re-skilling is very important. He, however, blamed the present set of problems on “halos” created by select private equity funds who backed young entrepreneurs who went on to become poster boys.
He said a slew of decisions may have gone wrong, including the pressures to keep increasing enterprise valuations after every round of funding without concentrating on the core business, venturing into verticals on pressure from financial backers etc. which led to a select few companies meeting the current fate. Screwvala, who has been associated with ventures across various sectors, said that he is saddened that the “hubris and noise” of select few entrepreneurs is “spooking” the normal entrepreneur on the verge of starting up and chances are that some may not take the plunge because of the current set of happenings.
The entrepreneur said he has always focused on return on capital deployed without being too conservative on the business expansion front. The company is targeting to clock a turnover of USD 500 million in FY23 as against USD 250-280 million in FY22, he said, adding that it has grown at 100 per cent for each of the last five years of its existence.
It derives a little less than a fourth of its revenues from outside the country, and concentrates on the domestic opportunity more, he added. When asked about people not being able to afford the education amid the macro difficulties like inflation, declining savings rate etc, Screwvala said Upgrad is not finding any difficulties because it targets its offerings at working professionals and helps them to earn extra through the skilling upgrades.
He added that the company is into the business to consumer (B2C) segment and as re-skilling is a necessity in the current times, demand for its offerings will sustain despite setbacks like global inflation and geopolitical tensions.