Srikanth Iyer joins USF as a venture partner; to invest in the education portfolio

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Srikanth Iyer, former CEO of Pearson India, has joined Unitus Seed Fund as a venture partner. Srikanth is a veteran entrepreneur in the education sector in India and at Unitus Seed Fund, he will be focused on capitalizing the growing opportunities in the affordable education space in India. Srikanth will lead Unitus Seed Fund’s national efforts to invest in the education companies that are scaleably serving low-income population. Unitus is also allocating 3 crore (USD 500,000) to make seed-stage investment in new India education companies in the second half of 2014. With technology and mobile creating more and more opportunities for disruptive innovation in education sector, venture investments are also picking up in this space.

We got in touch with Srikanth to know more about his role at Unitus Seed Fund, the key focus areas, challenges and the upcoming trends in the affordable education sector in India:

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Srikanth was most recently the CEO at Pearson India. Previously, he co-founded Edurite Technologies, a leading e-content provider in the education space. Under Srikanth’s leadership Edurite grew by leaps and bounds and was lead to an acquisition by TutorVista; a global online tutoring company, and further acquisition by Pearson in 2011. Talking about joining Unitus Seed Fund, Srikanth said, “I saw that USF had a great combination of razor sharp focus on the impact areas and agility like no other fund I had seen before and these were the primary reasons for me to be involved in the fund. At a macro level, I am keen on continuing to be involved with Indian education and I thought this was a great option.”

He adds, “My key focus areas would be to engage with companies which are attempting to solve a real and large problem in the BoP of Indian education and are using technology/mobile to scale their solution, product or service.”
Amongst the many challenges that the Indian education system is facing, topmost on Srikanth’s list are
1. Access to acceptable infrastructure
2. Availability of quality teachers
3. Availability of quality content and assessment

He shares that mobile will be a very large contributor to the growth of affordable education in India. He says, “These devices need to be leveraged a lot more to make the larger problems go away or become smaller. The number of devices available across the ecosystem and the increasing penetration of data will make solutions on the mobile inevitable in the medium term.”

Talking about the upcoming trends in the affordable education segment, Srikanth points out the following:

1.  more and more parents are going to prefer the paid service (affordable private schools) to the free service (Govt schools) in the future.
2. the preferred medium of instruction is going to be English in APS
3. technology and specifically tablets are going to play a large role in this space. Assessment is going to be a big focus area in the APS (affordable private school) space.

With Srikanth on board, Unitus Seed Fund is looking to complete 2-3 new education investments with the allocated three crore over the remainder of 2014.