Ganesh Natarajan, IT veteran and former CEO Zensar Technologies, is all set to announce his second investment in a startup called Skills Alpha, a digital learning platform. Earlier this month Natarajan’s 5F World announced investment in Studio Coppre, a platform supporting copper artisans. Skills Alpha, which has been incubated at 5FWorld–a meta-startup platform founded by Natarajan that invests in digitally enabled communities, skills focused startups and digital technology–and is still in beta phase has already signed up with six leading firms that are co-designing the platform for their requirements. “This is one of the firms in which I have majority holding. So far we have invested Rs 3-3.5 crore into Skills Alpha and we will up it to Rs 10 crore. I would want to build the company to a Rs 100 crore valuation and then look at raising further funds from private investors,” he added. 5F World will look at investing in four to six companies on an annual basis and of these two would have majority investment from Natarajan and the rest will have minority stakes. “For us minority stake is 15-20 per cent. In Skills Alpha I have 60-65 per cent stake,” said Natarajan. Skills Alpha, said Natarajan will be a category creator, “What we are proposing is a completely different way to look at learning processes in organizations. We believe that opportunity is big,” he added. The company is headed by Jaideep Kewalramani who is also the managing partner with 5F World. “The problem statement we are trying to solve is why is learning not happening in organisations. While we were creating the platform we consciously said that we didn’t want to create the hundredth ILM software or programme. We realised that one of the reasons for learning not to happen is people not having right level of aspiration.” With companies across the globe are moving away from bell curve appraisal’s, one of the key criterion for employees will be training based on skills they acquire and how relevant they continue to be in the digital transformation. “Organisations across the world while have continued to invest significant dollars in learning but have forgotten the fundamental, and that is that people need skills for learning and learning is just one dimension of skilling. The other two are on the job training and coaching,” said Kewalramani. According to Kewalramani, every organisation on an average spends $1,000 on an employee per year of which $600 goes into admin issues and only $300 worth of learning is given to an employee. “For the first time Skills Alpha will have the four stakeholders aligned-learner, LMD manager, team manager and leadership. All will have skilling metrics,” he added. He further said: “The whole premise of Skills Alpha is how we start by infusing aspiration and if one has aspiration how can that be aligned with the organisation’s growth path and then how do they acquire these skills to be successful. Skill Alpha uses all new technologies like cognitive, AI, gamification, bots and what you have. LMS just becomes one element of the platform.” Skills Alpha will target companies with an employee headcount of not less than 2,000. The main feature of the platform is the visual manifestation of skill requirement, wherein employees can get a simple dashboard feature to understand where they stand in their career and what they need to do if they want to climb up the skills levels. “We are democratising the whole process of employees acquiring skills, we want to turn the learning happening in organization upside down,” he added. Natarajan also pointed out that 5F World will try and leverage on its corporate and investor connect to startups that they will invest in. “We want to get deeply involved with companies. None of the funds enable their expertise and networking to help the startups. We want to fill that void. We want to leverage our access to corporates to allow startups,” said Natarajan.
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