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Akshay Munjal, CEO, Hero Vired

EW Interview: Akshay Munjal, CEO, Hero Vired

April 16, 2021

The Hero Group (estb.1956), a US$5 billion conglomerate with diversified interests in automotive manufacturing, finance, renewable energy and education has stepped into the ed-tech space launching ‘Hero Vired’, an industry-focused online learning platform. Partnering with global brands such as the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Singularity University, the new venture will mentor young learners as well as upskill working professionals getting them industry-ready. Outlining Hero Vired’s programme offerings and the research behind it, Akshay Munjal, president of the BML Munjal University (estb.2014) and founder and CEO, Hero Vired speaks to Dipta Joshi of EducationWorld.

Q) Several educational institutions and universities offer online courses as part of their programmes. Why did you set up Hero Vired as a separate venture apart from the BML Munjal University (BML University) founded by the Hero Group?

A) The role of universities is to create knowledge and there are many tools available so colleges and universities offer electives, short term courses and even online distance education etc. However compared to other colleges, Hero Vired differs in its scope, size, scale and product offerings. We intend to collaborate with some of the world’s leading institutions and bring their content to a much larger audience that comprises college students, graduates and working professionals.

Q) The upskilling industry already has a number of established players that Hero Vired would be competing with. What differentiates it from others in the field?

A) What sets us apart from others in the upskilling industry is our focus on live teaching rather than video-taped tutorials. If you look at our programmes, currently at least in India, we would be offering the highest percentage of live teaching modules. We believe the most effective way of learning is sitting through highly engaged one-on-one interactive classes allowing for doubt clarification and more personalised mentorship sessions.

Q) Which institutions has Hero Vired collaborated with until now?

A) Since Hero Vired is a separate entity, we can go  beyond just our own faculty and that of our collaborators, to engage with institutions in India and abroad. We have plans to tap into the faculty and programmes of leading institutions in India and globally to provide our students with relevant content.  We have currently collaborated with Singularity University – an American company focused on the use of technology to tackle global changes, Codecademy – American online interactive platform with the best system for learning to code and US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) because it is the world’s leader in technology and already has 20 years working in online education (MITx completed 20 years last week).

The logic for these collaborations was our two-year research on the issue of employability. We found that while available government data shows 70-90 percent of graduates are unemployable, even among those employed, a large number of working professionals are under-employed since their jobs are not commensurate to their knowledge, degree or skills. To address this issue, we talked to companies understanding the skills that are needed today and will continue to be in demand. We then launched full-time and part-time programmes including finance and financial technologies, game design, data science, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), entrepreneurial thinking and innovation amongst others.  

Q) What are the reasons for this disastrous industry-academia disconnect?

A) Indian educational institutions and universities do not have enough trained faculty for most of the ‘in-demand’ emerging technologies field and are actually competing with the industry for talent in these areas. Universities which are required to mandatorily hire  PhDs as faculty face a unique problem because it means hiring someone who started working in these ‘hot’ and ‘new’ fields at least seven years ago. However, seven years ago, very few institutions were offering PhDs in these areas and many areas like data science and machine learning didn’t even exist 10 years ago.

Another issue is the lack of high-end infrastructure required to teach students something like, ‘how to simulate a cyber-attack’ etc. Within BMU we have a high performing computer which is one step lower than a super computer but India has a large number of educational institutes that don’t have the very good but very expensive infrastructure to test what they are teaching

Q) Why is Hero Vired positioned as an alternative to college?

A) Our programmes have been aligned to the New Education Policy (NEP 2020) which recognises the role of online courses and allows transfer of credits. When students complete some of the  select full time programmes (like the micro-masters programme from MIT) and plan to go abroad to study, they will be able to transfer the credits to those courses in the US. Within India, that would be possible once the NEP is implemented.

In addition, it is an easy option for working professionals too, to upskill from the top colleges in the world. Thus, we are developing courses that provide an alternative to tier three and tier four colleges and institutes.    

Also read: EW India higher education rankings 2020-21: Top 300 universities

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