Management training in China is a $50 billion market, and growing at 10-15% per year. In the past this market has been dominated mostly by local schools and small local training outfits, who deliver training in offline formats and offer students both an opportunity to learn as well as build their networks. However, with the advent of the digital economy and the impact of the Covid pandemic, managers and executives from organizations across the country are now searching for solutions to enable them to digitally transform and confront the threat from digital-first companies like Alibaba, Tencent, and Bytedance. This is driving an opportunity in online management training, where managers can pinpoint specific skills and knowledge they want to acquire and enable them to rapidly adopt for their current businesses.
My Path to a Career in Online Education
As a graduate of Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford Business School, I have been fortunate to be able to access some of the best education in the world. However, due to cost, location, and language, billions of people across the world are unable to share my experience. So in 2015, I decided to pursue a career in online education, to make the best education in the world accessible and affordable to anyone, and by doing so enable students to change their lives and help to change the world. Over the past five years through my time at Udacity and at Eruditus, my teams have helped over 100,000 students across China realize their dreams, providing validation for my choice to focus on online education.
Demand for Digital Skills
Over the past 5-10 years, online education has been driven by the demand for new digital skills, like coding, data analysis, digital marketing, and artificial intelligence. Many of these digital skills did not exist or were not relevant in the workplace 10-20 years, and with the rapid pace of technological innovation, skills continue to evolve and change, making it ever more important for people of all ages to continually upskill themselves to stay relevant.
At Udacity, we focused on training people at the frontlines of this digital revolution, entry-level coders, data analysts and digital marketers. However, I realized that in order to support the majority of organizations to digitally transform their businesses and adapt to the new digital economy, we needed to also support managers and leaders, leading me to join Eruditus.
In partnership with leading schools such as MIT, Wharton, Columbia Business School, Kellogg, UC Berkeley Haas, and Cambridge Judge Business School, Eruditus has built a large portfolio of digital programs that enable executives and managers to learn critical skills and frameworks to drive digital transformation at their organizations. While most local training players focus on providing case studies, our programs focus on hands-on projects that help guide executives and managers to master each skill and build their own digital transformation plans. It is akin to the difference between learning tennis by watching TV versus getting out on the court.
Localizing for the China Market
Bringing global programs to market in China is not without challenges, to do this we go through several layers of localization to fit our programs to the market. The most basic layer is translation of the course content, however in the case of management training programs where managers and executives are pressed for time, watching English videos with subtitles can be tedious and a barrier to learning, leading us to invest in creating Chinese audio-dubbed tracks as an option for students.
The second layer is providing local teaching assistance and local context to our global programs. We do this at Eruditus in China by recruiting local subject matter experts to serve as “Course Leads” or teaching assistants for our programs. Many of these teachers work in full-time jobs at leading organizations in China in fields such as digital marketing, digital transformation, and data analytics. Providing local context in China is incredibly important, as China is one of the few countries where there are giants like Alibaba, Tencent and Bytedance that rival those in the US. In fact, in July 2019, the number of Chinese companies overtook US companies on the Fortune 500 list for the first time, signalling an increased importance to provide local context.
The final layer involves localized marketing and student acquisition. In China, where Facebook, Google, Twitter and other global platforms are banned, the marketing stack is entirely different. WeChat is the primary channel for both business and personal communication, while email and text messages play a much smaller role. Additionally unlike Facebook and Google, platforms like WeChat, ByteDance, and Taobao are closed platforms. To stop users from generating a huge following, they manage traffic, APIs and other tools very carefully to prevent competing firms from stealing users. This creates unique challenges in how to weave an integrated multi-channel marketing strategy for the China market that few understand.
Our early strategy for Eruditus China has been to bring in the global brands and build a strong following around that. We have found that the top-tier brands from abroad have strong brand recognition in first-tier cities but beyond that their influence is limited. (That said, the combined population of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen is over 100 million – that is no small market.) Moving forward we plan to expand our reach across China, across the tier-two and tier-three cities. It is in the heartland of China where we see a lot of traditional businesses struggling to adapt to the digital economy looking for solutions to transform their businesses. We need to work with local Chinese schools to address this. Over the next three to five years, we will be laser-focused on that as we build our presence in this market.
This article first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse