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Pearson India plans to be the largest education company by 2020

To focus on the schools, higher education and vocational verticals

Kalpana Pathak  |  Mumbai 

Pearson Education, the Indian arm of the London-listed Pearson, is on a global transformation journey graduating from its largely publishing business to expanding into school, higher education and vocational training.

“As a global organisation, we are trying to change from a company which is focused around product to one which is moving to digital and solutions. We want to focus around impacting learner outcomes and be accountable and answerable on the efficacy framework,” said Deepak Mehrotra, managing director, Pearson India.

The company, operating through seven different units in India, has now put them all under a single company that has been morphed into Pearson Education Services Private Limited.

In April 2013, Pearson bought, for an undisclosed amount, the entire 50 per cent stake of Educomp Solutions Ltd in IndiaCan, a vocational training firm they jointly started in 2009. IndiaCan delivers skills training, helping young people to gain employment and those in work to sharpen their skills to gain better jobs.

A few months prior to acquiring IndiaCan, in February 2013, Pearson completed its acquisition of TutorVista, which runs schools and provides tuition over the Internet.

“We were defining footprints and roles for each one of these segments. Now we are done and ready for the big leap,” said Mehrotra.

And the big leap is about focusing on three dimensions: the schools vertical, higher education vertical and the vocational or professional training vertical.

In the schools vertical segment, Pearson plans to take the school management to 100 from the current 28 in the next two years. In managing these schools, says Pearson, it would bring in a lot of global practices and school management methods. "A lot of people in our country set up schools with charitable intent. But may not necessarily have the right skill sets to run it. Designing of school, proper curriculum delivery, appointment of teachers etc need a lot of thought. Through our school management services, we would provide services of managing the complete school," said Mehrotra.

On the higher education side, the company plans to take the online, distance and blended learning models to offer services in a big way. "We already have some of these things globally and we are looking at how we can customize and start offering them in a bigger way in India," added Mehrotra.

Also, helping students be more college ready and more employable is another area that the company is focusing on in its higher education segment. "When you see commerce graduates today, the ability of them getting picked up by is limited. We are thinking, can we help this through soft skills and giving structured courses which will enable them find their fit. We are working on a bouquet of programmes, some with international accreditation or international universities being offered in a pretty affordable manner," said Mehrotra.

On the vocational education segment, Pearson trains about 20,000-30,000 learners per year in livelihood training and provides them with placement. The company also monitors their progress after placements.

Currently, school, higher education and vocational training are structured in ratio of 35:45:15 and the company plans to take it to 45:40:15 in the next three to five years.

A good chunk of Person's business in India has so far been around publishing and to meet most of its growth targets, the company is betting big on technology and taking the digital route.

"Currently publishing is more than half our current business in India. When we talk about growth engines, we believe a lot of publishing is going to transform through the digital learning route. Though publishing will continue to give us a healthy growth rate, which could be in double digits, the quantum leap would come from solutions, digital and some of these routes," said Mehrotra.

Publishing contributes more than 50 per cent in revenues at present for the company. The company refused to divulge other financial details citing the silent period.

For its digital growth, the company is betting on country's large mobile users. "India has one of the largest mobile internet populations in the world after China and that is a huge number. This is exactly the cohort which is going to be the one we should be looking at," said Mehrotra.

India has been a very big content generation entity for Pearson and the company is trying for the kind of devices and the bandwidth the content is going to get played on. The company is looking at a lot of strategic partnerships to scale up. It has tied up with IBM for infrastructure support.

"We are fairly excited with what we have chosen; the goals we have set are fairly aggressive. We would possibly, attempt to be the largest education and learning company in India by 2020," said Mehrotra.

First Published: Sat, January 10 2015. 21:24 IST