Published: 24th July 2020
Education is storytelling: Ronnie Screwvala on India's digital learning revolution
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Ronnie Screwvala spoke about why upGrad clicks, the future of digital learning and how he is helping the migrants who have gone back home restart their lives
For all those who have been curious about why Ronnie Screwvala, the pioneer of cable television in India, spent 15 to 20 years in the media industry and then moved on to co-found EdTech start-up upGrad in 2015, the entrepreneur and philanthropist let us in on the answer during E-Expressions' webinar on Doing Business in the Age of COVID where he was in conversation with Editorial Director of The New Indian Express Prabhu Chawla and Senior Journalist Kaveree Bamzai. "Education, like the media, is storytelling. Because, at the end of the day, you will remember those two professors who taught you because of the way they taught you. And at the university level, you will remember the case studies. It's all storytelling, in one form or the other," said the 57-year-old lucidly.
Matter of growth
Going on to talk about his EdTech venture had grown in leaps and bounds owing to the lockdown, Screwvala shared, "Today, we conduct online classes for over 1,600 students at one given time and they are more lively and interactive. Also, the feedback system is much faster online. For example, if there is a student who watches one video five times, our cousellor notices it and give them a call to check if they need help with understanding the lesson." He estimates that the growth that their platform was expected to hit in four years will be achieved in 18 months. He also tells us how the deep learning courses they offer are mostly for working professionals who don't have to quit their jobs anymore if they wish to upskill themselves.
Talking about the most popular courses on upGrad, the entrepreneur says, "About two years back, it was all about Data Science and today, it still is. An MBA in Data Analytics will get one much more traction than an MBA in HR or Marketing," says the entrepreneur and also lists Product and Digital Marketing and MBA as their most popular courses.
upGrad poster | (Pic: upGrad)
He also revealed that they will launch a soft skills platform soon too, which will teach one everything from how to tackle the first day in office to office politics. "This is because often employees tell us that the person is smart, but they can't speak up confidently in a room. So soft skills are an important part of learning," he explains.
Helping out rural India
Speaking about the non-profit organisation Swades Foundation he started in the year 2013 for rural empowerment, he informs that they work with 2,200 villages and have been working on reverse migration. Initially, workers were reluctant to go back to their village, stigmatised by the thought of being termed a failure, but today, the pandemic has erased that. "Now that they have gone back, between agriculture, entrepreneurship and animal husbandry, there is a lot to be done," says Screwvala and the foundation is helping them with all three.
Which speaks directly to India's swift digital transformation. While discussing the media and how youngsters have long moved on from the format of discussion and debate and that it's all about brevity for them now on social media, he said, "The biggest challenge in the old media today is breaking down the hierarchy and only then, can they beat new media," he said and concluded.