UEI Global, a brand of Berggruen Education, provides vocational education and training in hospitality and hotel management, to begin with. Started in 2007 with funding from a U.S. investor, the institute opened with one location in Delhi and rolled out another 18 locations in 2008.
When recession impacted the company, UEI-Global changed its focus from vocational training to degree courses. Says Chetan Mahajan, chief executive, “The slump in the market provided a great learning to us because we realised that while vocational education can be very vulnerable to business cycles, degree education seems to be relatively impervious to them. While we had been offering degree products in a small way, in 2009, we switched our emphasis heavily and today have moved towards degree products.”
While the institute continues to focus on its hotel management course, it also offers a bachelors in business administration program. “Today, one lakh people are required every year in hospitality and travel, as per a recent report,” says Mahajan.
One of the reasons for UEI-Global making a mark is the gap between what the employer is looking for and what the traditional college system produces, opines Mahajan. This, in addition to the fact that National Gross Enrolment Ratio is just 11 per cent, leaves room for players like UEI-Global in the value chain.
The institute has a vision of ‘education to employment’. “In today’s economy, it is very important to make the students employment ready, in terms of communications skill. At UEI Global, while the student is undergoing the course, he/she is also prepared to face job interviews,” adds Mahajan.
UEI-Global has been growing at a rate of close to 100 per cent year-on-year and expects this trend to continue for the next two to three years at least. A total of 2,600 students have passed through UEI Global till date, and they expect to grow to 5,000 students by next year.
The training staff is drawn from the industry and the initial batch of faculty also traveled to The Hague to undergo training at the Hotel School there, which is a partner for hotel management courses at the institute.
“Content development is a differentiator for us, and we have built an edge in our content and delivery model which our students really appreciate,” says Mahajan.
The company is currently evaluating some franchisees, with more focus on the fit and their intent to work as long term partners, since this can make or break any institution. The basic requirement would be about Rs 10 lakh as setting up cost and Rs 3-4 lakh as the operational expense for the first month. The area required would be 2,500 square feet with at least nine persons to run a single unit. Return on investment for a franchisee would be over 20 per cent per annum and even higher beyond the first two years, according to Mahajan.
Mahajan opines that the market is large enough to accommodate many more players, but, a clearer regulatory environment and incentives for clean, principled businesses is the need of the hour.
The course uses a computer-based delivery model where projectors and laptops are considered standard equipment. “However, the true use of technology will be when it can be used to reach people currently denied such access because of distance or the need to earn or simply not enough classrooms in this country. Unleashing the power of technology as an educational medium will fundamentally change the playing field and we plan to lead that charge,” states Mahajan.
Since employability is the key behind the courses delivered, the institute also teaches English in addition to industry relevant skills and interview guarantees. They also work with students from rural backgrounds.
“We are looking at multiple avenues for growth,” explains Mahajan. They are looking at conventional models of adding more centres, both owned and franchised. They are also looking at growth using unconventional channels such as VSAT and online learning models, which have been hugely successful overseas and India is now set to see them boom given the mushrooming connectivity growth here.
New models that evolve around commonly used technology products such as mobile phones also show promise.