Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Bengaluru is the biggest city for Udacity: Vish Makhijani

CEO of the US-based Edutech unicorn talks about India growing to become it's second largest market and how it remains an evolving growth story for the company

Rajiv Singh
Published: Jun 30, 2018 07:44:31 PM IST
Updated: Jul 13, 2018 03:21:19 PM IST

Bengaluru is the biggest city for Udacity: Vish Makhijani
Three years after entering India, Silicon Valley online edutech unicorn Udacity has made India its second biggest English-speaking market, globally.

“India is one of the few markets that are actually pretty electric in terms of what’s happening,” says Udacity chief executive officer Vish Makhijani, who was in India earlier this month to take stock of the progress made by Udacity here.

Backed by biggies such as US venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and GV, Google’s venture capital arm, Udacity is globally known for Nanodegree courses--online courses up to six months, designed to equip students with skills needed to land jobs in the tech industry.

“Companies like Myntra are using artificial intelligence to figure out what fashion trend is going to be the highlight this year; it’s something not happening anywhere in the world.

"So, it’s a special time in India and special time for Udacity,” says Makhijani, who claims that over one million students in India including those who have already taken their Nanodegree courses. Excerpts from  an interview with Forbes India:

How big is India for Udacity?
India is the second biggest market for Udacity. In fact, Bengaluru is our largest city and has the highest concentration of students than anywhere.

India is an incredible and important market for us. When we started in 2011, we had great interest from India. But building a business here had its own share of challenges, whether it is from a pure commercial point of view, or just an individual’s ability to pay.

Our Indian team has done a commendable job from a global point of view, in figuring out how to localise, think about pricing, and how to position the company like a great new asset in the market.

Is it easier to sell Nanodegrees in the US than in India?
Even in US, we have pockets where we are strong. We are very concentrated from the West coast to the North East. These are relatively well-developed regions in the US, and have an ecosystem of existing talent and companies that hire in this category.

Though we give access to high quality education that can fit in a person's professional life, it’s a hard puzzle to figure out. The nuances vary from across different markets.

Do you reckon it’s a great time to be in India when there is so much emphasis on reskilling?
The reskilling issue is not unique to India. You can insert different names but the conversation will remain the same. When I was in Bengaluru, I met big companies that are making changes in their business as well as companies you can pit against the Silicon Valley, like Myntra and Flipkart.

That’s why I say, this time in India is electric. India graduates are talking about ways things happen in Silicon Valley. Machine learning is not only for the engineering team. It’s for every single professional in a company to understand these technologies. I love the aggression and attitude around it here. The market is big here, there is a talent pool, and the country is more open and democratic. The rate of acceleration in India is phenomenal and that keeps us going.

How different or similar is Bengaluru from Silicon Valley?
The only difference is that while in Silicon Valley offices there are 50 percent Indian employees, in Bengaluru there are 100 percent Indian employees. (laughs) The competition here drives great performance. Bengaluru has entrepreneurs, talent and real tech companies. India enjoys great value of critical mass from pure market size and has great market values.

In five years, where do you see Udacity in India?
We love the friendly competition amongst all our regional offices. It’s tough to say how big our India market will be because we are a globally aspiring company with mission to democratise education. We not only have to increase our overall business but also make sure that the rate of acceleration is high so that we can stay relevant.