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ZILS pioneers convergence for e-learningnews
Nachiketa Desai
13 November 2001
November 2001

Mumbai: If convergence is the buzzword, Zee Group surely knows how to convert it into cash flow.

Take the case of Zee Interactive Learning Systems Ltd (ZILS), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Zee Group. Armed with credible alliances, workable technology and experience in generating multimedia content, the less than two-year-old ZILS is poised to break even next year with a Rs 100-crore turnover.

At a 100-per cent growth rate, ZILS hopes to capture one-fourth of the Rs 2,000-crore IT education market by 2004. What fires the companys ambition is convergence in which the Zee Group has established a clear lead over the competitors.

Convergence of television, online and offline (classroom) media has helped ZILS become a one-stop learning solutions provider company. With a slew of Indian universities recognising it as a dependable vehicle for conducting a wide spectrum of courses in information technology, ZILS has attained a reputation unmatched by any other commercial educational institution.

Though market leaders such as NIIT, Aptech and SSI have attained brand equity in IT education, none of them lead to a degree or diploma recognised by the Indian universities. This is not the case with ZILS, which conducts IT courses for half a dozen universities.

Universities prepare the syllabus, the course structure and conducts the examinations. We provide the infrastructure for conducting courses. We make these courses interactive, says ZILS chief operating officer Dilip Mahapatra.

Multi-media platform is what differentiates ZILS from the rest of the institutions that are in the business of education. With a centralised TV studio connected through V-SAT to over 50 Zed Career Academy (ZedCA) centres across the country, ZILS has been the first in the country to introduce broadband-based interactive learning technology.

Launched in February 2001, the interactive classroom experience (I-cell) provides a physical classroom with interactive features. It provides live interactive learning across the country. The central studio, connected via a dedicated V-SAT network helps students see, hear and speak to experts in various subjects live. Ten per cent of all our curriculum content is produced in the studio, says Mahapatra. These are also archived so that students who miss any of the lessons can go back to these at their convenience.

To supplement the learning at the ZedCa centres, ZILS has a learning portal, Nearly 10 per cent of the content of the courses offered by ZILS in collaboration with the various universities is available on the learning portal.

The portal, which was earlier a profit centre, has now been merged with ZILS, following convergence of all learning initiatives of the Zee Group. As part of the convergence strategy, the group merged its education TV channel, ZED TV, with the Zee Telefilms.

In fact, the Zee Group, which is essentially into the business of entertainment, realised the revenue potential of the education sector way back in 1995. Zee TV, then just a single-family entertainment channel, started telecasting a two-hour programme on computer education.

The initiative was soon followed up with Zed Point, a learning centre in metros and major towns, which were aimed at creating awareness among the youth about computer applications. Zee Groups foray into IT education was further consolidated with the setting up of Zee Institute for Computer Animation (ZICA) in Hyderabad.

Having achieved a client-base of over 15,000 students last year and set up a target to increase it to 50,000 students this year, ZILS is now concentrating on providing learning solutions to schools, colleges and corporate bodies.

IT education is becoming an integral part of most of the upper-crust schools. We have identified 15,000 schools in the country that are imparting IT education or are planning to introduce it in near future, says Mahapatra.

ZILS has prepared multi-media courses in Mathematics, Science and English for the 6-11 class students. The course in geography is being prepared and will be introduced soon.

It is not just the students ZILS is targeting. ZILS has IT solutions for teachers and management of the schools as well. Besides training school teachers in IT application and education, ZILS has developed an Internet-based software that enables schools to track a students progress based on marks sheet, homework assignments, attendance and discipline records.

Extending this initiative to colleges, ZILS has also developed campus management software, which automates an educational institutes day-to-day process related to student records, admission and attendance that enhances efficiency and helps in cutting cost while providing increased student support services.

As an IT-learning solutions provider company, ZILS has also been able to sell its services to various corporate bodies such as the United Trust of India, Abbott Laboratories, Glaxo, Enron and Faber Castell, providing them with technology access for corporate learning and training.

For sourcing content for corporate training, ZILS has entered into associations with leading institutions and experts from the industry. One such collaboration was with the US-based LIMRA International to train insurance professionals. This was followed by ZILS getting accreditation from the Insurance Regulation and Development Authority.

ZILS has already trained insurance agents from Reliance, ICICI Lombard, Bajaj Allianz and Royal Sundaram.

Another breakthrough for ZILS came last month when it received recognition from the Institute of Company Secretary of India as a training institute for students pursuing a company secretary course. Even if 10 per cent of the students enroll with us, we will have 20,000 students paying for the course to us, says Mahapatra.

The ZILS COO is aiming at exploring the overseas market. Companies in the US, UK, Japan and China want to outsource their content and customise these to meet their training requirements, he says. We are ready to take up the challenge as we have the necessary infrastructure, skill-set and technology to take up such projects. We have done this for Indian companies, so we can do for the overseas companies.

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ZILS pioneers convergence for e-learning