A jigsaw solution

A jigsaw solution

Jigsaw Academy is building a business model around bridging the talent gap for the business analytics sector

MADHUMITA PRABHAKAR

According to a study by Avendus Capital, the Indian knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) sector is slated to touch a size of US $5.6 billion by 2015, up from US $2 billion in Oct 2012. The same study also pointed out that, potentially, over 21 per cent (US $1.15 billion) of this will come from business and data analytics companies. If these numbers are to become a reality, the talent pool for India’s analytics companies needs a tremendous boost and that is the area of focus for Bangalore-based Jigsaw Academy, an analytics-training firm that offers its programs online. Gaurav Vohra and Sarita Digumarti founded the company in 2010.

The founders carry over a decade of experience in the analytics sector, having worked in data analysis roles in firms such as JC Penny, ICICI Lombard and GE Capital. “I’ve seen a lot of change in the Indian data analytics industry in the last 10 years, but one thing that has remained constant is the demand for skill. Companies are just not able to find the right people with the right skills to work in analytics. Moreover, an analytics-training academy was still an unexplored avenue in India. Thus, we decided to leverage on this opportunity and start Jigsaw Academy,” says Vohra.

The academy imparts training in foundation courses, data scientist certification, financial, retail, human resources, healthcare analytics and analytics with R (an open-source data analysis and statistics language), to individuals, working professionals, management graduates and corporate companies. The academy adopts a combination of virtual classrooms and virtual lab, a cloud-based lab, which provides access to data, case studies and latest analytical tools, to impart analytical training to its participants. Their corporate clientele includes companies such as Accenture, Genpact, Wipro and Fractal Analytics.

The academy has five core instructors and 10 part-time instructors, each of whom carries over a decade of experience in this field.  In the past three years, the academy’s enrolment figure has touched 2,000 with 15 per cent of the demand coming from international students.  The academy charges a fee ranging from $350 to $900 per student, depending on the course enrolled in.

Today, Jigsaw Academy’s team includes 11 full-time and 50 part time employees, with operations spanning across student management, content delivery and marketing. The company has been self-funded since inception and in the past eight quarters, the company’s revenue has increased by 21 times.

Building from scratch

“When we built the academy, what we realised was that analytics is a vast subject. Even if we spend three years in training, we may not be able to cover it. So, we had to be focused on delivering relevant content at the right time,” explains Vohra. Being the first mover in the analytics training industry, the founders were left to build the curriculum from scratch. For nine months, they worked closely with professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), industry experts, and academicians to develop the content for each course. Based on industry requirements, the academy also modifies the course content on a regular basis.

Most of the students, who enroll at the academy, have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. According to Vohra, to train in analytics, the participants need not necessarily have a high quantitative aptitude. A good statistical ability and comfort with numbers will be sufficient. “The demand for analytics is so high that most companies are not so choosy about the employee’s previous work experience. They are more concerned about hiring people with the right skills,” he adds.

The academy adopts a learning-by-doing teaching methodology. During training, the participants are given pre-lecture material to go through before attending the video lectures. Following this, they are given case studies and assignments to work on. The academy has also setup a virtual lab, which provides access to live data, case studies and latest analytical tools, collated from companies across sectors and across countries. “These are all proprietary data and we’ve got exclusive access to them because we promise the researchers that these data sets will be used only for training purposes. Students get a chance to work on real life data and real life business information and I think that’s the USP of our academy,” quips Vohra.

While the primary focus of the academy is on training, a mandatory placement cell has been setup, to aid the participants in developing their resumes and preparing for interviews. “We don’t stress a lot on placements because there is a lot of demand in the industry and we train our participants based on the skill requirements of companies who hire from our academy. I wouldn’t give any credence to the placement cell.  It is largely driven by the quality of the course,” states Vohra. In the past, the participants have been placed in companies such as Hewett-Packard (HP), Dell, McAfee and IBM, to name a few.

The company primarily relies on online marketing and word of mouth, to spread the word about Jigsaw Academy.  “Our online strategies include search engine optimisation, web advertisements, and social media marketing. However, a lot of the volumes come from word of mouth. Students who are really happy with our courses refer others and we’ve seen a lot of growth being driven from this method,” shares Vohra.

Tackling hiring challenges

The biggest challenge the academy has faced throughout is in getting access to the right kind of instructors. The founders have interviewed close to 200 people in the last two years from around the world, and have managed to recruit just 12 to 15 people, who carry the required knowledge and expertise and are able to impart training in the right manner. “Analytics is a field where growth and salaries are very high, so getting someone from the industry into training is very difficult,” says Vohra.

To tackle this, the academy has leveraged on the power of technology to address the shortage of skill. “We now make industry experts prepare video lectures on topics they have experience in, and play it to the students when required. That way, we save on cost and still manage to get quality inputs from the experts,” adds Vohra.  Post lecture, the student management team acts as a mediator between the instructor and participants, to clarify queries and help them gain the maximum benefit out of the session.

The future in analytics

Vohra has clearly chartered out three focus areas for the academy in the coming years. Firstly, to incorporate data analytics as a curriculum in management institutes. “Analytics is going to be a very important part of the MBA curriculum in future. We have already included our curriculum as a part of the St. Joseph’s management institute in Bangalore and are looking to initiate more such partnerships in the near future,” adds Vohra. Secondly, owing to the increasing demand that the academy is witnessing, from international students, it is planning to increase its marketing spends in countries such as US, UK and Singapore.

Lastly, the academy aims to build a technology-enabled platform, which is highly scalable. “We are also realising that while analytics is still a niche market, it is going to become a mass market in the future. Almost every business requires some form of analytics-related skills. Keeping this in mind, we are aiming to use technology to reach out to a much larger market. Our current target is to enroll 10,000 students in the near future,” states Vohra and signs off.


SNAPSHOT

Jigsaw Academy

Founders: Gaurav Vohra and Sarita Digumarti

Year: 2010

Number of students enrolled: 2000 +

Future expansions: Incorporate data analytics in management curriculum, increase marketing spends in global market; adopt technology to increase enrolment across geographies


Concept in brief: 

Jigsaw Academy is a Bangalore-based online analytics-training platform, founded in 2010, by Gaurav Vohra and Sarita Digumarti. The academy imparts training in foundation courses, data scientist certification, financial, retail, human resources and healthcare analytics to individuals, working professionals, management graduates and corporate customers. Their corporate clientele includes companies such as Accenture, Genpact, Wipro and Fractal Analytics. The academy has five core instructors and 10 part-time instructors, each of whom carries over a decade of experience in this field.  In the past three years, the academy’s enrolment figure has touched 2,000 with 15 per cent of the demand coming from international students.  The academy charges a fee of $350 to $900 for each of the courses offered. Today, Jigsaw Academy’s team includes 11 full-time and 50 part time employees, with operations spanning across student management, content delivery and marketing. Being an online platform, the company has been self funded since inception. In the past eight quarters, the company’s revenue has increased by 21 times.