By Derek Newton
Reposted from Forbes, with permission.
Considering entrepreneurial innovation in education and education technology as well as its domestic market size, India is by far the largest and most active education marketplace in the world. So, when an entrepreneurial leader jumps up there, it sparks notice and interest.
Meet education entrepreneur Gunjan Aggarwal.
What she and her team are doing deserves some interest both as a business and as an education innovation.
Her privately held company is Learn with Leaders. Its educational approach is unique and, proving that point, its early success is enormous.
Learn with Leaders isn’t Aggarwal’s first venture. She and her colleagues have been tinkering with education delivery systems and brands for 15 years, doing journalism education and some marketing for universities.
Before her latest entrepreneurial campaign Aggarwal was a CA, analogous to a CPA. That alone has a rigorous educational pathway; in India only three to four percent of aspirants pass the exams. When she passed hers, Aggarwal had completed her studies in three years, making her among the fastest and youngest in the country to do so. But because local laws prevent a CA from being a partner in any business, Aggarwal gave up her license to jump all the way in with her new company, Learn with Leaders.
The company is finding success by, as the name implies, partnering with leaders – faculty, mentors, centers, student organizations and others – at some of the biggest brands in global education and offering their short courses and programs to students in shorter and more focused custom designed packages. Those brands include Harvard, Stanford, Yale, MIT and others, the brass nameplates of educational status.
Infused with those offerings, Learn with Leaders helps students build professional, international networks in and around the courses. It’s those network building opportunities that Aggarwal believes to be the secret sauce.
“My parents did not have money to send me abroad to network or study, they did not have ability to access or develop the global networks that are so essential to success,” Aggarwal said. “The idea we had, at its heart, was a global network and how you can get that early without having to spend so much money.”
But those networks are really only part of it, Aggarwal says. The complimentary value in networking is learning social skills, corporate and professional culture. “When students are in final year, students are not ready for the real world, not ready for the corporate environment or take an idea and solve it,” she said. The biggest question, she said, was, “Do you have a learning experience other than just a textbook experience?”
Offering that educational mix – high-end, high-brand content with networking and real world learning – is potent for students and parents alike, according to Aggarwal, because it also opens doors well beyond the typical, rigid system of testing and grading.
“I just don’t like the relative grading system where 95% of student are told they are not good enough,” Aggarwal said. At Learn with Leaders, she says, “Nobody asks them whether they are in the top 5% in their class, which means that when they come to us, they actually get hope to do other things. They find the ability to speak up and say what they feel. And what we hear often is that 90% of kids are living their parents’ dream.”
That feels pretty powerful as an education solution. And judging by the early business success, it is.
In less than a year, monthly income has increased more than 100x. Also in that time, the company has served more than 10,000 students from 80 countries and established relationships with more than 850 different schools and education providers.
Aggarwal and her team are already spinning off ambitious and reinforcing projects and programs such as a student entrepreneurial pitch competition, giving students more chances to meet actual professionals and experience project-based, solution-focused learning.
Other companies have pieced together similar offerings around project-based learning and networking, but few – if any – have done it so well so quickly. Part of that success speaks to demand for new, high-value models in India. But part of it speaks to just having a new model – something education consumers clearly want.
It’s a company and a product mosaic worth keeping in eyesight to see if it will continue its epic growth. There’s little reason to suspect it won’t.
When asked what she sees ahead, five years down the road, Aggarwal said, “You mean besides becoming a billion dollar company?” She quickly followed up with her team’s desire to “start an industrial revolution in education and serve students worldwide.” If Aggarwal can get anywhere close to doing the latter, the former should fall right in place.