When Arjun Gupta returned home after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Boston University in 2011, he noticed a critical shortage of affordable skill development programmes for the talent in India who were looking to upgrade their skills. Within a year, he started Firstventure to bridge the industry-academia knowledge gap. “Over time, we found that there was a significant opportunity in providing corporate employees with a meaningful experience. As a result, the company pivoted to Courseplay, a SaaS-based scalable talent experience solution for enterprises. We wanted to deliver delightful learning content, engage employees and also measure the impact of all these activities,” explains Arjun Gupta, Founder and CEO, Firstventure, and creator of Courseplay.
A scalable talent development solution for enterprises
Courseplay’s AI-powered talent experience platform provides clients with intelligent insights and recommendations for better employee performance. From enabling businesses to upskill their employees, to making onboarding simpler to improving the performance of the workforce, Courseplay brings to the table end-to-end solutions in training delivery, employee engagement, workflow automation and impact measurement.
“With the constant evolution of technology and market demands, job roles are being redefined on the go. This means the skill requirements to do a particular job need to evolve at the same pace. This calls for companies to constantly train employees to fill the skills gaps that arise,” emphasises Arjun. From an employee and talent experience perspective, employees are valuing work-life balance more than ever before. This has further intensified with the workforce becoming dispersed, flexible and agile over the years. Arjun asserts that these developments presented a very clear opportunity for companies to automate learning and development and employee experience related activities and thereby provide a very clear story about the growth of each employee in the company. The pandemic has further reinstated the need to adopt automation in talent management.
“Some of the most successful companies are not only paying attention to employee productivity checks, but are also genuinely looking into whether their people are truly happy at work. With remote working at an all-time high, it has become imperative for managers and companies to ensure that their teams have everything they need to get the job done. This might not just be limited to resources in the form of software, tools and training, but also in the form of professional guidance, counselling and motivation,” explains Arjun. This is where a platform like Courseplay has become relevant as it goes beyond just learning. “We capture 360-degrees of data about each employee to provide a detailed picture of that employee’s professional growth in the company. By capturing data for performance, behaviours, coaching, mentorship, development plans, action items, and more, we are able to tap into every aspect of the employee’s learning journey,” says the founder.
The fact that Courseplay is being used by brands across sectors, from SpiceJet to Mothercare to Emami, speaks volumes about the potential and relevance of the platform. With over 100,000+ activities in the form of e-learning titles, behavioural scorecards, coaching evaluations, performance management, assessments and more, the breadth and depth of services is one of the reasons that makes Courseplay a clear choice for these companies. The platform also has one of the best pricing plans in the market, and this, Arjun notes, has been possible because of building the platform on Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud.
Partnering with the right technology
Courseplay has been on AWS since its inception. “We architected Courseplay to specifically run on AWS. When it comes to scalability, security and simplicity, AWS has always been the market leader in cloud computing services. There were no second thoughts about the technology partner we wanted to go with,” says Arjun.
Courseplay’s entire cloud infrastructure is completely hosted on AWS and leverages a number of AWS managed services for regular operations of the platform as well as build and deploy unique features. For instance, Courseplay’s database requests are handled by Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) using Amazon Aurora. “Amazon RDS not only brings automatic scaling but also offers automatic failovers, which is the ability to switch automatically and seamlessly to a reliable backup system within seconds. All the training content on Courseplay is encrypted at rest and securely stored on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and served using Amazon CloudFront. In addition, all the application requests are greeted by an Elastic Load Balancer that allocates the request to the appropriate Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) application server based on load.
“With Amazon EC2, Amazon RDS and Amazon S3, we are able to spin up servers on-demand and scale them up and down very quickly based on customer usage. This ensures that the advantage extends beyond just flexibility and translates into cost savings of upto 20-30 percent that we can pass on to our customers,” articulates Arjun.
Given that security of a platform has become the tipping point for companies, Courseplay leverages AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF). It not only provides protection against security threats and bots but also gives control over how the traffic reaches the applications. “AWS offers automatic DDoS protection and features like the Web Application Firewall (WAF) and Security Groups go a very long way to keep our customer’s data secure,” says Arjun. In addition, the startup regularly aligns itself to adhere to security best practices that are shared by AWS. “This ensures that we are up-to-date when it comes to following the best possible approach to cloud security,” he shares.
Building the platform leveraging AWS has many advantages for startups, believes Arjun. For one, it enables startups to offer scalable and secure solutions at a price point which otherwise might be challenging if it isn’t AWS. Secondly, the user interface is easy to comprehend. “As someone who came from the non-technical world of economics and then became a techie, I feel the simplicity of the AWS interface compared to other options in the market was a very big benefit for us,” says Arjun.
Onwards and upwards
Over the last three years, Courseplay’s revenue has been growing at a steady rate between 40 and 60 percent. As is the case with many other industries, the pandemic has been a force multiplier in driving greater interest in technology solutions. “Employers who were previously rigid are now experimenting and innovating with new ways to engage employees. Customer interest in digital transformation, talent experience and training automation has definitely shot up more than ever before and we see these changes in the market as becoming permanent in the long term,” says Arjun. However, he also points out there is a bit of an interesting correlation. “While demand for HR tech tools continues to grow exponentially, we have observed a very clear correlation between the downward trend in COVID-19 cases and the upward trend in enterprise spending in the sector,” he says. The startup hopes to raise its first round of funding this year.
Courseplay is also looking to expand into the Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern markets. “These markets are slightly more mature markets than India and are constantly on the lookout for innovative tools. We have seen tremendous interest from these regions,” Arjun says. “As we expand our geographical footprint and grow the client base, we will continue to add new capabilities to the platform. Here, we see tremendous opportunity to collaborate with AWS and drive our growth journey further ahead,” he adds.