Pune’s eLearning Industry: Finding Appropriate Talent is the Greatest Challenge

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She started her career with Pratibha Advertising in Pune in 1982. Today, Shubhada Phadke is a first among equals in the Pune eLearning industry, spearheading Innovation, Visual Design, and key management portfolios as the as Vice President (Functional Design) for the Publishing and eLearning giant, Aptara. Along the way, she’s held critical portfolios in Aptara (AVP – Graphic Design & Instructional Design), Brainvisa Technologies (Graphics Head), Maximise Learning (Art Design Manager), and Creative Concepts.

Shubhada is a mentor, manager, designer, leader, and team-member – a combination that has evolved through her vast experience in the creative fields. In this candid interview, Shubhada tackles some challenging questions on the eLearning industry in Pune, its growth and future prospects.

Where do you see the eLearning industry heading in the next 5 years?

I can see eLearning heading towards Cyber Universities, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and, of course, micro-learning on all types of smart devices.


What are the three trends that you feel will shape the learning industry in the next two years?

The three trends that will shape the eLearning industry according to me would be:

  • HTML 5 Responsive Design Courses with Micro Learning or small nuggets of learning that can be accessed on different devices anytime.
  • Learning using Smart Technology and Wearable Devices (like Occulus Rift, Apple Watch) will transform professional, industrial and social learning.
  • Adaptive Learning where computers and technology are used to teach learners based on their unique needs. The traditional method of using tailored learning for a larger audience will be on its way out.

Which are the top three companies in the world to watch for innovative design?

Allen Interactive is one of the companies to watch for innovative design.

There are a lot of other companies but I have not been able to actually experience or check out any of their work to be able to comment on them.   

In your opinion, are Pune companies abreast with global trends?

They may be aware of global trends but I have not seen or heard of work being executed with those trends because the companies in Pune currently seem to be happy dealing with the solutions required for their current clients in the way they (clients) want/require them.

What are the challenges facing eLearning companies based in Pune?

Some of the challenges are:

  • Having a team to deal with the end–to-end solutions required for the creative and high end designs and solutions for eLearning projects – teams have to be multi-skilled.
  • The quality and professionalism of local and other vendors (for support in specific high-end skills) available to deliver work according to the timelines and budgets available is scarce which is why ramping up for larger projects in a short time frame is next to impossible.
  • Acquiring and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges. People who join eLearning companies are asking for a lot of money but do not have the experience or that much of skill to execute the work they are hired to do. Most of the time the company ends up spending a lot of time and money training resources for what they NEED to do for the salary and designation they carry.
  • Expanding and growing the business and also coming up with other products and lines of business to cater to the growing demand of e-learning products in today’s world.

In your opinion, what will it take for a Pune-based company to break into the Top 10 of eLearning design or service providers in the world?

In my opinion they will need to focus on:

  • Cutting-edge design and solutions which are in line with the current trends.
  • A tried and tested work force team to ramp up and down for the peaks in the work pipeline. This will include vendors /people with high end/mid level skills to be available for use at short notice.
  • Large volumes of work with industry giants to have their names featuring on the global map as a service provider who has the ability to deliver end to end products.

In your opinion, do you think Pune can attract top-flight talent – most design talent in Indian eLearning seems to gravitate to Bengaluru and Mumbai?

Pune will be able to attract top level talent if the eLearning companies in Pune have steady growth in business and opportunities to work in. They should be able to provide interesting career paths and growth to people which currently is not happening.

Pune seems to be stuck in the 2-15 million USD turnover range for eLearning for a while now. What will it take for a company to start doing 30 million plus in eLearning products and services revenue?

One of the biggest enablers would be of course to get in several large $4 to $5+ million accounts and have the ability to maintain and retain a highly skilled workforce to execute the projects, products and services. Other than just having eLearning products, it may be beneficial to have specialised allied services related to eLearning available under one roof so that our clients can make use of them with the expertise available.

In your opinion, why is Pune unable to produce more companies that create world-class eLearning products (software, mobile)?  Most companies in Pune are in bespoke services.

I think it has become increasingly difficult to acquire and retain a team of professionals with the skills required for the end-to-end designing of such products even though most of the companies in Pune are in bespoke services. The high-end products need a different type of focus as not many people are available in-house to support these type of products. These type of products need a high level of design and execution.

From my experience, it has been difficult to get all the skills required under one roof. Working with vendors with specific skills is challenging and a lot of time gets wasted doing rework and follow-ups. To manage and maintain a team in-house is a lot of investment for companies to have as they also do not have enough work to keep them occupied through the year. To get a return of investment the companies will need to have a strategy to get in the orders for such work and executing them.

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