Pune-based Learning company, eNyota Learning, recently achieved a significant milestone – 10 years of successful operations and growth. Founded in 2007 by Instructional Designer, Keya Thomas, with co-Founders Anand Timothy and Karl Monteiro, eNyota is one of the new breed of Pune-based eLearning companies founded by professionals who are not entrepreneurs by education or legacy, but former employees who had strong ideas of how things ought to work and how they could be improved.
Has eNyota been successful in making a difference? In creating an engaging work-culture? In creating great solutions for clients? While employees, customers, and market forces are better equipped to answer such perception-based matters, this article focuses on the fact that the company has established itself as a learning services provider, and has navigated its way through choppy and calm waters for a decade.
I have known Keya and Andy as colleagues since 2003, and then as industry-peers post 2008. An innovative Instructional Designer, Keya, has always been an outspoken learning professional, fearless with her convictions and understanding of what learners need. Andy, soft-spoken and imaginative, is one of the best relationship managers in the business, adroitly handling teams, clients, management, and risks with equal aplomb, effortlessly. Karl Monteiro added business management acumen to eNyota with two decades of financial and business administration experience in different industries.
It was a great curiosity for me when Keya launched her company and Andy joined a while later. One of my initial questions to them in the early years was “how challenging is it for a husband and wife to work together in business?”.
As the years went by, I often found myself taking opinions, exchanging notes, and then, suddenly, it was a decade. I figured it was time to take stock since every startup doesn’t make it, every company that does make it through the initial years, doesn’t necessarily last a decade, and while every company in this age claims innovation, a company that sustains deserves to stand out.
Excerpts from an interview with Anand Timothy, co-Founder and Director Business Development, eNyota Learning, on what has been achieved, thoughts on the journey, trends in the industry, and what lies ahead.
1. Why did you start a learning company of your own?
We started eNyota Learning in January 2007 after working in the custom eLearning space for a few years. Keya started the company on her own really and I joined her a little later when we felt that this could go someplace.
We both had the entrepreneur bug and shared a passion for the learning and training space. So starting our entrepreneurship journey in a space that we both loved was a great opportunity. We learned a lot from our experience working in the various eLearning companies between us. On the positive side we felt we could do a few things differently to stand out and of course, we had some very strong ideas around what not to do as well. We started off small – just the three founders – Keya, Karl Monteiro (my childhood friend), and I, with each bringing something to the table. We really did not know how big eNyota Learning would get.
To be perfectly honest, Keya and I looked at the world through some rose-tinted glasses based on our experience in the early 2000s. Nothing in our experience could have prepared us for the economic upheavals of the 2008 financial crisis and of course, the disruption post the emergence of the first real smartphone which is the iPhone. I think it was not just us. The whole world was impacted but it really was a crazy time for us because we were just starting our entrepreneurship journey. So all our ideas about the positive change and the negative change was left to ideas and theories. Our first realistic goal was to survive the initial few years and learn what it meant to do business. Having a partner like Karl who had run multiple businesses helped Keya and me (this was our first venture).
2. How does it feel to complete a decade as entrepreneurs?
The most basic feeling is a sense of accomplishment and relief that we have been able to stay the journey for 10 years. At times we do wonder if we did the right things over these 10 years. But we have realised you cannot second guess yourself. As long as you have learned from the ups and downs, you are ahead of most others. We went through two distinct rough patches during these 10 years and to keep our wits and spirits during those phases, made us wiser and more resilient. We have all learned a hell of a lot. For me, that is the key. And we are not jaded. We still look at the future with optimism. I am glad we have been able to keep our energy levels and optimism. I know many entrepreneurs who have run out of steam just because of the burden of expectations. Be X number of people or X million dollars by X number of years etc. We are still enjoying the journey.
3. Why did you choose to start your business in Pune?
We choose Pune because it was home for all three of the founders! Karl and I were born and brought up here. And Keya has been in Pune since 1990. I think most entrepreneurs choose home turf to start a business. Plus, the talent in Pune is something we’re very happy with, being a university city and all that comes with it.
4. Where do you see Pune heading as a business destination, talent base, innovation centre?
There are a great number of start-ups in Pune. Not just in eLearning but in the tech space in general. And all of that is because of the great talent that is in Pune. Pune is also a great tech hub in India with great educational institutions and that’s why the supply of talent is still good. But the job creation is simply not keeping pace with the number of people coming out of these educational institutions. There are fewer jobs vied for by a lot of candidates.
I think you will see a lot more product companies in Pune. That is a definite trend I see. Pune has more knowledge-centric service companies and only traditional IT-related services. So that is a good thing. Hopefully Pune can stay ahead of the curve. But sadly, more has to be done to help Pune create an entrepreneurial ecosystem like Bangalore.
I also think that given this situation, educational institutions have to up the quality of the programs to make talent ready not just for the jobs of today but also for the careers of tomorrow. Automation in general across all industries is growing rapidly. Mobile technology is here to stay and disrupting entire industries, the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence is changing the possible versions of the future faster than most people can imagine. How do you help students choose which career path they choose – based on their expectations of the job situation in 4-5 years when they graduate?
5. What is eNyota’s differentiator for clients, employees?
For our clients:
Client-centric Thought Process – Focusing on what is the best outcome for the client
Design Thinking – combining the disciplines of Instructional Design, User Experience and User Interface to come up with a solution
Full Service Provider – Most number of options when it comes to tools and technology for designing that solution – from low tech solutions like rapid authoring tools to complex solutions involving custom mobile apps, custom software, and web-analytics to track usage patterns and measure outcomes
For our employees:
Opportunity to work for a company which is growing and where a team member can grow and learn
Opportunity to work with a company that is focussed on research and innovation and not just good project execution
Opportunity to work for a company where you can be yourself as long as you are aligned to our customer centric approach
6. What are the three trends/directions you feel will drive the learning industry in the next 5 years?
MicroLearning vs the 1-Learning Hour unit size for eLearning courses so far. This is not just breaking a 60-minute course into 4 modules but really focussing on ‘Relevancy’, separating the need-to-know from the nice to know. Looking at content from a pull strategy via learners taking control of their own learning needs vs a push via LMS strategy. That’s why ‘Relevancy’ to the users is going to be important. And making it available when they need it and in the easiest way possible.
Mobile-centric course design meant for consumption on mobile devices. The tablet has lost its fizz and phones are getting to a size that makes them realistic consumption devices. Combined with MicroLearning, a lot more course content is going to have to be built for mobile phones than ever before.
Further Automation in course design and development. The days of custom coding are numbered. Authoring tools are going to get more and more powerful. It’s going to the dominance of Authoring Tools vs Custom Design and that includes video creation. Video-based learning is going to be much more than ever before.
These are the top three as far as we think. There are a few others that are going to disrupt the industry slowly but surely but it will be centred around making these three things happen anyway. Any company, product or solution that does not help in these three goals may have a hard time in the coming years.