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How Skilling Startup Masai School Is Helping Companies Find Industry-Ready Tech Talent

SUMMARY

To date, outcome-focussed skilling startup Masai School has partnered with 2,000+ companies to help them hire job-ready tech employees via its platform

It told Inc42 that unicorns such as Paytm, Swiggy and Dream11 and legacy players such as Capgemini, IBM, Tech Mahindra and HCL Technologies have hired Masai students for diverse tech roles

The edtech platform says that 96% of its engineers get placed within four months of course completion and the retention rate at companies is 94% for at least one year

The pandemic changed how enterprises were run, and businesses were done. To counter its crippling impact, most companies took a leap of tech to muscle their remote/hybrid operations, which deepened their reliance on cutting-edge technologies. But this also resulted in a massive shift in the job market as startups and the corporate sector went resource-hunting for job-ready tech talent.    

Although working knowledge of modern tech mandates a steep learning curve, it should not have troubled tech-driven companies. 

With 3,500 engineering colleges, 3,400 polytechnics and 200 schools of planning and architecture, India boasts one of the largest ecosystems built around tech education. Numberwise, the country produces more than 15 Lakh engineering graduates every year. But only 2.5 Lakh of them land relevant jobs in the technical domain, according to industry estimates.    

This could also explain why 60% of Indian companies have identified skill gaps as their biggest challenge in 2022. 

Founded in 2019, Masai School is on a mission to help young Indians find lucrative job opportunities in the IT sector by honing their tech skills and connecting them with legacy tech companies and startups. 

The platform offers long- and short-term courses in full-stack web development and data analytics.

It says that 96% of its students get placed within four months of graduating from Masai. It further added that the job acceptance rate is 90%, and the retention rate at companies is 94% for at least one year. 

To date, Masai School has tied up with more than 2,000 companies to help them find industry-ready tech talent. Among its B2B partners seeking candidates for various tech roles are big IT companies like IBM, HCL Technologies, Tech Mahindra, Capgemini, and startup unicorns across sectors such as Paytm, Swiggy, Dream11, Ola, ShareChat, and CoinSwitch Kuber. 

The skilling startup claims that in the last 12 months, it has witnessed a 10x growth in the number of B2B hiring partners. It is now targeting INR 120 Cr in revenue in FY23, more than a 6x jump from INR 19 Cr in FY22.   

Masai School Factsheet

A Skilling Institute Built On Ancient Tribal Wisdom

An IIT-Kanpur alumnus, Shukla knew his way around building a business long before Masai School came into the picture. In 2013, he launched a home-rental marketplace Grabhouse, which was acquired by Quikr three years later. Post-acquisition, Shukla spent a year as the business head at Quikr and then went on a trip to East Africa.

It was a life-altering experience. He was inspired by the Maasai tribe residing in the region and their dynamic skills in building real-world applications.

The Maasai tribe does not believe in formal education. Instead, people spend their entire lives honing skills as cultivators, builders and technicians. It is this robust way of learning [the basics] that has kept the tribe and their traditions alive for generations,” said Shukla.  

Shukla, along with Yogesh Bhat, a former business head at Tata Motors and NrupulDev, former tech head at AI startup Digital Aristotle decided to set up Masai school to train young people along those ancient but smart principles. 

In essence, it is a platform for coding enthusiasts, especially those from Tier 2 and 3 regions, helping them become industry-ready software developers, data analysts and data scientists. 

Masai School Infographic

Its in-house experts and mentors are tech professionals from the IT industry who are well-versed in the current and upcoming technology landscape. The startup has 246 full-time instructors in place. Most noted among them are Ritesh Firodiya, former senior software engineer of Swiggy; Arjun Thakur, former development engineer of Amazon; and the cofounders, Dev and Bhat. 

Masai seeks regular feedback from its placement partners to ensure that the courses are up to date with job market developments. “We create modules and implement changes for every cohort to cater to the changing tech requirements,” said Shukla.

The outcome: Tech engineers in the making no longer depend on outdated programmes or traditional degrees to land a good job.    

How Masai School Leaps Past Hurdles To Bring Tech Talent To Companies  

For Masai, the biggest challenge lies in convincing companies that students without full-time engineering degrees can undertake coding and analytical jobs. 

“We are working on a mindset change, and that is our biggest challenge. Most companies know the pitfalls of hiring underprepared graduates but are unwilling to move away from degree requirements,” rued Shukla.

However, he revealed that the startup ecosystem was initially more open-minded and took a leap of faith with Masai graduates. This paved the path for a wider reach. 

“We had great success with startups and our students often outperform those with fancy engineering degrees. Their success has actually helped us move the needle. Today, many legacy companies have updated their hiring requirements so they can hire skilled entry-level talent from us,” he added.

For instance, a tech startup (Shukla did not disclose the name) used to hire engineering grads from Tier 1 cities as entry-level web developers. It partnered with Masai in 2021. “After working with a handful of our students, the company contacted us again to help it create an exclusive talent pool for hiring,” the Masai CEO said. 

Companies such as Capgemini, IBM, HCL Technologies and Tech Mahindra have also hired from Masai in the past. 

“One of the MNCs hesitantly agreed to hire a few Masai students with degrees in computer science. After seeing how well they performed, the company now regularly hires from Masai, irrespective of a student’s college degree,” said Shukla. 

Commenting on Masai’s tech talent, Ankush Sachdeva, cofounder and CEO of ShareChat said, “I would not place my bets on the existing education infrastructure to train people. I think we need a platform like Masai that really takes the accountability of uplifting students and giving them relevant knowledge in the tech domain. This is really needed to unlock India’s tech potential.”

“In the last two-three years, hiring has become very difficult. The best thing about Masai is that there is no recruitment fee, unlike the consulting firms where we have to pay a hefty amount. Masai students are hard-working, disciplined and focussed. We hire engineers trained under Masai to manage our frontend and backend,” said Deekshant Jain, director of engineering at NoBroker

Connecting Businesses with Skilled Techies in Three Simple steps 

The startup’s business partnership team gets in touch with the prospects (corporate houses and placement partners) most of the time. However, businesses can directly contact the skilling and placement platform for their hiring requirements. “Strong word of mouth from satisfied business partners works very well in our favour. It is the proof of concept for potential partners,” said Shukla. 

When a company comes on board, Masai manually matches its requirements with five or six ideal student profiles.

Next, the company holds an in-house interview, and the selected candidate gets an offer letter. Finally, Masai’s placement team works with the candidate to help him/her complete the joining formalities. The platform’s B2B partners can complete the entire procedure in two-three days.

In 2021, 46% of Masai School students were hired by repeat clients, according to the startup. More than 200 companies hired Masai students across 10+ cohorts between March 2022 and September 2022. 

Besides skill assurance and quick hiring, Masai’s services are cost-effective, too, as it does not charge its business partners any recruitment fee. Its revenue comes from the fees users have to pay for courses and placement services. 

However, Masai is not the only player capitalising on outcome-focussed learning models by helping students land top-tier tech jobs and offering businesses a vast talent pool. A handful of startups like Newton School, BridgeLabz, Placewit and the like are also operating here. 

Doubling down on its outcome-oriented education approach, Masai offers study-now-pay-later model, offset by an income share agreement (ISA). When students sign ISAs with the platform, they can pursue the courses at zero cost. Once they are placed and get paycheques of INR 5 Lakh or above per annum, the startup begins to charge a fixed percentage of the monthly income until the costs are paid off (no interest is charged, though).

This also helps build trust, as students are assured of a positive outcome in a difficult-to-crack job market. 

Masai has partnered with two NBFCs, Propelld and Eduvanz, to facilitate the ISA contract. 

“We ensure a steady revenue stream by making good use of our training modules. They help our students become job-ready, and they pay us later. As one of the pure-play ISA-model career institutes, our ideology stems from the concept that education ought to have a tangible end result,” said Shukla. 

The Road Ahead For Masai School

Although industries were hit hard by the pandemic, and a global slowdown is looming large in the aftermath, India’s IT industry continues to deliver and grow. 

According to IBEF, its revenue crossed $227 Bn in FY22, a 15.5% YoY rise from the previous year. The sector also hired 4.45 Lakh people in the last financial year, taking the total headcount to 50 Lakh.

But there was another side of the coin. 

Despite a severe job crunch, the attrition rate skyrocketed to 21% in 2021, from 12.8% in 2020, a survey by Aon said.

In brief, a talent war raged side by side, and many IT companies struggled to find resources with relevant skill sets. 

Outcome-focussed skilling platforms like Masai School want to bridge this gap by connecting startups and deep-pocketed legacy players with a growing pool of new-age techies who are skillworthy, flexible and quick joiners. 

Talking about the road ahead, Shukla said he was confident that more and more startups and MNCs would recognise the need to break knowledge silos and give these newcomers a fair chance instead of targeting premium institutions alone. 

Hence, Masai School is planning to scale its product stack by adding several courses like an outcome-based upskilling programme for working engineers and dedicated courses for engineering students in their first, second, third and final year of graduation – to meet industry-specific requirements. 

“Many hiring partners have requested us to launch specific technology courses. We are creating a dynamic curriculum to meet those demands,” said Shukla.

According to Inc42’s The State of Indian Startup Ecosystem Report, edtech’s skill development sector is estimated to reach $730 Mn by FY25, growing at a CAGR of 24%. The positive industry projections come at a time when the edtech sector is facing a downturn as offline institutes return to business in full swing. 

Experts believe that the road to profitability lies in building sustainable business models and adjusting to changing consumer preferences and trends. 

Hence, creating future-proof solutions and immersive learning experiences in sync with user demand is critical for edtech platforms like Masai to not only survive the current upheavals but also scale in the long run. 

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