In current world, with technologies evolving rapidly employment opportunity in traditional sectors is fast going down everywhere. Very soon, every industry will be IT centric and most traditional skills will become outdated, leaving millions of people jobless.
India is racing to be in forefront of this technology evolution with more than USD 300 billion IT service industries by 2025. According to World Economic Forum, by 2022, over half of all workers in India will require reskilling to meet the talent demands of the future. With the world’s largest youth population and more than half of its population of working age, it said skills development is critical for India to sustain inclusive growth and development. Recognizing this need and also to help address the huge academia-industry gap in IT skills, Hyderabad-based edtech startup ByteXL is offering several in-demand IT programs to Indian youth through its online learning platform. Here is what the founders of ByteXL had to say about the company, its current offerings, and plans in coming years.
What’s the best way to describe ByteXL?
ByteXL is an online learning platform to receive engaging digital resources for online and blended learning currently for 20+ programming languages. It is a self-guided experiential learning platform that has reading materials, videos, hands-on labs, assessments, and discussion boards, and also offers instructor-led expert programming in career tracks like Cloud/DevOps, AI/ML, Full-stack Developers, QA Automation, UI and Backend Developers.
ByteXL has partnered with one of the leading cyber security companies in the world, Fortinet, to train and certify students in application and penetration testing. And also partnered with Leading India AI (an initiative to promote and teach Artificial Intelligence) and various companies to help students with placements to start a career based on their individual skills and interests.
How many users/clients currently work with ByteXL? What opportunities are the learners offered?
As of today, nearly 10K users have got trained or leveraged their platform through various programs. Having partnered with 6 engineering colleges in AP and Telangana actively they are catering to 2600 students in those colleges. Likewise, the startup offers expert training, faculty development programs, webinars through its channel partners and nearly 3K+ students get trained through the platform. ByteXL also offers its self-guided online learning program Explore for free as part of COVID-19 campaign to help students learn and practice their programming skills; and this campaign has been hugely successful and reached thousands of users as per the startup.
When and how did this start? Tell us about your backgrounds, team, whom do you have supporting you?
ByteXL is a USA-based company started in 2017 by Karun Tadepalli (Co-founder & CEO) and Pavan Gorakavi (Co-founder & CTO). The two have been working as technology leaders for over 18 years in IT and during this time seen huge gap in academic world and IT industry needs, so they spent couple of years before starting the company brainstorming ideas on how they could contribute to improve the productivity and efficiency of the early entrants into the IT field. Using their experience in the industry and after meeting/collaborating with experts from industry and academic world, Pavan and Karun were able to formulate a plan and created a structured learning course for IT programming languages along with the steps to create a career path by understanding the skillset of the students. In December 2019, they partnered with Mr. Raman (currently Executive Director), who has been in the IT industry for 30+ years helping most of the engineering institutions in India to set up their labs (electrical and power systems), to launch ByteXL in India.
What challenges and problems is the startup facing?
One of the main challenges today is to inculcate the idea of continuous learning to the students as their only focus in the early career is to get a job; as in the current world where technologies are evolving very rapidly and with the advent of so many emerging technologies it is very easy to get outdated. Most of the Indian workforce will need upskilling by end of 2022.
Creating awareness in the tier2 and tier3 colleges or rural India about the in-demand skills rather than just focusing on the hype technologies. For e.g. AI/ML, Data Science is in the hype cycle whereas Full Stack Developer is the in-demand skill as every 3rd job in the market is for Full Stack Engineer.
Colleges must work with companies like ByteXL to emphasize on the aspect of learning and reduce the gap from academia to real world, by creating center of excellence, academic incubators to promote entrepreneurship, allow students to contribute to open source technologies in addition to focusing on the curriculum. But such partnerships take their own time.
Differentiating between remote learning and online learning. Due to the pandemic, there is a sudden surge for remote learning which means instructor teaching through visual mediums such as video conferencing or using LMS platforms, so the startup needs to quickly move towards online learning which is self-guided learning where the student is able to structure the learning process.
What are ByteXL’s expansion plans for the coming years?
For current year 2020, ByteXL India is focusing on Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states for the B2B college partnership programs. From 2021 Q1, the startup will be focusing on South India and later will be targeting pan India. Meanwhile, SaaS online learning platform is delivered pan India through subscription model.
- Their vision is to make the youth of India to be an invaluable part of the world workforce with required specializations, be able to develop products and empower individual goals.
- To innovate and be a leader in new modes of teaching in EdTech world.
- To be one stop shop for IT learning/skilling/upskilling and innovation.
In terms of product, currently, the training program is offered using phygital/hybrid model where both Online/Remote and in-person online learning is offered (Now, due to Covid-19 pandemic, all the instructor-led courses are delivered via video sessions). In phase 2, they plan to move towards online learning (instructor led) and by phase 3 they look forward to enhance the delivery engine capabilities in such a way it can be offered completely as a self-guided online learning.
They are currently a team of 15 members and by end of the year they aim to have 21 employees. In the fiscal year 2021, they project to be at $1M+ in booking revenue with organic growth, post which the company projects to grow its revenue in multiples of 5.
With upskilling being a focus area at a national level and so many startups looking to solve this puzzle, how are you uniquely positioned? Who would you call your competitors? And how are you different?
More than ever the current generation of workforce has huge need for skilling and upskilling. So ByteXL is focused on solving this puzzle for early learners and new entrants of IT by bridging the gap between academia and IT world. This is achieved by making partnership with both corporates and colleges by training in real-world problems. This not only helps students get certified in specific career tracks and being job ready but it also makes them capable of developing products so they can focus on entrepreneurship.
In addition to focusing on technical and non-technical skills, ByteXL is also training students in entrepreneurship program by creating academic incubators and center of excellence in colleges.
The startup believes they have few competitors in their target market providing online and affordable training like Faceprep, Ebox India etc. and in the direct consumer segment there are companies like Scaler and Simplilearn.
ByteXL is positioned in structured career track programs in AI/ML, Cloud/DevOps, Cyber security, Full Stack Development that is delivered for long-term as part of 4-year bCAP program or 1 year expert training while most of the existing competitors are point in time training like 2-4 months crash course in some kind of tool or programming language for job placement but there is an incomplete landscape to build a real project or to be capable of building a product from ground level.
The startup also offers entrepreneurship program to a few selected colleges where they would help them build an incubation center or center of excellence where we pick students from our skilling program who are interested and capable of innovating and developing ideas. Also train them to build an MVP and give a 360 degrees perspective on entrepreneurship right from creating teams, leadership skills, raising capital to execution.
What’s your take on future of industry-specific upskilling in India? What opportunities do you see in this space?
India will be in forefront of this technology evolution with more than USD 300 billion IT service industries by 2025 which makes skilling as mandatory and this is a must need in India right now as the technology landscape changes every couple of years. Currently, there is huge hype cycle for technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cyber Security, Robotic Automation etc. and millions of jobs are available in these sectors whereas the employment in traditional sectors is going down.
In near future, every industry will be IT centric. For e.g., Tesla is a technology company rather than a car manufacturing industry, movies and web series are created and delivered by tech companies like Netflix, Amazon and Hot Star rather than the traditional model, the online retail is taking over the physical retail stores and so on. This current pandemic of Covid-19 has enhanced the growth speed and it is here to sustain. So, to be capable of catching the changing trends it is of utmost importance that education industry be ready to deliver at an increased speed. To meet the demands of the learning in the market there is an equal need to increase quality supply and innovative learning methods.
So, ByteXL being based on a structured career track program and a pioneer in its unique way of bridging the gap between the education and software industries does see enormous opportunities of growth along with the students learning and upskilling.