In a bid to contain
the impact of the IT slowdown, software training and
solutions behemoth NIIT is implementing a two-pronged strategy. The first revolves around
widening the base of its flagship iGNIIT course in the smaller towns and cities. The
second revolves around a new offering made to create a layer of aspiration scholarship
with two new courses in advance IT technology - the .NET (dot Net) platform and the new
age language, C # (pronounced C-Sharp).
The two new technologies are yet to see a
full-fledged launch, with them currently undergoing extensive R&D at the Microsoft
labs. But these are expected to hit the market towards the end of this quarter.
NIIT meanwhile, in association with
Microsoft, is preparing to offer the course by end September. C#, which will be a major
language with its USP of inter-operability, ability to convert and use codes without
having to rewrite them, is expected to be in great demand.
The two new courses, NIIT believes, will help
stem the slide in demand for its short term courses in specialised areas, also known as
the retraining segment, where students go in to further their knowledge of specific
subjects or add new ones to their skill sets. The demand for these courses has declined,
thanks to the IT slowdown.
Simultaneously, the company is attempting to
widen its base for its three-year iGNIIT course, by extending its loan programme to the
smaller cities. NIIT had tied up with Citibank and World Bank arm IFC to earmark Rs 400
crore over a four year period, to be offered as loans to aspiring NIIT students opting for
the iGNIIT courses. The loan amount would cover the cost of course fees, a personal
computer, printer and internet connection, and would have to be repaid in seven years
after the student obtains a placement.
NIIT undertook a pilot project in December
1999, and has disbursed Rs 25 crores up to May 2001. The facility was only available in
the metro and mini-metro cities. Following the success of the programme, it now has begun
taking it ahead in all the second rung towns and cites, including Nashik, Nagpur,
Coimbatore, Chandigarh, Cochin, Ahmedabad, Vizag, Dehradun and Surat.
"Although bank loans are available for
formal education, this is the first time that it has been made available by the private
sector," says M. Vinod, head of educaion for the western region of NIIT. While the
claim about being first does not hold, Aptech having introduced the concept of loan
schemes in computer education a few years ago, in a tie up with the Bank of Baroda, and
more recently (in May 2001) with HDFC Bank, the total size of the funds earmarked for NIIT
students - Rs 400 crore - could indeed be a first.
These strategies will help NIIT weather the
slowdown in the IT sector, which has impacted its retraining segment, comprising of short,
advance technology courses, grouped under ''CATS'' (Curriculum for Advanced Technologies
Studies) to the extent of 30 to 40 per cent, but has no impact on its ''Swift'' (short
computer literacy courses), or ''Futurz'' , the longer duration e-commerce and internet
technology courses leading to DNIIT and iGNIIT titles.
The company expects to
reach a figure of 3,000 training outlets by the end of September this year, from the
current 2228. About 50 of these could be overseas, where the number now stands at around
For NIIT, the IT slowdown, as
it claims in its official statement, is only "temporary".