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Blended models, personalised learning and employability skills key to navigate changing landscape: Shreyasi Singh, Founder & CEO, Harappa Education

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An alumnus of the Lady Shri Ram College for Women and the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Shreyasi Singh began her career in the field of journalism.

The pandemic has disrupted the future of work and workplaces, not to mention how it is fast redefining the hybrid workplace dynamics through online interactions. These sweeping changes are also apparent in the field of education as online learning became the ‘new normal’ and e-learning platforms have soared since last year’s lockdown.

The ancient city of Harappa is not only one the oldest civilizations in the world but is also considered one of the most technologically and intellectually forward societies to ever exist. The Harappan civilization has a timeless memory in the minds of Indians and embodies a hope all founders and builders have of creating something that exists above and beyond them. This is the driving vision of Harappa Education’s Founder and CEO, Shreyasi Singh as shared with Financial Express Online.

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She adds, “The name Harappa generates a lot of curiosity among people.. As proud Biharis and Hindi language lovers, and enthusiasts of Indian textiles, art, music and food, my cofounder Pramath and I are always drawn to names with the rich spirit of our heritage. We battled through 50+ names, including countless options that unimaginatively played on the word “ed.” They all seem forced and boring. Once the name was decided, the associations were instantly intuitive.”

An alumnus of the Lady Shri Ram College for Women and the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Shreyasi Singh began her career in the field of journalism, authored two books on entrepreneurship and scaled up to the dynamic higher education segment, where she helped build a women’s-only management program.

Notably, ‘Embracing Change’—a course that Harappa Education opened up for free enrollment last year—and ‘Speaking Effectively’ emerged as front-runners in 2020. A recently launched online crash course: ‘Ace the Interview’ aims to help job aspirants prepare for the most important questions they will face in an interview. In January 2021, Harappa Education launched its distinct 10on10 campaign for enterprise and campus audiences to grasp the Harappa advantage.

In Shreyasi’s view, “Our vision to build a high-quality, global and modern online venture was resolute. We felt that our curriculum had the same texture of the grounded and foundational imagery of the Harappa archaeological sites: our skills are foundational to an individual’s life and growth. We’ve created 10 special programs designed to help students and professionals raise the bar, at scale.”

In this interaction with Financial Express Online, Harappa Education’s Founder & CEO Shreyasi Singh discusses how India’s education system is reinventing itself, the emergence of hybrid working models is changing workplace dynamics and how developing new employee-centric programs are critical to build resilience among the country’s increasing workforce.

Shreyasi believes that the hybrid working model “will increasingly move in the direction of impact and value measurement as opposed to driving in-person presenteeism and clocking the hours spent in the workplace or in front of laptops.”

While India’s education system has been forced to reinvent itself during the pandemic, what is your long-term vision and how do you plan to make changes?

The pandemic has certainly forced India’s education system to alter itself in a number of ways—the working and delivery models most crucially. We’re no strangers to the fact that forced lockdowns have pushed educators and learners alike to consider e-learning and blended models as permanent solutions. In turn, several new elearning platforms have emerged in the last year or so.

At Harappa we’re carving a niche for ourselves as builders of a learner-centric platform of the future through our behavior-science inspired pedagogy, distinctive frameworks and innovative courses and programs.

The true Harappa advantage and how we differentiate ourselves from other online learning programs lies in the way our curriculum is designed.

Our unique offering transcends specialization, function and industry, focusing on cognitive, social and behavioral skills that are crucial for any workplace.

We are committed to evolving our curriculum and offerings to meet learner needs, with a sharp focus on helping every individual achieve transformational career success. We’re excited to help our learner progress and will continue to work towards sustaining the momentum with existing and new offerings.

What is the key advice you would give about today’s education system from your professional expertise and interactions so far?

What are the pros and cons in terms of hiring and being in sync with global workplace dynamics?

As hybrid working models become a norm, there are sure to changes to how organizations work and workplace dynamics in general.

Developing new employee-centric training programs, in addition to restructuring existing programs to provide behavioral training will be crucial as workplaces look to build resilience and wider skill sets among workforces.

Different notions attached to leadership will also need to be redefined as a leader will need to adapt and accelerate their decision-making processes in tandem with quickly changing business scenarios.

Workplaces and work environments are also becoming demanding. So, people and performance managers will need to be expertly skilled in breaking down overall company goals to understand and emphasize the value and impact every person and team in the organization needs to create in order to achieve peak performance.

HR teams will themselves need to understand and acknowledge the importance of behavioral skills themselves in order to connect the right dots, devise learning programs that drive learning behavior, practice-oriented application and bridge these skill gaps to drive success.

Top trends you see in education, talent acquisition and hiring for the next two years?

As the world of work returns to (a new) normal, we’re already seeing so many emerging trends across education, talent acquisition and other job functions.

Educators are relying more on blended models, which means additional training to address the skills gap associated with developing and handling digital classrooms.

Innovative delivery methods and personalized learning continue to keep learners engaged and enhance the learning experience.

At the same time, today’s learners have to identify key employability skills to navigate a changing landscape.

Businesses are now looking at restructuring and preparing a stronger workforce to tackle the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic. Remote work (especially work-from-home) allows greater flexibility and autonomy for both employers and employees.

In addition to cost-saving, organizations are starting to view remote work as an important part of their hiring and retention process.

Studies show that an estimated 70% of the global workforce will be working remotely by 2025!

Remote work not only helps businesses tap talent across geographies but also makes room for diversity and inclusion.

From a skilling perspective, we need to be deliberate about focusing training and development on three important categories of skills in equal measure: upskilling—roles which are impacted by new technologies—reskilling—learn high order skills and future-proof careers—and metaskilling—embracing lifelong skills to give us the extra edge.

Your observations on ensuring gender inclusivity and diversity—any interesting data points or trends in this context?

Industries—in India and around the world—have come a long way however, even today, only 29 of India’s Fortune 500 companies have women in leadership positions with executive power. The world of technology and internet biz has glass ceilings too.

Women are barely represented in the founder’s seat as well; and there are few women CEOs of tech start-ups. Even on the funding side, not only is the venture capital world predominantly an ecosystem of men, the fact is that women-founded businesses attract a miniscule fraction (single-digits) of overall venture capital investments.

At Harappa, we’re making deliberate efforts to increase the equity in our workforce—representation alone isn’t the ultimate aspiration but it’s a quantifiable metric we hold ourselves accountable to. We’re proud that 46% of our total team—full time employees and consultants—at Harappa are women, with healthy representation in the management cadre, too.

We’ll continue to maintain this ratio, if not increase it to 50% or more.

We’re also actively working towards onboarding more and more women learners—our data currently shows that on average we have more men enrolling for our courses.

It’s important for us at Harappa, to highlight and learn from inspiring women; be it with our clients, through our podcast or the amazing women faculty we have on our courses.

Finally, we recently launched our Women’s Leadership Program, designed to maximize the potential of women managers across industries and organizations. It’s a well known fact that when women are given leadership roles, it leads to higher profits, greater representation and better collaboration; we’re committed to and excited about helping unleash the power of women leaders.

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