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Boomers show that age is no barrier for upskilling in India

From photography and video editing to artificial intelligence and machine learning, those over 50 are dabbling in everything. Professionals in the 30-45 age group form the bulk of India’s $2.5 billion online upskilling industry. But industry sources say the above 50-year category saw the fastest growth — a whopping 40 percent — over the last year

January 29, 2021 / 01:02 PM IST

Vasudha Rajwade, 52, a home-based chef from Nagpur, had tied up with food aggregators to sell her breads and cakes. Success was limited because she felt that she wasn’t able to take good pictures to make her food look attractive.

In 2020, Rajwade enrolled in a 10-month basic photography and video editing online course at a multimedia institute. Now, she feels business is picking up — after she was began to not only post better pictures but also record the cooking process.

“I was initially not sure about whether I would be able to learn technology at this age. But surprisingly it wasn’t difficult,” she added.

Upskilling has generally been perceived to be the domain of corporate professionals in their 30s and 40s looking to get a boost in their careers. However, over the last year there has been a surge in individuals above 50 actively pursuing such courses.

Considering the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, these upskilling courses were taken online. But, as in a physical classroom, online courses also allow participants to interact with each other virtually and collaborate on group projects.


Why those over 50 are upskilling

Bengaluru-based Vasudevan Murthy, 50, who teaches at various management institutes and universities, felt he needed to update his skills. So, he enrolled in an AI-ML (artificial intelligence-machine learning) course for Leaders at online platform Great Learning.

“One must move with time. I didn’t want to be outdated and wanted field experience to be blended with the latest trends, like machine learning and artificial intelligence,” he explained.

Murthy said that upskilling has helped him pass on the knowledge to his students who will be entering the corporate world and would need these skills. He said that there was also a lot of knowledge exchange with people from other sectors, which helped him gain new insights.

For many, upskilling has also given a fillip to their entrepreneurial ventures. For instance, 64-year-old Anup Saikia, who runs a real estate business in Kamrup, Assam, did the AI-ML course from Great Learning because he wanted to see how technology could be used to help boost his business.

“I did not want to learn coding etc because it wasn’t relevant to my business. But there was a need to understand how modern technological tools can be beneficial in the real estate industry,” he explained.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can be used to predict price fluctuations of properties in a designated area depending on past conditions and current market trends. Future property appreciation rates can also be gauged using AI.

“I took the AI-ML course to understand how modern business tools can be beneficial to my sector. I am a real estate professional. Those with entrepreneurial zeal need to have necessary support to take the business forward,” he added.

Upskilling courses have also helped a few to start their careers from scratch. Kishan Satpathy, 62, an automobile enthusiast from Rourkela, said that he pursued an online course in programming from an edtech firm so that he could set up his own blog.

“I have been an accountant all my life, so I really didn’t know how to share my passion for automobiles with the younger generation. I did a seven-month course and am now very close to setting up my own website, reviewing the latest automobiles and also providing trivia about cars and bikes,” he added.

Expert views

The online upskilling industry for professionals is valued at around $2.5 billion in India. Here, professionals in the 30-45 age-group form the bulk of the business but industry sources said that the above 50-year category has seen the fastest growth — a whopping 40 percent — over the last year.

“2020 was like a mirror to many senior professionals. The market got tougher with the economy under severe stress due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown. There was no option but to get ahead by acquiring new and relevant skills,” said Delhi-based education consultant Nitesh Tiwari.

He said that while seniors provide less than 7 percent of the total business, this scenario could change in the next three to five years.

“Those above 50 years could form close to 20-25 percent of the total edtech market for professionals in the next five years. Corporate clients are also pushing their senior management to opt for these short-term courses. The message is clear: Stay relevant to the changing times no matter what your age,” added Synthia Mascarenhas, senior partner at ZealCare HR Solutions.

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M Saraswathy is a business journalist with 10 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, she covers consumer durables, insurance, education and human resources beat for Moneycontrol.
first published: Jan 29, 2021 01:02 pm
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