Learning how to access India’s Skills and Education sector

By Kealan Finnegan

The Association of Colleges (AoC) has been operating since 1996 and acts as a collective voice for colleges in the UK. Eden Joseph speaks to AoC's International Director, John Mountford to explore their growing presence in India and their use of UK India Business Council's market entry service, Launchpad

The AoC has achieved remarkable success promoting the interests of UK Colleges in recent years, and by representing over 360 further education colleges, the organisation has been able to decisively influence the UK Government’s education policies.

Dealing primarily with English colleges but also with colleges in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the AoC has built up nine regional offices across the UK and created partnerships in a number of emerging markets, in particular, India.

Discussing his own experiences of the Indian market, John reflects “The Indian economy is growing and is becoming globally competitive. Therefore, there will be skills shortages and, given the political and geographical dividend, there is a significant requirement for trained manpower.”

“We wish to work in India with our partners and provide and contribute to the curriculum in India. To do this we adapt our business model to whatever is appropriate for each college and their priorities in the Indian market.”

The Indian Government’s plans to expand the quality and capacity of the education system consists of creating 40 million new university places and 11,000 new secondary schools.

As India is one of the biggest emerging markets and the skills and higher education market is also growing rapidly, the AoC quickly realised the potential.

“We initially went there for delegations, learned more about the Government and the work they do. We realised that there are various opportunities in India and to tackle them we cannot do it through an office in the UK, but instead by having an office in India.”

Whilst exploring various market entry options, AoC came across UKIBC’s Launchpad service and decided that it was best suited for AoC’s purposes and goals as it provides a simple, low-risk way of being active in India before establishing operations.

In fact, John is adamant that the Launchpad service has helped build AoC’s profile in and knowledge of India, “It helps us to better understand the Indian market. If you’re looking to go into India in a proactive way then you need this service.”

Tackling such a vast market like India, there clearly needs to be an emphasis placed on background knowledge and research – all of which AoC has utilised.

“The Launchpad service has helped us with the knowledge of what’s going on in India, finding a Launchpad consultant to help us with our market entry, and generally helping to understand and tackle the market well.”

“It provided us with a soft landing and helped us minimise the risk and costs associated with venturing into India by ourselves.”

Working in partnership with UK Trade Investment (UKTI) puts UKIBC in a unique position to help UK companies entering India and gives its potential clients a stamp of approval like no other. It provided us with the reassurance that we needed and there is a natural partnership between the UKIBC and AoC India.”

India does pose challenges so it’s important to bear these in mind before venturing there. The AoC India has to regularly report back to its members in the UK and meet their varying demands and expectations.

“India is a tough market, so you have to be patient. Certain UK partners expected quick returns, but for results to happen there needs to be medium to long term plans. Also, India is complicated and it is important to build feasibility into the UK model so that it can translate well over to India.”

Despite the challenges, AoC India is certain that with the right business model, any UK skills and education provider can succeed in India.

“Get to know the market very well, link up with potential partners and organisations such as UKIBC, FICCI and UKTI; adopt a pragmatic approach that is peppered with realism.”

What next?

If you would like UKIBC to help launch your business in India, then contact Tushar Chaudhary UKIBC’s Head of Launchpad and Client Relations by emailing Tushar.Chaudhary@ukibc.com or calling Tushar direct on +91 124 4537808

NOTE: Launchpad™ is a trademark of UKIBC India Private Limited which owns all right, title and interest therein in India.

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