Over the last 6 months, we’ve seen 5X growth in the learner base on our platform: Aparna Mahesh, CMO, Great Learning
Aparna Mahesh, Chief Marketing Officer, Great LearningBI India
The platform offers programs in digital competencies like Data Science, Analytics, AI and Machine Learning, among others

Over the last 6 months, we’ve seen 5X growth in the learner base on our platform: Aparna Mahesh, CMO, Great Learning

The platform offers programs in digital competencies like Data Science, Analytics, AI and Machine Learning, among others
  • Edtech platform Great Learning has been in existence since 2013 and it launched its first high decibel campaign featuring Virat Kohli during this year's Indian Premier League.
  • Till now, most of its growth has been organic but now, with the launch of its campaign, the platform wants to build awareness and take its offering to more and more people across the country.
  • We talk to the platform's newly appointed Chief Marketing Officer, Aparna Mahesh who talks to us about the brand's journey so far and what role marketing and advertising will play in growing the platform further.
The last few years has brought about a boom in India’s Edtech sector. While the sector had been witnessing growth even before the Covid-19 lockdown hit us, those few months when the country was under a complete shutdown turned out to be a game-changer for the sector.

With schools and colleges being closed for months, and people being stuck at home, not only did the K-12 segment see a massive jump, the higher education and lifelong learning segment witnessed a massive spike too.

According to a recent report by Redseer titled Edtech in India, the Post-K12 EdTech industry is divided into 4 segments: higher education, technical skilling, test preparation for government jobs and test preparation for other jobs. This industry is expected to grow threefold by 2022, swelling to $1.7 billion in sales. The report states that a lot of this growth will come from EdTech offerings focusing on higher education, as it does today.

One platform that has been in existence for the past 7 years and has found a loyal user base, primarily through word-of-mouth is Great Learning. The platform also came up with its first high-decibel campaign recently, during IPL. It made people take notice when it roped in Virat Kohli as the face of its first campaign.

The brand also recently announced the appointment of Aparna Mahesh as its Chief Marketing Officer. We thought this would be a good time to catch up with her and ask her about the plans she has for the brand, from a marketing perspective.


Q) Great Learning has been around since 2013 but it's only now that you have started to advertise, at least on traditional mediums. Why did you think this was a good time to start your advertising journey?
Since our inception, we have catered to over 500,000 professionals and students across 140 countries. While we’ve been witnessing significant growth over the last few years, 2020 seems to be the inflection point where we are witnessing a major shift towards digitisation leading to massive uptick in demand for programs in areas like AI, Management, Digital Marketing, Machine Learning, Cloud Computing and Analytics. As the frontrunners in the space, we believe this is the right time for us to communicate and consolidate our leadership position through impactful brand communication.

Q) Till now, did you get most of your users through word-of-mouth?

Most of our growth over the last few years has been organic as we built a solid reputation for the quality of our programs and the successful career transitions of our learners. Majority of our learners have witnessed their friends and colleagues undergo a transformation achieve success in their respective fields, which in turn made them try our programs. We have also been using social media and digital marketing campaigns considering most of our audience is internet savvy. Our digital brand communications have always focused on authentically engaging with the audience and adding a human element to draw their attention. For instance, a few months back, amidst the lockdown, we launched the #AgainstAllOdds campaign that narrated the exceptional career journeys of learners who have defied all odds to upskill and achieve a successful career transition. It resonated with thousands of learners and created a measurable impact for the brand.

Q) Edtech is a buzzing segment right now. Especially during this year's IPL, we have seen so many platforms go all out with their communications. How do you hope to differentiate yourself in the clutter?
While a host of ed-tech players are advertising, the target audience for everyone is not the same. Our audience is working professionals and college students and our brand message is ‘Jo seekhta hai wohi aage badhta hai.’ These are powerful words, especially when delivered by our brand ambassador Virat Kohli – who represents the aspirations of young India and has a deep connect with the youth. If we look at his career trajectory, he has constantly worked on his craft and improved tremendously to always stay at the top of his game. We believe he will encourage millions of learners to chase career excellence with the same passion and tenacity that he brings to the game and inspire them to achieve their goals through high-quality education provided by us.

Q) Why did you choose IPL to launch your advertising campaigns? What kind of returns are you looking for from this investment?
IPL is the biggest sporting event of the year and by associating with Disney+ Hotstar as sponsors, our goal is to build awareness for Great Learning amongst our core target audience – who are digital-first in their behaviour. The pandemic has fuelled the digital and TV viewership and IPL is the first live cricketing event after a very long time. The viewership rates on TV or Hotstar in the early days of the tournament have indeed been very high and we believe that riding this wave will elevate the Great Learning brand to a higher level in terms of awareness as well as a preference when people think of high-quality professional education. Post IPL, we will continue engaging with our audience through social and digital marketing. Apart from this, you will continue to see us on television in months to come.

Q) Again, owing to the fact that there are so many players in the segment now, how is your offering different from the other players?
We deeply believe in imparting quality education and look to make an impactful contribution to our learners' careers. We believe everyone deserves more than one chance and no one’s career should be determined on the basis of a 3-hour entrance examination. Over the past 7 years, we’ve pioneered a model of assisted learning that enables us to deliver learning outcomes that are as robust as classroom learning. Using technology, we are also able to offer highly personalized learning to our learners, anticipate in advance the areas which they find challenging, and work with them closely to help them improve. Because of this, our program completion rate stands upwards of 91%, among the best in the world, along with exceptional learner satisfaction scores. 2 out of every 3 learners are seeing a career transition within 6 months of program completion with salary hikes as high as 100%.

Q) Can you give me a sense of your user demographics? Have you seen any interesting trends in terms of geographies, gender or age?
We have been attracting a wide spectrum of learners. We have seen massive interest from college students and fresh graduates who are preparing for their placements. At the same time, many early and mid-level professionals between 0-5 years of experience from sectors like IT/ITeS, BFSI, consulting and automobile have been using Great Learning Academy and Great Learning Corporate Academy to upskill themselves.

Our programs in Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cybersecurity, and Cloud Computing are most sought after on the platform. On an average, learners are spending approx 2 hrs/day learning these skills on the platform. With the launch of Great Learning Academy, we’ve seen a major surge from metro cities with Bangalore being the leading city followed by Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi. We are also seeing increased inquiries from cities such as Noida, Kolkata and Pune.

Q) The pandemic and lockdown saw people left with more time. Did you see a surge in people coming onto your platform? What kind of growth have you witnessed since you started in 2013 and where have you reached now?
The outbreak of COVID-19 has been a watershed moment for the Edtech sector. We concluded the financial year FY20 with a booked revenue of Rs 325 crore, 150% over FY19. Over the last six months, we have seen 5x growth in the learner base on our platform with the launch of the Great Learning Academy and Great Learning Corporate Academy. This growth has been achieved on the back of increasing demand for programs in digital competencies like Data Science, Analytics, AI, Machine Learning, Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity and Digital Business. Over 5 lakh learners have been benefited through our programs including employees from 700 leading global MNCs and PSUs as well as students from over 1,000 universities and colleges including IITs, IIMs, and NITs. We expect the surge to be even bigger over the next few years.

Q) As a marketer, what will your key focus areas be at Great Learning, and going ahead, what will be your broad marketing strategy?

Our broad focus is to continue to drive home the broader brand message of ‘Jo Seekhta Hai Woh Aage Badta Hai’. We will be working towards exploring different story angles, associations with different mediums, highlighting our success stories and breaking down the message for different audiences to make it relatable to each individual.