We are publishing an interview of Mr. Varun Satia, founder, Kraftshala, which offers online programs in sales/marketing that are taken by students of top business schools, including IIM A, B, C, ISB etc. In addition to catering to the top business students in the country, they are also one of the fastest growing startups in this space.
How did the entrepreneurial bug bite you?
At BITS- Goa (my under grad), I was a co-founder and president of the Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL). The first startup I worked on happened when a colleague at the CEL connected me to a couple of Harvard grads building a platform to connect student entrepreneurs called StudentBusinesses.com (SB). This was 10 years ago, when entrepreneurship wasn’t the buzzword it has become now on campuses. I had been building entrepreneurial awareness in BITS, and loved the idea of doing it at scale, especially with the 2 co-founders of SB, both of whom have now become quite well known- Vivek Ramaswamy, is the founder and CEO of Roviant Sciences, which raised $1.1 billion in their most recent round last month, and Travis May, Co-founder & President at Datavant, which is backed by Softbank and Founders Fund, amongst others.
I set up the Indian arm of the business, and when it was acquired by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in 2009, I went to do an MBA from FMS- Delhi, but the bug had bitten me well and good by then, and I knew it was a matter of time before I ventured off again.
When was Kraftshala founded and who are the co-founders?
The startup began as a small project I started in 2015 to help business school students with placement related preparations through sessions in marketing. Those sessions formed the base of Kraftshala program’s key content benefit- distilling concepts into simple frameworks, explained through engaging stories of real life brands.
The side project turned into something substantial when Eshu quit Unilever and joined me at the end of 2016. That’s when we started doing this seriously and realised the true potential of what I had begun. Since then, we haven’t looked back, expanding the offering quickly from one-off physical sessions to 3-12 week online programs.
What is your Product or Service / Offerings to Customer? How does your startup work?
Kraftshala is an innovative online learning platform offering credentials and courses in sales and marketing that the industry values. Kraftshala collaborates directly with leading companies such as Unilever, P&G, Nestle, Marico and Vodafone to design industry-relevant programs called “IndustryCreds”, and its’ hiring partnerships provide graduates access to exclusive opportunities. Our platform combines the scale benefit of online courses with the impact of one-to-one interactions with hundreds of industry managers, delivering a gold standard learning experience to our students.
Our first online program, called the IndustryCreds in Brand Building, is one of the top brand management programs in the world, with proprietary frameworks and case stories from some of India’s most loved brands, narrated by the very people who created them. IndustryCreds in SummersPro, our second program, was the first ever created to specifically help students crack summers placements in business schools.
One of the biggest problems in the education sector is the mismatch between a student’s aspirations vs the jobs being offered on campus. Our vision is to accelerate the career of every single graduate and working professional through outstanding, industry relevant educational experiences that allow them to transcend the constraint of which institute or background they come from. We level the playing field to ensure that the only thing that matters in placements is what your skills and aptitude are for the job you are being considered for.
What were the challenges your startup faced while setting up this startup?
We have started our journey through sales and marketing programs. Sales and marketing is generally hard to teach in the physical world, but even harder in an online environment devoid of real time interaction. One has to lead through discussions, open up the students to their own mental biases, and then help them articulate the challenges and solutions in the sharpest way possible. Articulation is vital to persuasion, which is why we had to experiment with the multiple product and program design solutions to hit upon one that actually enabled effective learning.
The other major challenge stems from the fact that in a category such as education, trust is a critical thing to establish. Our ability to deliver a gold standard experience to students and recruiters alike through a model that is scalable has been the key to our success.
How is your business model different from the existing ones?
First, as I mentioned above, marketing and sales courses are pretty hard to teach online, which is why MOOCs (massive open online courses) across the world have made relatively little progress in sales and marketing courses compared to say, the popularity of tech based courses. Each of our programs is designed to ensure one-on-one interaction with industry managers, who help students understand where they stand on leadership and sales/marketing competencies that recruiters value, and how they can improve. Obviously, providing one to one interactions at such scale is complex, especially in a business school environment where students are not just pressed for time but also have uncertain schedules. This is where our technology platform plays a role, helping us conduct these interactions that make our model eminently scalable.
Second, the programs are built with one single objective in mind- to help students advance their career prospects. Which is why all the content is taught through simple, easy to remember frameworks, explained through scores of real life case stories narrated by the very people who starred in them- the industry stalwarts.
What are the traction details?
From just 54 students who participated in the first IndustryCreds program last season, we now have more than a thousand students from top business schools who have enrolled in our programs over the last 3 months. The great thing about launching a program for current campus students is that news and reviews travel really fast to their juniors- either the students see value in the program, which is when it is taken up in droves by their juniors in the next year itself, or the students don’t see value, which is when you won’t even get 10 new students. In our case, over a thousand students from India’s best business schools- folks with super busy schedules who are spending ~INR 20 lacs on their MBA and are virtually assured of top notch jobs- have decided to invest their money and more critically, their time, to come learn with us, which has made us one of the fastest growing Edtech platforms in the country.
The LinkedIn profiles of our team members are here:
- Varun Satia. Ex- Nestle. FMS-Delhi, BITS- Pilani.
- Eshu Sharma. Ex- Unilever. FMS- Delhi, PEC Chandigarh.
- Anshul Vijay. Ex- Goldman Sachs. IIM K, NSIT.
- Anubhav Aggarwal. Ex- Mu-Sigma. PEC Chandigarh.
- Chintamani Trivedi. Ex- John Deere.
- Shashank Jangra. Ex- Noir Films
- Mohit Tomar, ex-Publicis
Thanks Varun. Best of luck!