Entrepreneur and philanthropist Ronnie Screwvala has launched a Rs 100-crore scholarship fund for online education. This fund, which has begun with an initial corpus of Rs 10 crore, will provide funding to deserving students pursuing online courses.
"We expect to close the fund in the next 12-18 months," said Screwvala who is also the Co-founder & Chairman, UpGrad in an interaction with Moneycontrol.
This fund has an aim to get to Rs 400 crore in the next 3-4 years. He said that he will raise the rest from other like-minded individuals and corporates committed to building this eco-system of tomorrow. He will also be tapping into corporate social responsibility funding.
"If need increases, I will put in additional funds. The challenge will be to convince the corporates to put in funding, since they will also benefit by getting skilled manpower," he added.
The scholarship fund will give out scholarships ranging from Rs 25,000 to up to Rs 2 lakh. Further, the fund will also facilitate loans for those that would not qualify for scholarships but would look for funding to repay once they get promoted post their online studies.
Screwvala said that the fund will also invest and partner with online education platform UpGrad, co-founded by Screwvala, focussed on everything Data and Digital.
"The Indian IT sector pretty much built the Indian middle class in the last two decades and now it's time to disrupt and re-invent and we believe the careers of tomorrow will involve deep experience in all aspects that touch Data and Digital," said Screwvala.
Recent reports from IDFC, World Economic Forum and others have highlighted huge contradictions in India's employable workforce. Almost 75 percent of graduates (mostly undergraduates) are unemployable and on the other side 48 percent of Indian employers have difficulty filling their jobs with the right people.
When asked about why he chose this scholarship to only cater to online education, Screwvala said that the offline model is expensive and the capacity that can be taken by new universities is also limited to 3000-5000.
"Where is the trained faculty that can be attracted to join universities in smaller towns. The idea with online is unlike offline, one need not quit their job," he explained.
Since drop-out rates in online courses are high, Screwvala said that at UpGrad, they have added an interactive element to each one of them and removed anonymity so that each student is responsible. Due to this, their completion rates are over 90 percent.
While UpGrad offers several courses to make individuals industry-ready, Screwvala said that the scholarship will be available for pursuing any credible online course.
"Free does not work in India and we would want students to be accountable. They will need to complete the course. The right attitude is important. We will also need to see if they are taking these courses for the right reasons," he said.
For the fund, Screwvala wants the male-female ratio to be 70-30. Also, they aim to attract female talent who have taken a break from work post maternity.
The idea, he says, is to educate and upgrade without you leaving your job. He added that they would want to build credibility around the online model and make professionals realise that it is necessary to upgrade every 2-3 years.