Benita Chacko

Amid ongoing job churn, e-learning segment ups promise quotient

Brands like Simplilearn, Great Learning and Upgrad pivot from upskilling to guarantees of career growth.

Last year we heard of a new term- The Great Resignation. The term described the trend of employees leaving their jobs at unprecedented rates. Low salary, limited career opportunities, poor employee benefits and discontinuation of work from home were some of the reasons for the employees to quit. But as people are changing jobs, nearly 51 per cent of job seekers (as per a survey by Amazon India) are looking to change industries and move to areas where they have little to no experience.

And this requires them to acquire new skills. This has propelled demand in the online education industry, which is churning out new programmes to help people train themselves in new disciplines. The advertising of these platforms reflects this demand.

More and more brands in the edtech space are now promising definite career goals- whether a promotion, a salary hike or a job guarantee- in their ads. While the ads spelt out career benefits before as well, they focussed more on the learning and the programs. But now the messaging is clearly focussed on results.

Last month, Simplilearn, a digital-skills bootcamp, launched its brand campaign #JobGuaranteed, which spoke on its ‘Job Guarantee’ programs that assure a job upon course completion.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Simplilearn's print ad for the 'Job guarantee' campaign</p></div>

Simplilearn's print ad for the 'Job guarantee' campaign

Apart from a print ad, the brand also launched two ad films as part of the campaign. The ad films focused on two primary sets of target audiences - those employed and exploring better opportunities, and aspiring candidates who are currently looking to join the workforce and build a career for themselves. Both films showcase the protagonist being asked for a treat after enrolling in the Simplilearn program, as it means they are on track to secure a job, guaranteed.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Kashyap Dalal</p></div>

Kashyap Dalal

Kashyap Dalal, CBO and co-founder, Simplilearn, says, “We want to convey to our audience that programming and data jobs is a great career option. These are good options for those who want to get a great start to their career. And then, for those in the 25 to 40 years, sometimes they want to change directions when they see other rewarding options. These programmes can help them make that pivot.”

While such promises look attractive, how does a brand make good on them? Since this promise is attached to a course, Dalal says they have partnered with companies to ensure hiring and also conduct an aptitude test before enrolling the student to ensure eligibility. If the students qualify for the programme, they are then guaranteed a job with a minimum salary of Rs Five lakhs. It has partnered with companies who use its products to train their people.

“At a global scale we work with four out of five Fortune 500 companies. So using that strength we can connect the individuals with our enterprise partners. This will help the companies also to fulfil their requirements. We are seeing more students coming from the younger audience, who have just completed their graduation and are looking at tools that can help them get their first job in the industry,” he said.

“There are strong trends that show that India will need 5 million or more people with digital skill sets in the next three to four years. And our goal as a company is to really look at if we can play a large enough role to deliver to that. Through this programme we want to deliver at least 10 lakh people over the next three years,” he added.

Dalal insists that Simplilearn was always focussed on career development and there was no shift in messaging.

“For most of the brands, including Simplilearn, the discussion has always been about outcomes. Anybody who's taking a skilling programme is finally focussed on what's it going to do for his career. So our focus from day one was to deliver career growth. It's not about learning for the sake of learning. With this programme we are putting our money where our mouth is,” he said.

But speaking about the larger industry shift, he says it is a natural transition.

“At a slightly smaller scale, the industry was more focused on tactical customer acquisition through performance channels. And typically, these channels tend to be more fact based- the skills you will learn, topics, etc. But as you move more towards brand based communication, they are talking more about the final outcome. The storytelling will talk more about the final outcome that the person gets by taking this programme, whereas the performance channels will continue to be slightly more focused on the product,” he explained.

Today the online higher education category is a heavily cluttered space with many players. And most of them are making a similar promise of career growth. Dalal says that the space is becoming slightly consolidated and it's not a market where small companies will be able to survive unless they have a big differentiator. For Simplilearn the focus is on the product itself as the strongest marketing channel. He believes that a great product markets itself.

“One of the core focus areas is having a learning pedagogy that delivers real outcomes. And therefore there's been huge investment on the level of live interactive learning that our platform delivers. Once a person becomes a part of the programme, then the learning is our responsibility,” he added.

Great Learning’s ad campaign with Virat Kohli reflected the same trend. With ‘Great Learning for Great Careers’ the ads stressed that its courses could help you get better jobs.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Aparna Mahesh</p></div>

Aparna Mahesh

Aparna Mahesh, chief marketing officer, Great Learning, also insists that Great Learning has not made any drastic shifts in the communication, but only become more direct. She says professionals are not necessarily motivated by the love of learning alone, but also by what it will do to their careers. She points to the maturation of the category and the job scenario for this shift. Quoting the McKinsey Global Institute report that suggests that across the world over 100 million people need to transition into new roles by 2030, she says that this drives the need.

“When you have a relatively new category, there is always a certain kind of messaging hierarchy. So the first one, would be to just explain the need for it. And prior to COVID, it was not a very acute need.”

“The nature and the pace with which the workplace has transformed over the last few years, has almost necessitated ed-tech companies to directly talk about career success. Many traditional jobs have been transformed or even eliminated and new jobs have been created. Now people have realised that upskilling is the only way to survive in a digital workplace.

Similarly UpGrad also sells on the promise of career growth and promotions in its ‘Fast forward your Career’ ads and more recently in the #AssNahiAssetBano ad. Arjun Mohan, chief executive officer- India, upGrad says, the brand’s communication was always about the results. In the higher education space people always look for a return on investment.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Arjun Mohan</p></div>

Arjun Mohan

“We were the first to initiate campaigns in this direction. Now the industry has realised that this path works. And hence they're all ending up taking that kind of messaging. However it's not an easy messaging to live with as people tend to look at it with scepticism. We have to back our claims with facts and our alumni base on social media,” he said.

Mohan explains this shift as a signal that the online higher education learning category is becoming more of a mass product from a very niche product. “When you are talking to a niche audience who have got enough time, more discretionary income, and a very comfortable life, you can talk at the level of building skills and knowledge. But when you come to the masses then it's about giving very clear outcomes, because they want returns. So I would see this as a signal of the market itself maturing and becoming mainstream,” he said.

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