In India, the lure of international education isn’t a new phenomenon. Historically, students from the country’s affluent sections and major cities would board flights in pursuit of foreign degrees, drawn by the promise of a superior curriculum and global exposure. But what’s evolved in recent times is the democratisation of this dream. With increasing internet penetration, globalisation, and enhanced access to resources, smaller cities are no longer left in the shadows. Their residents are as informed, ambitious, and eager as their metropolitan counterparts, if not more. This evolution hasn’t gone unnoticed.
IDP Education’s endeavours led by Jayamalini Ramaratnam, Regional People Experience Director, South Asia, IDP Education, can be seen as a strategic response to the country’s changing educational aspirations. While the metropolises still hold their charm, the pull from these emerging hubs is undeniable.
Emergence of New Aspirational Hubs
Tier-2 and tier-3 cities aren’t just catching up; in many ways, they’re setting new trends. Students here, with their fresh perspectives, bring to the table an unbridled enthusiasm and a unique blend of traditional values and global aspirations. For institutions and consultancies like IDP, these cities represent both a challenge and a gold mine. The task is twofold: understanding the nuanced needs of these students and effectively connecting them with suitable global opportunities.
Challenges and Opportunities
Commenting on the challenges of tapping into these markets, Ramaratnam shares, “Overseas education is a very niche category. Hence, the availability of quality and trained talent is in short supply. Also, getting professionals who share work ethics to the high standards of IDP is not easy.”
However, Ramaratnam is quick to point out that local talent plays a pivotal role in achieving the organisation’s goals. Their innate understanding of regional sensibilities, when coupled with the right training and resources, can transform these centres into major educational hubs.
Ramaratnam elucidates, “Our primary focus is hiring local talent for the study abroad business, encompassing roles in counselling, business development, and branch management.” Further, she emphasises the significance of on-ground experience, stating that professionals with “prior industry experience in overseas education offer a distinct advantage.”
This approach mirrors a larger trend in India, where industries are reaching beyond traditional urban strongholds.
Reflecting a Robust Strategy
In today’s fast-paced world, an organisation’s strategy is measured not just by its vision but by tangible growth. Under Ramaratnam’s adept leadership, IDP has showcased impressive numbers. Over the past half-decade, IDP has witnessed a staggering business growth of approximately 30% CAGR. More impressively, their talent base has surged by an average of 40% YoY for the past two years.
Ramaratnam credits this growth to a nimble talent strategy. “We’ve diversified our sources to attract a variety of talent, harnessing targeted social media campaigns, strengthening our employer brand, and maximising employee referrals.” The mention of the IDP Academy Program reflects their commitment to nurturing fresh talent, seamlessly integrating them into IDP’s illustrious culture.
As IDP Education continues to evolve and adapt, it not only transforms the educational aspirations of countless students but also contributes to the larger narrative of India’s growth and global outreach.
Sustaining Growth Amid Changing Market Dynamics
As the cornerstone of its approach, IDP has consistently refined its talent strategy to swiftly attract the best available talent. Ramaratnam elaborates on these initiatives, stating, “We have consistently fine-tuned our talent strategy to ensure that we attract top-tier talent to IDP as swiftly as possible. This effort includes diversifying our talent sources to encompass a broader range of candidates. We’ve achieved this through precisely targeted social media campaigns designed to reach a wide array of potential candidates.”
In addition to broadening its talent pool, the company has placed a strong emphasis on enhancing its employer brand on various social media platforms. Ramaratnam notes, “We’ve also tapped into the power of our internal brand ambassadors, who passionately share their unique experiences at IDP, effectively drawing more talent to our organisation.”
Recognizing the immense value of employee referrals as a vital source of talent, IDP has implemented attractive referral rewards and recognition programs. Ramaratnam explains, “These programmes are designed to motivate our team to refer top-tier talent to IDP, fostering a culture of internal recruitment.”
Another pivotal element of IDP’s talent strategy involves nurturing talent from within the organisation. Ramaratnam reveals, “We’ve systematically introduced Internal Job Postings for all managerial positions, providing our employees with ample opportunities for career growth and advancement.”
Addressing the question of attrition at IDP, Ramaratnam states, “Our present attrition rate is stabilised at approximately 16% for the year, despite volatile dynamic market conditions. This stability is a testament to the strength of the IDP brand and culture, which fosters a sense of commitment and belonging among our workforce.”
IDP’s flagship initiative, the IDP Academy Program, plays a pivotal role in their talent development strategy, too. This programme involves hiring fresh talent and preparing them for permanent roles within the organisation. It encompasses a comprehensive nine-week internship and training opportunity, which allows IDP to identify and nurture future leaders from within its ranks.
Meeting Emerging Industry Demands
“In the fiscal year 2021-22,” Ramaratnam continues, “we added over 1200 employees to our team. In FY23, we’ve already exceeded 1400 new hires. Alongside our traditional roles in sales, operations, and customer service, there is a growing demand for tech talent. The education industry’s increasing reliance on technology transformation and innovation has fueled this need.”
This substantial growth in IDP’s workforce reflects the organisation’s dynamic response to the evolving education landscape, where technology is playing an increasingly critical role. As the education sector embraces digital transformation, the demand for tech-savvy professionals has surged.
Looking ahead, Ramaratnam shares, “Our vision for the future includes sustaining these healthy growth trends in the upcoming fiscal year. We are actively looking to expand our presence in high-potential markets where we see room to deepen our footprint. Additionally, we are eyeing tertiary markets with rising demand, broadening our reach to cater to a more diverse student population.”
This forward-thinking strategy aligns with IDP’s mission to empower students from diverse backgrounds with access to international education opportunities. By strategically expanding into emerging markets and addressing the evolving needs of students, IDP not only transforms individual educational aspirations but also contributes to India’s broader narrative of growth and global engagement.
About the expert: With over 22 years of HR experience spanning diverse industries, Jayamalini Ramaratnam is currently the Regional People Experience Director – South Asia. She excels in designing and implementing impactful people strategies aligned with business goals, specialising in HR transformation, talent management, and organisational development.
Year of Incorporation: Established in 1969; IDP established in India in 1995
Number of employees: About 3000
Name of the key execs: Piyush Kumar- Regional Director- South Asia and Mauritius, IDP Education
Business line: International Education Services
Hiring Pipeline: We have been hiring ~ 1200 employees YoY for the past 3 years and the growth trajectory will continue
CAGR of workforce growth in 3/5 year period: We have grown our talent base by ~35% over the past three years
Key HR differentiating factors: Diversity focus, Wellbeing focus, Strong recognition & rewards programs, comprehensive benefits