Solving Asia’s Employability Problem

Smart Institute secures investment led by Ah! Ventures as a part of its USD 30m Financing Round

The Background The online education market in India is expected to witness an incredible 8x growth to become a USD 1.96 bn industry by 2021. Surveys have also discovered that 87% of all Indian college graduates are not industry-ready. In fact, two-thirds of all Indian graduates are unfit for jobs, with roughly 57% of job vacancies across the Financial Services, Digital Technology, and Healthcare sectors in India. Considering the gap, the Union Budget 2019 also indicated significant impetus to education entrepreneurs in the start-up space, to start and scale up their initiatives. Identifying the tremendous potential in the education space, Smart Institute’s EduTech venture plans to bridge the very gap between employability and education; with primary focus on Tier II and Tier III cities.

The Deal Smart Institute, a part of The Shahani Group, one of India’s premier management business schools, has raised USD 2-3m as a part of its USD 30m financing round, led by Ah! Ventures. IEG - India acted as a financial advisor to Smart Institute. Mihir Kapoor, Managing Director at IEG - India, states: “The global EduTech space is expected to reach USD 341 bn by 2025. The employability skill set is a huge focus going forward and through its tech-based platform, Smart Institute, The Shahani Group is well-positioned to capture this market.” Akhil Shahani, Managing Director at The Shahani Group, says: "Technology is rapidly transforming the education sector in India, along with the professional domain. In light of the increased demand for job-ready professionals with detailed industry knowledge, students today ask for smart classrooms, learning apps, on-the-go learning devices, etc. to gain a competitive edge. This has presented a huge opportunity for investors and entrepreneurs alike." The Shahani Group was initially funded by global HNIs and family offices in India, UAE, and Singapore, and is now also backed by JPMorgan Chase & Co. for expanding employability into the social sector.

The Partners Smart Institute has forayed into the EduTech space and is looking to fuel its growth into India, South-East Asia, and the MENA region. Having started its journey as a brick-and-mortar educational institute model, The Thadomal Shahani Centre for Management pivoted into a mobile app ecosystem of 7 applications and 6 offline locations, with more than 1,000,000 free students registered on the platform. In fact, Ask.CAREERS is one of the first platforms to provide a consolidated ecosystem for students, teachers, and employers, which allows them to effectively train and hire vocation-ready students, who have undergone on-the-job training. The courses offered include Undergraduate, Postgraduate, Diplomas, and degrees, while the app-based ecosystem offers free and premium options to cater to all segments.

The Perspective With a legacy of over 100 years in the education sector, and deep sectoral knowledge of the industry, The Shahani Group has, hence, created a unique technology framework that utilizes latest industry-based research on student employability to make students job-ready. The company’s USP lies in its technology structured approach to collect and analyze data to improve its offerings, and ultimately the user’s experience. It aims to expand its presence in 30 cities nationally within the next 5 years and helping candidates enhance their critical thinking, problem-solving, and time management skills, while working closely with employers. Smart Institute is looking to raise further funding of USD 30 million, to provide state of the art educational facilities to students, by significantly expanding reach and capabilities.