Free Press Journal

Imarticus’ MD Nikhil Barshikar discusses future of company dealing with skilling and re-skilling

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Given the large-scale job losses and the demographic profile of India, the urgency of creating employability is now at its peak. Imarticus, since its existence for over five years, aims to bridge the gap between available skills and needed skills through focussed training in the financial services space. Imarticus’ MD, Nikhil Barshikar talks to Pankaj Joshi about future.

How did the business idea get generated?
The evolution of Imarticus’ business model was from an earlier stint of mine. When we set up a different business in India in the financial space, we found that talent was either unavailable or not well-oriented. That gave rise to the idea that a business model could be built around creating specific targeted skills and making people employable or ready for growth within their existing organisation. That was how we zeroed down to the financial services and analytics space.

We focused on banks in the early stage and were successful in having 11 large banks working with us. Beyond the task-readiness of candidates, the other benefits that banks could see was the attrition part, because along with training the candidates we were also making the job profile clearer and therefore managing their expectations. We were able to help the attrition rate drop by 30 per cent in the 2010-12 period across the 11 banks.


How do you define yourself today?
Our business model today focuses on training in financial services and analytics. In financial services, we run the gamut from retail banking to corporate, right up to investment banking and private equity. Given that expertise in India is not common, we have from the start had a global approach and global activity benchmarks— online and offline. In the B2C segment, our value is either as an employment driver, or an upskilling driver, which is essentially a much cost-effective option to the traditional MBA route. We already have eight centres live and four would come up in the next three months. Each centre has a 100-120 capacity across 3-4 classes and we have two classes a day with weekends going up to three classes.

Each centre can therefore manage 1,000-1,500 students on annual basis. We have 20 trainers on pay rolls, supported by 150 trainers on contract across 25 cities. In the online mode, to keep the engagement ratio high, we have a flash quiz 3-4 times an hour. The engagement ratio is one of our key focus areas.

In terms of content, we have a partnership model with corporate clients wherein we have co-branded content especially at the higher end. It typically works well in tier-I cities and in smaller centres we find a greater emphasis on retail banking and offline training. In B2B segment, we found that business comes from training freshers and from getting people to fit their job or for better promotion.
Till date, we have trained around 18,000 students in the B2C segment. In the previous fiscal, we had 4,000 and we expect to close the current year at around 7,000-8,000. In the B2B segment for  this fiscal, we would work with around 15 clients and 6,000 students on a monthly basis.  The price point in B2B is much lower at Rs 30,000 for 40-day programme whereas in B2C segment, an average is around Rs 60,000  (100 days).

How does your funding stack up vis-à-vis your scale of activity?

We have had access to angel funding, mainly from people with experienced in the financial services space. We had their help to open doors for business. We are going in shortly for our first institutional funding round, and plan to raise USD 5-6 million. Given that we are profitable in our own right, we think it is better to restrict our external funding to this level.

What is your vision for the next 3-5 years?

The reskilling industry landscape is dominated by IT and financial services. In IT today, NIIT is the premier benchmark, reskilling around 50-60 thousand students on a yearly basis. We want to be in that position as a brand of choice in the finance and analytics space. In the B2C segment, we would aim to go up to tier-III cities which means a presence of 50-75 centres. We would aim to cover something like 30-35 profiles in the finance space and 15-20 in the analytics, which would be a big leap from what we offer today. The delivery mode is not much of a challenge, we are up to anything which the specific segment and geography demands.

In the B2B segment, we have today an aggregate client base of 50 corporates which we aim to scale up to 150, and maintain the 70 per cent share of multinational clients. The big move up in the B2B business is how to monetise relationships.  Today a typical mid-size company with 2,000-5,000 employees and a budget of 7-8 per cent manpower cost means an opportunity worth Rs 3-5 crore which we should know how to tap. We believe this calls for a strategic approach in relationships, which is not prevalent in India where most vendors in this space focus on transactions. We must look beyond corporate training and process digitisation assignments, to deepen relationships. We may aspire to be a critical part of the basic screening process in recruitment programmes, and by extension we could then have employability-oriented aspects in our B2C offerings.

We already have the pro-degree product which is co-branded. The thought process behind co-branded content is to aspire to be an external arm to the company’s HR division, is what will drive our growth.