High performing startups in education sector in India: an exploratory study.

AuthorSingh, Sanjay Kumar


The high performance organization possesses clear and compelling directions in the form of mission, vision, and strategy which are embraced by the employees at all levels and that in turn positively influence the outcome measures of the company (Juechter et al., 1988). Hillgren and Morse (1998) believe that "high performance includes financial results, employee morale, and customer service & satisfaction", and high performing organizations are deceptively simple possessing four characteristics namely, direction (i. e., do people, including the executives know what is important?), competence (i. e., if the people know what to do, do they have the capability?), opportunity (i. e., has the top management provided the resources and identified and removed unnecessary barriers?), and motivation (i. e., do people want to do what the organization asks?). The companies who applied these four concepts were found to record exceptional performance changes in financial results, operating results, employee morale, and customer service (Hillgren & Morse, 1998). The high performance organization leads to organizational commitment, high job satisfaction and work motivation of the organizational members (Mowday et al., 1979); and lower absenteeism and turnover (O' Reily & Chatman, 1986). Verma et al. (1999) say that high performance organization generally creates an internal environment which supports customer needs and expectations.

Education in India is a sunrise sector. With phenomenal growth rate and tremendous future prospects, education sector is attracting a lot of investment, both public and private. A lot of Indian private players have started investing in this sunrise sector and there have been few promising and high performing startups that have been making a difference with their innovative products and services. India is a growing economy and size of private education sector has been estimated approximately USD 40 billion (Sharma, 2011). Almost half of the USD 40 billion market is school education comprising kindergarten to class 12 and the remaining consists of higher as well as vocational education.

The education sector in India has tremendous future; and as a result, India has been witnessing plenty of private players into the sector. India has been witnessing mushrooming of private owned enterprises into the emerging businesses in the field of education. However, it has been a common observation as reported in business newspapers and magazines in India that the majority of these startups just die in their first couple of years after birth. There are a few of them who have been shining and doing great businesses.

These glittering startups symbolize high performing organizations (HPOs) who should be studied for the benefits of both the policy makers and those in government. The present study chose three high performing startups of the education sector in India and investigated into the strategy, structure, culture and the human resource policies in these organizations which make them a role model for others to emulate. The three startups are the Elements Akademia, the Lakshya Institute, and the Liqvid e-Learning Services.

Objective of the Study:

The study has been undertaken with the following objectives:

  1. To identify the characteristics of high performing startups in education sector in India.

  2. To understand the business strategy, organizational philosophy and HR practices of high performing startups which have helped them in achieving the phenomenal growth rate.

Elements Akademia

The basis of the process is that "Learning can be made interesting".

It is based in the national capital territory of Delhi and has started its operations in 2007. It believes that the current university education system in India has an inherent flaw in that it offers the degrees but not the jobs. The Elements Akademia bridges that gap by offering a high quality but affordable vocational training, designed with the help of its corporate partners who are leading players in various service sectors like Insurance, BPO/KPO, Retail, Banking, etc. The Six month part-time course offered by it is targeted at the university passed out graduates level prospective human resources for companies in the service sector in Tier II cities all across the length and breadth of India.

The Elements Akademia was conceptualized, funded, and run by a group of alumni from one of the prestigious business schools in India. The vision of this startup is to annually make approximately twenty thousand Indians to become employable. It is envisaged as an innovative national chain of vocational schools which aims at working towards making the university graduates employable by providing them training and education on what the Elements Akademia call the '9 Employability Skills'. The company invested months of its research hours with top companies in the service sectors to understand why not the graduates from different Indian universities get selected during the job interviews of companies belonging to the service sector in India. On the basis of the report of the diagnostic study, The Elements Akademia worked with the service sector companies to design each module--which together became India's first comprehensive "employability training" course.

The Elements Akademia offers this particular course through three channels:

  1. Partnering with graduates and post graduate business colleges to embed their 240 hour curriculum. Their trainers go to campuses and teach, and offer a specific quality, improvement and placement commitment.

  2. Own retail centers--in more than a dozen Tier II cities wherein a student can walk in, register and, if selected, study at their centers for 6 months leading to final job placement in a company belonging to the service sector.

  3. Tie-ups with the governments and MFIs where they typically teach bottom-of-pyramid candidates (X/XII passed out) and help them get decent jobs.

    Strategy: The Elements Akademia is guided by the following strategy:

  4. Expansion in existing cities--at present its revenue in most existing centers is only 20% of the revenues of the largest education enterprises in that city; and it intends to bridge this gap.

  5. Geographic expansion--once it hit rupees 15 million revenues in the key cities where it operates currently, it will expand to other Indian cities.

  6. Strategic alliances and long-term contracts--it is in the final stages of discussions with various governmental...

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