[Interview] How Skill-Ex Aims to Bridge Employability Skills Gap in India with its Unique AI Recommender Engine

How Skill-Ex Aims to Bridge Employability Skills Gap in India with its Unique AI Recommender Engine

Our quest to meet new edtech founders helps us reach startups like Skill-Ex, an online tool that allows students and individuals to plan and achieve their career goals with unique artificial intelligence-based training recommendations.

Using an AI-powered engine, Skill-Ex recommends skills and training across domains and specialities, enabling individuals to explore career possibilities for their existing skillsets. It also allows users to identify optimal skills and the corresponding training to land their dream jobs.

Skill-Ex offers unique skill points and skill tree-based recruitment solutions to job-seekers. It also promotes Tier 2 and Tier 3 city talents through better talent-to-job optimisation while reducing time-to-hire from any demographics.

Skill-Ex is gearing up for its beta launch next month. It currently has 500+ community members on various social media platforms, and its weekly audio rooms address job entry hurdles, domain switch queries, and custom learning path recommendations.

EdTechReview, in association with AWS EdStart, launched a new segment – FeaturED. It is an exclusive interview series where edtech founders and education thought leaders contemplate and discuss the current state, trends, challenges, and opportunities in the edtech industry and share about their respective organisations, markets, and sectors.

For the first interview, Utkarsh Lokesh (Editor @ EdTechReview) interviewed the three co-founders of Skill-Ex:

Dr. Balaji Muthusubramanian - Co-Founder & CEO, Skill-Ex
Dr. Balaji Muthusubramanian
Co-Founder & CEO, Skill-Ex
Priyanka Kamath - Co-Founder & COO, Skill-Ex
Priyanka Kamath
Co-Founder & COO, Skill-Ex
Vishweshwar Joshi - Co-Founder, Skill-Ex
Vishweshwar Joshi
Co-Founder, Skill-Ex


Focussing on the journey so far, the Skill-Ex team talked about the company's vision & the magnitude of the problem they are solving. They also spoke about the drive behind their passion for solving the employability-skills gap in India. We also got an insight into the challenges facing their edtech startup, the product roadmap, their growth and expansion plans, and how the AWS EdStart program supported them.

Skip to the interview video

The magnitude of problem Skill-Ex is solving

“The skills gap is a global issue,” says Priyanka, the Co-founder and COO of Skill-Ex. It’s a major problem that SKill-Ex is trying to solve for the Indian workforce. About 45.9% of Indian graduates are currently employable (India Skill Report 2021), and only 2.3% of the current workforce are formally trained in their respective jobs (India Skill Report 2020). Priyanka said that only 44% of the youth are job-ready, which is even more dismal in small towns.

“The percentage of women workforce in India has further reduced by about 17-23% post the pandemic,” Priyanka said. “These skill gaps cause businesses significant loss and delays in the recruitment process. Thus, there is an immense scope of improvement for industry-readiness in the country.”

Vishweshwar's experience of a broken education system unable to serve high skill outcomes versed him with a job seeker's pain points and frustrations. These experiences drive the entire Skill-Ex team to solve the experience-based hiring talent landscape problem in India.

How Skill-Ex is solving the skills gap through tech-innovation

According to Balaji, Skill-Ex's CEO, the company has implemented two unique technological innovations:

  1. A deep learning + NLP-based recommender engine that can suggest skills and courses across various domains and specialities.
  2. A video game-inspired front-end design for visualising various learning and career paths while focusing on quicker navigation through the platform.

Challenges facing Skill-Ex

Like any startup, the Skill-Ex team faces challenges. “Building the product with a remote team, gathering the right resources, funding, and hiring are some of the biggest challenges we have faced as an early-stage bootstrapped edtech startup,” said Balaji. However, the CEO added that with a passionate team and technology support from programs like AWS EdStart , they are regularly and successfully overcoming barriers towards their mission of getting their skill-recommendation engine out into the market.

How has AWS supported Skill-Ex's journey

According to SKill-Ex's co-founders, AWS Cloud services has been the perfect platform to build and host their product in-line with their tech philosophy. Like any early-stage bootstrapped startup, amping up resources was one of the biggest hurdles, but with programs like AWS EdStart in the ecosystem offering a spectrum of incentives from cloud credits, infrastructure support, and overall exposure through its EdStart community & portal, Skill-Ex has benefitted a lot.

The founders said that a load balancing solution like AWS Fargate has helped them create an adaptive and scalable product. They can now keep the performance of their recommender engine at its peak – as per demand – while optimising cost. The easy-to-set-up CI/CD pipelines built for the front-end architecture on AWS has also helped them set up and deploy the front-end quicker. The team is also looking into AWS Lambda – a serverless solution.

How is Skill-Ex different from other players looking to solve the employability-skills gap

With so many startups already looking to solve the employability skill gap, the co-founders said that their uniqueness lies in their ability to see the market breakup. They said that the current employability skill market is heavily focused on soft skills, and only a few companies are addressing the skill-learning and experiential-training required to build hard skills needed at work. They added that there is no data-driven mechanism to understand the right-suited training for a candidate's skill path. This is where their product fits the market need and sets them apart from the rest of the edtechs.

Vision & expansion plans

Skill-Ex's strategic long-term goal is to capture a significant portion of the 735 million in the Indian edtech market with a 15% growth rate over five years. They aim to expand in the age group 15-45+ years across every potential city/town to provide a life-long learning experience. They expect their products and services to grow from a single product offering career assessment to a fully-functioning enterprise hiring solution to disrupt the $6 billion recruitment market.

How the team came together to build Skill-Ex

It is the passion for an educational revolution that brought the Skill-Ex team together. The founders stayed in different countries and met at an online entrepreneurial meetup forum. Intrigued with each other's enthusiasm, passion, and ideas, they decided to disrupt the Indian labour landscape. Since founding the startup, the team hasn't met in person, and they are all set to meet each other for the first time next month (October 2021) for Skill-Ex's beta launch in Hyderabad.

Watch the full interview with Skill-Ex's founders below:

 

About AWS EdStart:

AWS EdStart, the AWS educational technology (EdTech) startup accelerator, is designed to help entrepreneurs build the next generation of online learning, analytics, and campus management solutions in the AWS Cloud. The program is designed to enable EdTech startups to move faster with tailored benefits. Learn More.

AWS EdStart Member Application | AWS EdStart Innovator Application

About the Author
Author: Stephen Soulunii
Stephen Soulunii No more a student, but love to learn. Not a teacher, but care about how students are taught. Not an educator, but want everyone to be educated. Not a social worker, but desire to see change. Not a reformer, but always want to see a better world. The author believes that only sound education can bring a better future, better world and technology can help achieve a lot in this field.

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