#EducationthatWorks: Sunstone Democratising Education

Credibility and trust are the most important factors in building an education brand of choice. For a new brand like ours, this is the single biggest priority for us to establish," Piyush Nangru, Co-Founder and COO, Sunstone believes

Brief us about your business model like how did the idea came to start and how does it work?

Today, India is witnessing an ever-increasing gap between employability and education. This led us to a quest to understand what students from tier II and III cities, with limited opportunities, want from academia. Surprisingly, more than half said they expected their higher education to take accountability for their careers. In pursuit to fulfil this dream, we decided to offer an innovative solution - Sunstone. Directing all amenities and infrastructure toward upskilling the youth, making them industry ready and consequently getting them placed in their dream jobs.

The students can choose to enroll themselves with any college within Sunstone’s network. Sunstone’s role is to provide an edge to students by facilitating industry-oriented learning, technical and soft skills-focused holistic education, placement assistance, and more.

2. What are the unique key points of your company?

Sunstone’s commitment is to provide an #EducationthatWorks amidst the cat-and-mouse chase for a respectable degree and high scores. According to Sunstone, #EducationthatWorks stands on the following three key pillars – future-ready training, placement assistance and a comprehensive college experience which we call the Sunstone Life.

Future Ready Training – Sunstone aims to provide industry-centric training intervention in tandem with the fast-paced changes in the industries and takes a skill-first approach in which students obtain practical experiences through industry integration via immersive internships and projects, access to training and advanced certifications, master classes from industry experts, and active portfolio building.

Placement Assistance – Sunstone has a robust network of 1000+ recruiters and 2000+ job opportunities. With its 100+ hours of job-focused boot camps and 50+ guaranteed interviews, and professional assistance in crafting CVs, we ensure that students get all the help they need for securing a placement.

Sunstone Life – To make learning more comprehensive and holistic, Sunstone further provides 10 life skills & soft skills training, portfolio building, and access to interest-based clubs, talks, events, fests etc. for an eclectic learning experience.

Additionally, in terms of financial assistance, Sunstone provides several scholarships and easy financing options to power the #EducationthatWorks

3. How are you different from the existing competitors?

We do not have a direct competition as we have a unique model where we work with leading universities and colleges in an offline-online hybrid environment to make education accessible, affordable and accountable. Our focused market segments are tier-2/3/4 towns; accordingly, our offerings are designed to closely integrate the needs of the youngsters in this region.

4. What is the funding status and monetization model?

Our latest Series-B funding round happened in October last year where we raised a sum of $28 Million. So far we have raised $33 Million. Our investors include WestBridge Capital, Saama Capital and Alteria Capital. While some investors who participated in our series B funding round are Work10m and PeopleStrong.

5. What challenges are you facing in running your business?

Credibility and trust are the most important factors in building an education brand of choice. For a new brand like ours, this is the single biggest priority for us to establish. While students across the world are working hard to find the best pedagogy to study effectively, we believe in maintaining transparency in terms of both inputs and output that Sunstone delivers to win their trust.

6. How has the people's response been so far?

Ever since our inception, we have received an overwhelming response from students and campuses alike. Our network has grown from 3 campuses in 1 city to 40+ campuses in 30 cities and we are certain that our product is a change that was much needed in the Indian higher education system.

Our attractive industry-oriented modules and deep industry connect has created an impact that reflects in our placement numbers year on year. We have truly been able to transform our students’ and their families’ lives and we believe that’s the role education should play in society.

Our 10X growth in 2 years and our growth journey is a clear testament to how the ecosystem has shown faith and applauded Sunstone.

7. How do you look at expansion?

At the time of its inception, Sunstone focused on MBA alone to bridge the gap between employability and education but over time we realised that to offer a more holistic solution, it is important to join early on in a student’s educational journey. Therefore today, we offer a plethora of/mix of both UG and PG courses in addition to MBA such as BBA, BCA, B Tech and MCA. We are focused on expanding this course list to include more popular/niche programs. For this, we are hiring trainers and developing content that best compliments a program and the career track it offers.

Sunstone now has a presence in 30 cities across 40+ colleges across Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Lucknow, Himachal, Kolkata, Assam, and more. We further plan to expand to more locations nationally and internationally as we grow.

8. What are your marketing plans?

As an overarching agenda for all our upcoming marketing initiatives, we are oriented toward building trust for the entire education category and building awareness around the possibilities and opportunities that education has to offer. While we don’t want to give away too much about our plans at the moment, I can say with certainty that our upcoming associations are sure to bring more credibility to the industry and inform our audience in innovative ways.

However, we recently partnered with Lucknow SuperGiants for IPL 2022. In this campaign, we took up multiple activities. We announced scholarships worth Rs 4 crore for students pursuing their studies in this competitive field of cricket.

9. What has been the biggest learning so far?

Right after the graduation of Sunstone's first, COVID 19’s first wave threw a curveball and our entire industry was faced with a multitude of unprecedented uncertainties. Our biggest, therefore, has been that it's paramount to be agile in today’s business environment.

While knowing how to survive under uncertain situations is important, what is even more important is understanding the importance of innovation in challenging times to adapt better. We at Sunstone learned this first hand when the world suddenly became a digital-first place and we had to immediately evolve to fit the new norms.

The challenges we faced during the pandemic taught us that a lot can be done in a little time with the right approach and mindset!

10. What is the market size and opportunity?

India has the largest population in the world in the age bracket of 5-24 years with 580 million people, presenting a huge opportunity in the education sector. The Indian Edtech industry is expected to reach $30 billion in the next 10 years. Within this growth, the post-K-12 market is expected to grow 3.7X to touch $1.8 billion. Sunstone is a brand for the masses and it has designed its offerings considering the needs of a particular segment which lacks opportunities easily viable to an aspirant from metro cities. We are focused on tier-2/3 cities and towns where there is a shortfall of quality higher education. Given that Sunstone’s solutions are built and aimed at a large percentage of the higher-education-seeking students, the market potential is huge.

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