upGrad Success Story- India's Largest Online Higher Education Company

upGrad Success Story- India's Largest Online Higher Education Company

Company Profile is an initiative by StartupTalky to publish verified information on different startups and organizations. The content in this post has been approved by upGrad.

With exponential growth in the number of internet and smartphone users in India, turning online to get one's tasks done is now mainstream. Education too falls under this umbrella. Online tutoring has many benefits such as economical courses, flexible schedules, and 24/7 access to get doubts and queries cleared. This has made online learning popular among all age groups. upGrad, a Mumbai-based startup, is bringing the best out of the online education segment.

upGrad has tied up with world-class institutes to facilitate access to career-oriented courses and assist Indian students and working professionals who want to upgrade their careers. With the last funding round of August 9, 2021, of $40 million, led by Temasek Holdings, IFC, and IIFL, upGrad's valuation crossed $1.2 billion and made it the third unicorn in the Edtech space. It is currently valued at over $2.25 bn.

StartupTalky interviewed upGrad founder Mayank Kumar to know how the startup was founded, and how it is helping students and professionals to pursue higher education online. Read on to know about upGrad's business model, revenue model, founders, challenges, funding, growth, and the story of its success.

upGrad - Company Highlights

Startup Name upGrad
Headquarters Mumbai
Founders Ronnie Screwvala, Mayank Kumar, Phalgun Kompalli, and Ravijot Chugh
Sector EdTech
Founded 2015
Valuation $2.25+ Bn (June 2022)
Revenue $40.04 Million (INR 302 crores) in FY21
Funding $636 Mn (August 2022)
Parent Organization UpGrad Education Pvt. Ltd
Website upGrad.com

upGrad - Startup Journey
upGrad - About
upGrad - Industry Details
upGrad - Founders And Team
upGrad - How it Started?
upGrad - Mission and Vision
upGrad - Name, Tagline, And Logo
upGrad - Courses
upGrad - Business Model And Revenue Model
upGrad - Funding And Investors
upGrad - User Acquisition
upGrad - Startup Challenges
upGrad - Competitors
upGrad - Acquisitions
upGrad - ESOPs
upGrad - Advisors And Mentors
upGrad - Revenue And Growth
upGrad - Partnership
upGrad - Awards
upGrad - Future Plans


upGrad - Startup Journey

upGrad Startup Story
upGrad Startup Story

upGrad - About

upGrad Education Pvt. Ltd. is an online higher education company that provides programs in the areas of data, technology, and management to college students, first-time job seekers, and working professionals and empowers them to reach their peak potential. These programs are designed in collaboration with top-notch universities like IIIT-B, BITS Pilani, MICA, Cambridge Judge Business School, and many others.

To enhance the learning experience further, a comprehensive ecosystem has been built which includes, but is not restricted to, one-on-one mentoring, peer-to-peer learning, industry networking, and expert career guidance. This ensures a holistic approach to gaining the maximum out of the programs offered.

"We, at upGrad, had always believed in the potential of online education being able to transform careers. Hence, the development and adherence to the company’s vision statement since its inception in 2015 - ‘Building careers of tomorrow’," said Ronnie Screwvala, upGrad founder.

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upGrad - Industry Details

As per an IBEF report, the higher education market in India stands at $102 billion. If we consider the online higher education market, it stands at $247 million and is expected to grow by 8X to reach $1.96 billion in 2021. Techavio’s industry research report pegs the online education market in India to be worth about $18 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 20% over five years.

The total enrollment in higher education in India has been estimated to be 34.6 million, the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in higher education is 24.5% for the age group of 18-23 years, and distance enrollment constitutes about 11.05% of the total enrollment in higher education programs. The perception of recruiters towards online degrees in India has also changed since UGC permitted eligible universities to offer degree courses online. This decision is a revolutionary step toward propelling the online education sector in India.


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upGrad - Founders And Team

upGrad learning platform was founded in 2015 by Ronnie Screwvala, Mayank Kumar, Phalgun Kompalli, and Ravijot Chugh.

upGrad Founders
upGrad Founders

Ronnie Screwvala | Co-founder & Chairman, upGrad

Ronnie Screwvala is the chairman of upGrad. Ronnie is a well-known personality in the Indian television industry and the founder of UTV Group (now known as Walt Disney India), founder trustee of Swades Foundation, founder of Unilazer Ventures, Board of Advisor AIESEC India, and the founder of RSVP Movies. He has featured on Esquire's List of the 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century and ranked 78 among the 100 most influential people in the world on the Time 100 (compiled by Time Magazine, 2009). He was also listed amongst 25 Asia’s Most Powerful People by Fortune Magazine and titled the Jack Warner of India by Newsweek.

Mayank Kumar | Co-founder & MD, upGrad

Mayank Kumar is the Managing Director and leads the overall operations at upGrad. Before his upGrad stint, Mayank was the VP of Education at Bertelsmann- Europe’s largest media and education conglomerate—where he oversaw the education strategy and its multi-million dollar investments in India. He also served as a Board Member of iNurture—India’s number one provider of industry-specific academic programs.

Mayank holds a Bachelor's degree from IIT Delhi and an MBA from the Indian School of Business. He received the coveted BWDISRUPT 40-under-40 Achiever of the Year Award'17 by BW Businessworld. Before joining Bertelsmann, Mayank was a Senior Principal at The Parthenon Group where he advised clients in the education sector on market potential, growth and market entry strategies, investment decisions, revenue & profit uplift strategies. He participated in deals worth USD 1 billion flowing into the education sector and worked with clients from China, South-East Asia, Middle East India, and South America. He also worked at the Tata Strategic Group, advising Tata’s strategic direction.

Ravijot Chugh | Co-founder, upGrad

Ravijot Chugh heads career services, product, design, content, delivery, and student success divisions at upGrad. Ravijot was at Housing.com as a product lead and then at the Parthenon Group where he advised multiple companies and private equity investors on due diligence, market entry, and growth strategy in the education sector of emerging markets across Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa. He also co-founded a social travel startup called 36hrs.in headquartered in San Francisco. Ravijot Chugh holds a Bachelors's degree in Computer Science from IIT-Delhi and was part of the Forbes Asia 30 under 30 cohort of 2018.

Phalgun Kompalli | Co-founder, upGrad

Phalgun Kompalli is the head of sales and marketing at upGrad. He heads university partnerships and customer acquisition in addition to sales and marketing. Before UpGrad, Phalgun was a Principal at The Parthenon Group—an education strategy-consulting firm—where he was involved in advising large education conglomerates and investment funds on their growth and investment strategies in the education sector. Phalgun has done significant work in the field of higher education and technology-enabled learning across India, the US, Brazil, Africa, and Southeast Asia. He worked at Opera Solutions before his Parthenon stint. Opera Solutions is an analytics firm providing consultation to Fortune 500 companies on their revenue and cost optimization initiatives through data analytics. He completed his Bachelors in Technology from IIT Delhi.

UpGrad Team and Workforce

upGrad has a workforce of 4,800 employees and has plans to take it to 7,600 in the next 3 months, as reported on August 8, 2022. The company has recently strengthened its senior leadership team to capitalize on potential opportunities in the online education sector.

The company has appointed Tanya Ahluwalia as the Vice President – Brand Marketing while Rahul Karthikeyan will head Digital Marketing. Tanya brings 18 years of experience to the table by working with leading organizations such as Coca-Cola, BBlunt, Nike, Unilever, and Delta Corp. Rahul has been in the marketing and advertising industry for the last 11 years in different capacities. He was the head of Digital Performance for the West Region at Wavemaker and has worked with leading brands such as Vodafone, Eureka Forbes, NMIMS, and Flipkart.

In April 2019, Kushal Dev Kashyap, former senior manager ( Business Development) at BYJU's joined upGrad as Associate Director of Business Development. In May 2019, Abhishek Arora joined upGrad as the Chief Business Officer – Consumer Business.

Since its inception, the post of Chief Executive Officer was vacant. In March 2020, upGrad appointed Arjun Mohan as its CEO for India operations. Formerly CBO (Chief Business Officer) at BYJU's, Mohan has over a decade of experience in the edtech sector. Besides BYJU's, Mohan also worked with Titan Industries, Tata Motors, Tata Realty and Infrastructure Ltd (TRIL), and Sir Dorabji Tata and Allied Trusts.

Over the last two years, the startup has developed a holistic digital education experience for working professionals and college students for upskilling and reskilling. We are happy that the new senior leadership brings diverse and rich learnings for upGrad to unlock the immense potential in the online education space and understand the Indian learners. We will continue this growth momentum, offering innovative opportunities for the working professionals and students to equip themselves with the new-age skills for the workforce of the future - Ronnie Screwvala & Mayank Kumar, Co-founders of upGrad.

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upGrad - Work Culture

upGrad’s vision revolves around ‘building careers of tomorrow’. The learning experience it delivers is at the core of its business. The upGrad team constantly strives for excellence and has a high degree of passion and pride in whatever it does. Some of the main highlights of upGrad's work culture are:

  • It is committed to building careers of tomorrow: People working with the company have a sense of job satisfaction and a feeling of doing something special since their contribution has the power to improve the customer/learner’s life and career.
  • It supports innovation: As an edtech company, upGrad believes that technology is the future. That's why the employees are constantly motivated to take up innovative initiatives across various functions.
  • Open culture: The leadership team is highly approachable, the structure is flat, and employees are encouraged to take up initiatives.
  • Promote upskilling: Being a company that endorses upskilling, upGrad spurs its employees to take up its courses at discounted rates for staying relevant with changing times.
  • Encourage transparency and creative thinking: A young organization with an employee strength of 400+ and the average age of its workforce being 28, upGrad is ready to push boundaries in the field of education.

The key traits of upGrad's work culture are centered on:

  • Long term thinking with clinical execution.
  • Empathy and impact.
  • Accountability and ownership.
  • Delivering excellence.    
"We at upGrad always look for passion in an individual, be it for work or outside work. The individual may be passionate about running, social work, movies, music, traveling, etc. For us, passion demonstrates how driven an individual is & how diligently they follow their passion," said Mayank Kumar, co-founder of upGrad.

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upGrad History - How it Started?

Mayank has vast experience in the education industry, both as an advisor and an investor. He observed the benefits of low infrastructure costs and a large student base in reducing the price of procuring education via the online channel. These factors led to online courses being 53% cheaper than the offline alternatives. Owing to the flexibility of time, schedule, etc., online education is a convenient mode of learning. As a result, many online education companies have sprung up to cater to the huge scope of online courses.

Although there were companies in the K-12 segment and platforms providing MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), none of them provided formal education coupled with a comprehensive learning experience. Mayank foresaw that the requirement for online learning would be much higher for technical certifications given the increase in the working population at that time. Again, none of the existing companies completely tapped into the online higher education space. This led to the idea behind upGrad which was subsequently launched in 2015.

“We first built a content team which has now grown by 5 folds. They created subject matter from scratch, collecting and collating industry trends and university curriculum. We quickly developed a tech team that focuses purely on the smooth functioning of our online platform. Since then we have always focused on building a great online learning experience by collaborating with the right universities like BITS Pilani, IIIT-Bangalore, Cambridge Judge Business School of Executive Education, etc. We also have collaborations with some of the industry's best such as Google, Flipkart, Gramener to name a few in order to create a cohesive and practical learning experience,” says upGrad owner Mayank Kumar, explaining the inception phase of the company.

Starting with its first program in entrepreneurship, upGrad has created some of India’s largest online programs to help thousands of professionals and college students achieve their career goals in the areas of data, technology, and management. Today the platform has over 35 programs.

upGrad - Mission and Vision

"Making our learners achieve their desired outcomes," says upGrad mission.

upGrad vision - "Powering career success for every member of the global workforce as their trusted lifelong learning partner."


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“Interestingly, we had registered the company under the name of UEducation when we started. Very soon we conducted an exercise with an external agency to determine our brand name and logo. Through that exercise, we came upon the name - upGrad,” adds Mayank.

According to Mayank, two key reasons behind choosing the name 'upGrad' were:

  1. It had a smart twist.
  2. It had a nice connotation to the word “graduation”.

upGrad is all about upgrading lives and careers by offering graduation and post-graduation programs.

upGrad Logo
Narrating the concept of the company's logo, Mayank says “Development of the brand logo was an interesting exercise too. While we looked at multiple options - we liked the existing one where G was in upper-case and highlighted. The shape of the ‘G’ resembles the refresh icon. Hence the logo represents that upGrad is about enabling a refresh for your life and career.”

upGrad - Courses

The online courses offered by the upGrad learning platform include MBA, IT Courses, Data Science, Machine Learning, Digital Marketing, Software, Blockchain, Insurance-related courses, and more. upGrad has a structured educational program for every phase of a person's career right from college to professional employment.

In line with its vision of ‘building careers of tomorrow’, this Mumbai-based startup inspires college students to take the initial steps towards their professional journey. It focuses on getting them job-ready. The courses prepare students to crack the recruitment processes for different roles through aptitude training, resume building, and mock interview prep sessions. Along with the paid/premium courses that upGrad offers, where the company extends numerous degrees and certifications from a wide variety of courses across the country and abroad, it also offers numerous upGrad free courses ranging from Data Science, Technology to Management.

upGrad has also launched programs with a guaranteed job for those who are seeking their first employment stint. The program offers a guaranteed job upon successful completion of the program. On the other hand, working professionals have the advantage of going back to the university through upGrad's immersive learning platform without the need to quit their jobs. On course completion, the learners become alumni of the partner university. They also get to attend on-campus hackathons and graduation ceremonies.

upGrad also provides solutions to enterprises seeking the upskilling of their employees. In FY 19-20, upGrad entered into a partnership with 2 of India’s leading IT services companiesInfosys and Wipro. These are multi-year deals and have a strong repeat element. With this, the company has established a strong position in the enterprise ecosystem.

The upGrad team has also introduced a concept called 'upGrad basecamp'. This is a unique concept wherein the learners get a chance to network and engage in peer-to-peer learning through offline meetups. They also receive career support which involves resume building, career landscaping, mock interviews, interview guarantees, and more. The ‘Just in Time’ Interview Prep by upGrad helps learners with last-minute interview preparation, guiding them through key concepts before interviews, and mentoring them through the joining process.

A key USP for upGrad is its mentorship; the very fact that the startup spends money on mentoring while others find a course and put it online. Some other differentiators are its tech platform, interactive interface, and content—all of which have been created from scratch by its team. The team doesn’t aggregate content and assemble. About 60-70% of upGrad’s curriculum comes from lecturers or mentors who bring in their real-life experiences to the learners. Once enrolled, learners can simply log on to learn.upgrad.com and access the course they enrolled for.

The company has also teamed up with Agora.io, the leading voice, video, and live streaming platform, to launch upGrad Live platform. It is built to replicate a real-time classroom learning experience for enrolled students by providing greater interactivity, real-time doubt resolution, in-class concept check, and session analytics to gauge live session performances.

Learners have spent close to a million hours of learning on the platform. This is a huge testament to the learning platform that upGrad has built. upGrad is now capable of delivering quality education at scale.


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upGrad - Business Model And Revenue Model

upGrad is largely built on a direct B2C model of business wherein the consumer enrolls in the program (post receiving an admit) and pays upfront for the enrollment. For its enterprise business, the company receives payment from companies for training its employees.

upGrad’s program pricing reflects its commitment towards getting students placed. 50% of the program fees are collected from the learner only if they get placed after the program's completion. This pricing strategy is the first of its kind in India.

upGrad - Funding And Investors

upGrad's founders provided the initial funding. The first phase of the investment went into building the learning experience, product, content, and pedagogy. The second phase of the investment is meant for creating larger awareness amongst consumers and corporate entities.

upGrad closes a $210 mn funding round on August 8, 2022, where funds poured in from ETS Global, Bodhi Tree and Kaizen Management Advisors, apart from the family offices of Bharti Airtel, Narotam Sekhsaria (Ambuja Cements), and Artisan Investments (Lakshmi Mittal. Besides, the existing investors - Temasek, IFC, and IIFL, also backed upGrad with this round.  

upGrad achieved unicorn status with the August 9, 2021 funding round, which infused $65 mn and completed the $185 mn funding round for the company, which was started with the $120 mn investment it received on April 26, 2021. With this round, Ronnie Screwvala's company turned out to be the third unicorn in 2021 in the Edtech space, after Byju's and Unacademy. The company was backed by Temasek, International Finance Corporation, and IIFL during this round. UpGrad was then valued at $1.2 Bn, which has now shot to over $2.25 bn, as of July 2022, when the company raised $225 mn from a clutch of investors including Lupa Systems LLC and Educational Testing Service (ETS).

The existing investors of Upgrad like Temasek, and the family offices of Lakshmi Mittal (ArcelorMittal SA) and Sunil Bharti Mittal (Bharti Airtel) also participated in the funding round, as mentioned in the June 16th, 2022 reports. This funding round was reportedly not closed then, where UpGrad seemed like raising another funding worth around $100 mn in the same round. Whether the recent closing of $210 mn funding round in August 2022, is a part of the same funding round is still unconfirmed. However, when it comes to the total funding, UpGrad raised around $636 mn to date, as of August 8, 2022.

Here are all the details of the 6 funding rounds that UpGrad has seen so far and a look at its lead investors:

Date Series Amount Investors
August 8, 2022 Venture Round $210 Mn ETS Global, Bodhi Tree and Kaizen Management Advisors
June 16, 2022 Venture Round $225 Mn Lupa Systems, Educational Testing Service.
August 9, 2021 Venture Round $65 Mn IFC, IIFL and Temasek
April 26, 2021 Venture Round $120 Mn Temasek Holdings
April 14, 2021 Venture Round $9.3 Mn Unilazer Ventures
August 12, 2020 Debt Financing $6.69 Mn IIFL Asset Management

In August 2020, upGrad raised INR 50 Crores ($6.8 Million) in debt from the IIFL Income Opportunities Fund (owned by IIFL Asset Management Limited, an India-focused global asset management firm). In April 2021, upGrad raised its first external equity funding round, since being founded in 2015, led by Temasek.

According to the reports, the company is in advanced talks for raising another $400 Mn and eyeing a valuation of $4 Bn soon.

"Our specific interest for targeted companies are those that can fast-track our ambitions in the degree programs or add a whole new line of online programs to our existing range, example finance, law or medicine," said Ronnie Screwvala, Founder, upGrad

There have been inbound interests from investors, both financial and strategic. upGrad's focus is to invest in three components:

  1. New programs
  2. Greater awareness
  3. Product and learning experience

upGrad - User Acquisition

For the first 100 customers, upGrad used several offline events to promote its initiative. The founders personally spoke to the learners. Prospective learners had to share their video profiles and SOPs (Statement of Purpose) before enrolling. They were then given 2 weeks of learning content for free. Only after experiencing the free content was the payment option made available to them.

“We had expected that initially, 50-60 learners would enroll, but 100 ended up enrolling in the program. It was one of the most exhilarating and humbling experiences for us,” recalls Mayank.

upGrad has crossed the 2 million mark of learner base with its platform on August 30, 2021, thereby becoming the largest online platform providing higher education in the country, as reported by co-founder and chairman Ronnie Screwvala.    


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upGrad - Startup Challenges

Like all businesses, upGrad encountered multiple challenges. The most significant one was the stigma surrounding the credibility of online education. There is a general perception that online education is frivolous. upGrad had to prove otherwise through its product, customer experience, and success stories; and this was a tough job.

Getting recruiters to accept that online education could be as rigorous as offline education was the next hurdle. Finally, when it came to product pricing, upGrad priced itself at a discount to offline competitors, but at a premium to other online competitors. It was an uphill task to explain the value proposition of the programs to the learners.

“The entire task of building a higher education brand is made more arduous by the prevailing consumer mindset around education. Education in India is considered by many as a time-bound, one-time activity, post completion of which one starts working and does not go back to studying again. It is a mammoth task to change the mindset of the people by convincing them that education has no age limit, lifelong learning is the new mantra and need of the hour for all” - Mayank.

upGrad - Competitors

The top competitors of upGrad are -

However, there are certain features that set upGrad apart from its competitors. One of the main USPs is the hand-holding provided to each learner. This practice is called ‘student mentorship’ and the team behind it is known as ‘Student Success’ at upGrad.

“We even hear it from our students as well till today, that there is no other brand that has been able to provide this level of direction, guidance, motivation and support the way we do. The moment a learner is assigned a batch to begin the program, a student mentor gets in touch with them. From day one onwards, the learner/mentee and student mentor start communicating regarding program specific topics. From then on the learner’s experiences, life’s problems and joys become an unforgettable part of the student ,mentor’s life too. Such is the bond that we build with the learner. And when that learner receives his certification/diploma at the end of the program, nothing makes our student mentor happier than to see his mentee succeed” - Mayank Kumar.

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upGrad - Acquisitions

upGrad's total acquisition count is 14 companies to date. upGrad acquired Exampur in an undisclosed deal, which is the last acquisition on August 1, 2022. Exampur is a test preparation platform, and upGrad sees test-prep as a potential growth driver in the times upcoming. Therefore, the 100% merger agreement of Exampur will certainly benefit upGrad to strengthen its test preparation wing.  

Harappa Education was the previous company that upGrad acquired on July 22, 2022, in a cash and stock deal worth Rs 300 crore ($37.54 mn).

upGrad's Rekrut, a 100% subsidiary of the company, acquired WOLVES India, as of July 14, 2022. WOLVES India is a staffing and recruitment company that is acquired by upGrad for an undisclosed amount, which would be operating independently after the acquisition, headed by founder Raghu S.

upGrad acquired Work Better on January 10, 2022, for an undisclosed sum. Work Better will be merging into upGrad after the acquisition, and will be renamed as upGrad Work Better, which would then offer tailor-made courses for employees and organizations. The entire team of the company will be reportedly joining upGrad, which would be strengthening its enterprise learning and development (L&D) offerings. With this acquisition, Work Better will bring in 300+ corporate clients and 250+ trainers to upGrad For Business (a B2B arm). After Work Better, upGrad acquired Data Science Institute INSOFE on May 2, 2022. The Data Science, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning-focused institution is profitable and will be crossing $13 mn (INR 100 crore) in valuation in 2022. The Hyderabad-based INSOFE's investors and management will be taking a little under 1% equity in upGrad at a valuation of $2 bn, confirmed the deal, and with this acquisition of INSOFE, upGrad has completed acquiring 11 companies in total.

upGrad acquired Talentedge on December 6, 2021. The deal was valued at around 3-4X of this year's revenues of Talentedge, which was reported to be at around Rs 130 crore. The Talentedge acquisition was closed on April 8, 2022, which now stands integrated within the upGrad group of companies. The company completed close to a 100% share swap transaction, where Talentedge was valued at Rs 205 crore ($27 mn) while upGrad was valued at $2 bn. Though the deal value is still undisclosed, as part of the deal, The Sekhsaria family, the owners of Talentedge have received a stake in upGrad.

upGrad had acquired Global Study Partners (GSP), an Australian two-sided marketplace for the recruitment of international students, on November 29, 2021. The company had further promised then to invest $16 Mn for a 100% stake in GSP and then allot another $10 mn for its future growth.

upGrad acquired KnowledgeHut, short-term skilling and training courses startup on August 3, 2021. upGrad acquired Impartus for Rs. 150 crores ( $20.6 Million). Impartus was a video-learning solutions provider, which operated as a complete subsidiary of upGrad. upGrad acquired Acadview Software in 2018, thereby venturing into the college education space. Before this, the company had acquired Pyoopil Education Technologies, a mobile-based SaaS (Software- as- a- service) product used by companies to deploy online training in 2016. In 2019, upGrad acquired CohortPlus, India’s largest and most active community on product management and data science. Some other notable acquisitions made by the company were when it acquired AcadView and Pyoopil Education.

Here's the table mentioning all the acquisitions that upGrad has seen so far.

Acquired Date Price
Exampur August 1, 2022 -
Harappa Education July 22, 2022 $37.54 mn
WOLVES India July 14, 2022 -
INSOFE May 2, 2022 $33 mn
Work Better January 10, 2022 Undisclosed
Talentedge December 6, 2021 Undisclosed
Global Study Partners November 29, 2021 Undisclosed
KnowledgeHut August 3, 2021 Undisclosed
Impartus Innovations May 24, 2021 $20.22 million
Rekrut India December 15, 2020 Undisclosed
The Gate Academy November 24, 2020 Undisclosed
CohortPlus July 4, 2019 Undisclosed
AcadView October 29, 2018 Undisclosed
Pyoopil Education Technologies Pvt Ltd October 17, 2016 Undisclosed

upGrad - ESOPs

upGrad conducted its maiden ESOP on July 13, 2021, and in it, the company promised the liquidity of an amount close to $29.5 Mn (Rs 220 crores). The maiden ESOP of upGrad has formed a large ESOP pool of around 13% of the enlarged equity base and is planned to benefit both the early and promising team members of the company. The inclusive ESOP scheme boasts of having over 600 team members, who share the growth story of the company, consisting of 37 early team members.

The company further increased its employee stock option program (ESOPs) pool by 28% in the middle of November. upGrad, which has earlier spoken of 17,25,810 options (UPGRAD Education-Employee Stock Option (New) Scheme, 2015) has now made it 22,25,810. This also resulted in lifting the pool’s value by 29%, to Rs 427 crore, which was last reported at Rs 331 crore.

upGrad - Advisors And Mentors

Emphasizing the importance of knowledgeable advisors for an entrepreneur, Mayank says, “There are many acquaintances who have been helping me, guiding me as I go along the journey. As an entrepreneur, you tend to dive deep into execution and thoughts, thereby sometimes failing to look at the bigger picture. It is always good to meet with well-wishers, bounce off ideas and get an outside-in perspective.”

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upGrad - Revenue And Growth

In the last few years, upGrad's gross revenue has increased manifold. It witnessed a 113% jump in its gross revenue from INR 57 crores ($7.8 million) in FY18 to INR 121 crores ($16.7 Million) in FY19. The company's total revenue increased to INR 163 Crores ($22.4 Million) in FY20. The company has achieved an Annual Revenue Run rate (ARR) of INR 1200 Crore ( $165.4 Million). The plan is to grow by international expansion and strategic acquisitions in 2021 and 2022. Furthermore, the company is also planning to achieve a revenue run rate of $500 million by the end of March 2022.

upGrad's revenues ballooned by around 86% to become a little more than Rs 302 crore during FY21, which was last pegged at Rs 162.31 crore in FY20.  

upGrad Revenue Breakdown

upGrad's largest revenue vertical is the commission it charges on the fees collected by the universities, making up for 50.3% of its revenues. 49.1% of its revenues have garnered the sale of its own edtech courses. The remaining percentage consists of the recruitment services upGrad provides.

Here, in FY21, upGrad generated revenues from these three streams where the edtech unicorn's revenues from commissions grew by 68.4% in FY21 to become Rs 152 crore, which was earlier reported to be Rs 90.2 crore in FY20. The income generated from the sales of its courses increased by 105.5% to turn Rs 148.2 crore during FY21 from Rs 72.1 crore in FY20. The remaining portion of its revenues, which sum up to Rs 1.8 crore, was generated from its recruitment services. The total collections of the company grew by 86% in FY21.

upGrad Expenses

upGrad expenses also increased by 112.8% from Rs 241.4 crore in FY20 to become Rs 513.7 crore in FY21. The company’s total revenue increased by 95%, from INR 85 crores in FY19 to INR 163 crores in FY20. However, the healthy increase in revenue was offset by an 87% growth in the company’s expenses, from INR 129 crores in FY19 to INR 241 crores, leading to an increase in the company’s net loss for the year.

Financials

However, the EBITDA margins worsened for the same from -45.6% in FY20 to -63.46% in FY21 and due to the diminishing EBITDA margins, the company's losses also grew by 2.7X from Rs 79 crore in FY20 to Rs 211.13 crore in FY21.

UpGrad Financials FY19-FY21

upGrad has been on an upward trajectory since its inception and has so far empowered the careers of over 300,000 working professionals in India. In 2019, the company reached the 1250 "careers transition" mark.

In a short span of around 5 years, the startup claimed to have onboarded over 21,500 paid learners and has impacted more than 370K individuals globally, making it India’s largest online higher-education company based on gross revenue generated from the Indian market in FY18-19.

In the period when the impact of COVID-19 was at its peak, upGrad onboarded over 100 colleges and universities onto its platform to pave the way for blended online learning as the future of education.

The Edtech startup looked forward to raising around $400 million via a funding round to join the unicorn club of companies. upGrad has been successful in achieving its target unicorn status on August 9, 2021, by raising around $185 Mn in a round led by Temasek, IIFL, and IFC at a valuation of $1.2 Bn. Ronnie Screwvala, Chairperson and Co-founder of upGrad has confirmed the news remarking, "Yes, the last value was at USD 1.2 Billion, but as I keep saying, we are not a fan of the tag name unicorn - for us, it is only a means to a much larger goal."

The company is aiming to achieve revenue worth $2 Billion by 2026. UpGrad currently claims to have close to a million students on its platform. The number of students will rise, as per Ronnie's statements, to 3 mn by the end of Fy23.

Here are some of the prominent growth highlights of upGrad:

  • The company is an edtech unicorn and stands as a competitor of the highest valued Edtech company in India, Byju's
  • upGrad has witnessed a 100% growth at the beginning of FY21
  • upGrad claims to have a million users globally
  • The company also has over 45,000 paid students
  • upGrad has crossed $210 million annual revenue run rate
  • The company has doubled its learners' base in just 8 months
  • It has crossed a milestone of acquiring 1 million learners in just 5 years of its operations
  • upGrad launched 5 new offline centres in India, taking their total tally to 26 active offline experience centres across India.
  • upGrad currently has a learner base of 3+ mn across 100+ countries
  • It has partnered with over 300 universities to date
  • upGrad client base now spans over 1000 companies worldwide  

UpGrad launched UpGrad Foundation

UpGrad has announced the launch of UpGrad Foundation on April 4, 2022, which is a philanthropic initiative of the company and will serve as a non-profit arm of the edtech company. As per the recent reports, the company has already devoted Rs 50 crore to train the teachers, support decent mentorship and coaching, and conduct career counselling sessions, scholarships, internships, and online student exchange programmes.


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upGrad - Partnership

upGrad has signed Amitabh Bachchan as its brand ambassador

upGrad has announced that its brand ambassador would be none other than the Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan. The veteran actor will help lift the brand value of upGrad with the help of exclusive endorsements and advertising of the services of the platform, and will emphasise the necessity of ‘lifelong learning’ for everyone.

upGrad - Star India Deal

upGrad has signed up for a high-value deal with Star India. This enabled upGrad to run its latest ad-campaign "Sirf Naam ki Nahin, Kaam ki Degree" across television and Hotstar (OTT platform) throughout the IPL 2020 (Indian Premiere League). The move was initiated to expedite the adoption of technology and online education.

This is upGrad’s first major sports association and the first onboarding of an edtech player on Dream IPL 2020.

“IPL is the most opportune occasion to reach out to individuals reminding them about the urgency to upskill and prepare themselves for the forthcoming competitive world. Our strategic partnership with Star will enable us with the right platform, thereby helping us reach out to a larger set of audience residing in the remotest corners of Bharat,” said Arjun Mohan, CEO, upGrad.

Startup India Learning Program

In 2017, upGrad in collaboration with 'Invest India' developed the 'Startup India Learning Program'. 'Startup India Learning Program' is a free online entrepreneurship course by Startup India.

The approach of attracting consumers also included partnerships with entrepreneurship-focused publications to spread the word around. For increasing the customer base, they focused on some subject-specific channels to attract learners. It partnered with universities to launch the next set of programs. Those partnerships also helped scale the existing programs.  

upGrad has tie-ups with the following educational institutes:

  • International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-B).
  • Birla Institute of Technology and Science.
  • Pilani (BITS Pilani).
  • MICA.
  • Duke Corporate Education (Duke CE).
  • Cambridge Judge Business School.
  • Institute of Management Technology (IMT Ghaziabad).
  • HDFC Life for insurance-related courses.
  • IIT Madras, for certification course on Machine Learning and Cloud.

In 2019, upGrad unveiled its first ad campaign featuring actor Vicky Kaushal. The film breaks the myth of online education being ineffective by showcasing how impactful the online education space is and that it is as good as traditional offline education.

The second campaign was based on the insight that Indian working professionals are in a state of inertia where they feel that they do not need to go back to learning once they have a job. These films ought to make customers realize that they have no choice but to learn and upskill themselves to remain relevant in today’s day and time. The campaigns shed light upon upGrad's unique online power learning approach and demonstrated its influence along with the role it can play in the positive transformation of an individual's career. It further intends to establish the fact that in this fast-changing world of technology, new-age skills at the workplace are coveted and that upskilling is a necessity.

upGrad - Awards

Being a reputed name in the space of online education, upGrad has been recognized and awarded by many prestigious bodies.

  • In 2016, it was selected as the official education partner for the Government of India’s ‘Start-up India’ learning program. Through the program, upGrad offers entrepreneurship-based courses in 2 languages—Hindi and English—to the budding entrepreneurs of India.
  • In 2017, Mayank Kumar, the co-founder and CEO of upGrad, was recognized as the Achiever of the Year by BW Disrupt (Business World) at its 40 under 40 events.
  • In 2017, the startup was featured in the list of ‘Top 10 Most Innovative Companies India’ by Fast Company.
  • The company received the ‘Best Education Brands’ award by the Economic Times and made it to LinkedIn’s ‘Top 25 Startups’ in 2018.
  • Two of the co-founders, Ravijot Chugh and Phalgun Kompalli, are listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 class of 2018.
  • In 2018, upGrad’s Machine Learning Program - PG Diploma in Machine Learning and AI in association with IIIT Bangalore, was ranked as the #1 Course on Artificial Intelligence in India by Analytics India Magazine.
  • The company has also been awarded the ‘Best Tech for Education’ by IAMAI in 2019.

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upGrad - Future Plans

As part of upGrad's strategic initiative, the company has declared in April 2020, with an aim to increase the learners' headcount and revenue, that it will focus on 4 major strategic initiatives:

  1. To launch 35 new diverse online programs in the coming years.
  2. All the 90 online programs upGrad offers would have a start date of every month rather than every quarter as done previously, to cope with the growing demand.
  3. To become the first in India to disburse university-approved degrees through blended, online degree programs.
  4. Strengthen its global footprint by targeting the 40-million-strong South Asian migrant population worldwide.
  5. To add another 26 offline experience centres on top of the 26 centres that are already launched  

In the next 5 years, upGrad aims to train and build the careers of over 1 million learners and expects its impact to reach at least 5 million working professionals associated with it in a cascading effect. This growing ecosystem, in the long run, will serve as the momentum for establishing it as India’s largest online higher education company with a strong focus on employability.

The company is all set to revolutionize the online learning experience and enhance the employability quotient of its learners.

"Distance learning has been the precursor to upGrad, while augmented learning will be the successor. As a virtual university, we want both students and educators to benefit from embracing new technologies for higher education. Universities on the other side of the globe have been quick to adopt new-age technologies. It’s time our country picked up the pace, as upGrad’s online power learning experience is as good as offline, if not better." - Mayank Kumar.

Ronnie Screwvala stated that the number of students aligned to the platform will rise to 3 mn by the end of Fy23. Besides, he also indicated that the edtech platform is targeting $500 mn in gross revenue for FY23. An IPO seemed ahead for the unicorn edtech company in the next 2 years, going by its statements of Ronnie.  

upGrad is looking forward to acquiring more edtech firms this fiscal year.

"We are in active discussions. There are some interesting opportunities in these times and some great entrepreneurs too, and we are excited to bring those companies into upGrad as we look at growth this year," said Upgrad co-founder and chairman Ronnie Screwvala.

FAQs

Who are the founders of the upGrad learning platform?

upGrad was founded in 2015 by Ronnie Screwvala, Mayank Kumar, Phalgun Kompalli, and Ravijot Chugh.

Who is Upgrad's CEO?

Arjun Mohan is the CEO of upGrad.

When was upGrad started?

upGrad was founded in 2015.

Who are the top Competitors of upGrad?

The top competitors of upGrad are Coursera, Edureka, Simplilearn, and Unacademy.

How much is upGrad's revenue?

upGrad's total revenue was recorded at INR 302 crore ($40.04 million) in FY21.

Is upGrad free?

Some of the courses offered by upGrad are free. To make the most out of upGrad's features, you should register for upGrad's paid programs.

How is upGrad login done?

You can conveniently login to the upGrad learning platform simply by signing up at the upGrad website/app, and then proceeding to Log in to the same.  

What are upGrad free courses?

Along with the paid/premium courses, upGrad also has a collection of upGrad free courses, where the students and professionals can learn almost everything from Data Science to Technology and Management without spending anything.

What is the upgrad mission and vision?

The upGrad mission and vision are:

"Making our learners achieve their desired outcomes." - UpGrad mission.

"Powering career success for every member of the global workforce as their trusted lifelong learning partner." - UpGrad vision.

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