Australia’s largest student recruitment marketplace, Global Study Partners (GSP), is betting big on India. Over the next two years, the Sydney-based company plans to double on-the-ground staff in India, building capacity to target more students across the vast country.
With the number of Indian students studying overseas estimated to grow to over 1.8 million by 2024, there is no wonder GSP is positioning India as its largest growth market.
Indian students are Australia’s second largest international student population. The Indian international student market is demonstrating a strong post-pandemic recovery. Since Australia’s borders reopened the number of Indian’s applying for Australian student visas has soared.
Global Study Partners CEO Elaine Starkey says the future of India’s education abroad sector is full of opportunity. Between February and August 2022, GSP recorded an increase of 500 per cent in applications for Australian institutions.
‘In business it’s all about timing, and the time is right for India,’ says Starkey, who was named the India-Australia Business & Community Awards (IABCA) 2022 Businesswomen of the Year.
‘The signing of the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement signals a win for the education sector as both nations commit to strengthening bilateral collaboration,’ Starkey explains.
‘Once the new agreement is in force, the recognition of Australian qualifications and blended, online and joint university degrees will drive sustainable growth in Australia's education services in India,’ she adds.
Founded in 2014, GSP is driving digital transformation in the student recruitment sector. Its all-in-one online platform connects international students with education providers worldwide. It allows students to research and compare courses, find finance, and enrol in international institutes.
Currently, GSP has a network of over 800 institutions in Australia, Britain, Canada, and the US. It also has over 2,000 international recruitment partners, which include education and migration agents, schools, test preparation centres, and alumni associations.
Since launching in India in 2015, GSP has signed up 900 recruitment partners in India to use its online portal. It currently processes over 2,000 Indian student applications a month to overseas education institutions.
GSP’s strategy for India was developed with the view that the country is not a single market, but several key markets. This means it tailors its approach in different regions to develop its market position.
‘The key to success in India is understanding the market, knowing your point of difference and having trustworthy contacts on-the-ground,’ says Starkey.
The company has aligned business activity in India around key institutional and recruitment partners and prioritised regional strategies that reflect this. In doing so, it continues to engage closely with Australian and international institutions across all sectors to deliver enrolments and build strong relationships.
The company has grown the number of staff in India to 65 with offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Starkey expects to double her India-based team as the company follows its growth strategy into regional cities, called tier 2 and 3 cities.
‘We expect to achieve significant but sensible growth over the next 3 years. This is based on building a strong, localised sales culture using processes which start with the right people, strategically positioned across service regions in India,’ she explains.
GSP has worked with Austrade’s education sector experts in Australia and overseas to gain market insights, advice, and connections to enter and grow in India, and markets throughout Asia.
‘From a small startup to a thriving business, Austrade has been a valuable source for market knowledge, and their staff and network in India have helped to build trusted connections,’ says Starkey.
In 2018, the company was selected to participate in Austrade’s Landing Pad program in Singapore. The program provides market-ready Australian startups and scaleups with access to some of the world’s most renowned technology hubs.
‘The opportunity to be hosted by Austrade in Singapore – a leading tech centre – allowed GSP to expand our network in the international ed-tech sector and build up a profile to truly go global,’ says Starkey.
In 2019, GSP took part in an Austrade ed-tech mission that brought Australian ed-tech companies to meet their counterparts in India. The mission gave Australian and Indian companies the chance to discuss areas of collaboration.
The mission helped the rising ed-tech company solidify its profile in India and opened the door to future partnerships. At India’s premier education event, DIDAC, Starkey and her team met with representatives from upGrad, a leader in online education focused on reskilling and upskilling in India.
This initial meeting set the foundation for a partnership that would further fuel GSP’s ambition to grow throughout India and expand globally.
Starkey says Australian ed-tech startups should look at India’s mature market for investment opportunities.
In 2021, India’s largest ed-tech company, upGrad, acquired GSP for $22 million. As part of the deal GSP will continue as its own operation. The backing from upGrad will help with plans to scale up throughout India.
The acquisition is the first international venture for upGrad and marks its move into the study abroad sector, one of the fastest-growing segments worldwide.
President of Corporate Development and M&A for upGrad, Gaurav Kumar, says the partnership is a “matching of minds” and a “win-win for both companies.
‘Both upGrad and GSP are driven by values to build a level playing field for student communities,’ he says. ‘This partnership means GSP gets access to a very strong higher education partner in India — one of the largest markets in the world.
‘Our partnership will help to build GSP’s reputation in the Indian market and its ability to scale. Together we have set a goal to facilitate 20-25 percent of total student mobility out of India.’
GSP’s strong reputation with global educational institutions and recruitment partners around the world will help upGrad enter the international education sector.
Fuelled by upGrad’s expertise in online learning, Kumar says GSP can expand its offerings by working with international universities to deliver online programs on its platform. This opens the potential for online courses in a student’s home country as well as overseas.
‘Expanding GSP’s platform to integrate online learning – from pathway courses to prep programs – will allow universities to reach more students and potentially lower costs. This will give more students access to international education options,’ he explains.
Starkey agrees the upGrad and GSP partnership will empower the study abroad sector by providing international students with access to a wide range of quality study options overseas, including online and blended learning opportunities.
‘We are driven to deliver choice and diversity in a blended high-tech environment. We believe that with upGrad’s expertise and reach we can achieve enormous scale whilst maintaining our commitment to quality,’ she says.