The INSEAD MBA grad behind India’s 4th unicorn edtech startup

INSEAD MBA graduates are known to be some of the most accomplished individuals – Chaitanya Kalipatnapu is one of them. After graduation, he co-founded India’s fourth rhino education technology company Eruditus, which operates the Honorary Institute of Management and recently raised US$650 million.

As a global platform for online education, this Mumbai-based startup (Eruditus) collaborates with top universities to offer more than 100 executive-level courses to students in 80 countries. It provides specialized courses aimed at higher education students whose cost ranges from $5,000 to $40,000. On the other hand, the Honorary offers short-term courses for middle managers.

What sets the Kalipatnapu startup apart is that it works with more than 20 top-tier universities and is backed by the likes of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Sequoia Capital India. Below, we talk to him about this global platform for online education, his journey from village boy to successful INSEAD MBA graduate, and tips on how to balance work and social life:

Where did your interest in information technology come from?

The short story is that I got into IT by accident and fell in love with it. The longer version of it should start by introducing my background.

I come from a small town in southern India where every parent would like their child to aspire to become an engineer or a doctor. Thanks to my penchant for mathematics, I studied engineering.

Right before my college years when the internet was taking off in India, it was my first brush in IT. You have truly charmed me in terms of the power and influence you have in creating the “Borderless” community.

Also, how communication has changed and the way information is transmitted. It was one of the big factors for me to pursue IT and then build a career around it later. Of course, at the time I was 17 and had no idea how big an impact it is today.


“I had a unique experience in that I had the opportunity to do my internship at INSEAD for six months because my unit in India was very cooperative with them,” he says. Source: Chaitanya Kalipatnapu

Why did you choose to pursue an MBA at INSEAD from there?

I have a unique experience as I had the opportunity to do my internship at INSEAD for six months because my unit in India collaborated with them. I started as a software developer there.

I went to India for my first job (at Sun Microsystems now known as part of Oracle). Because of contacting INSEAD, I went back there for another job.

For three years, I was a research associate developing business simulations for the school. During my time there, I had a ringside aspect of the impact of world-class education on students and participants.

Thanks to David Weinstein (the professor I was working with there), I was inspired to consider the INSEAD MBA programme. Then I took the jump.

What are your best classes there?

Power and politics were a very interesting category in terms of understanding power structures. Learn how to navigate diverse work environments and effects.

Another selection by Phil Anderson was about investment opportunities and new business models that teaches you how to launch entrepreneurial ventures and focus on sustainable business models.

Through Phil’s connections, we also had the opportunity to interact with successful entrepreneurs. These two really stood out during their INSEAD MBA days.


His advice to his younger self? Enjoy the ride!” Source: Chaitanya Kalipatnapu

As an INSEAD MBA graduate, is there anything you wish you had studied more?

Negotiation, influence and persuasion skills. The third thing I wish I had spent more time on was the topic of leadership communication. These elements are essential to constantly improving your career.

Go to us through Eruditus and Emeritus and how they help students find courses. What do you think about making your company one of the best startups in the highly competitive education technology field?

Think of Eruditus and Emeritus as a global platform. We work with the most reputable higher education institutions in the world.

We work closely with them to develop and design programs for working professionals and organizations that focus on reskilling and reskilling. We also market, communicate and empower learners across B2B and B2C platforms.

This is across languages ​​in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese in our programs. The way we built Eruditus and Emeritus depends on our mission of how we can make high-quality education affordable and accessible to all parts of the world.

Since 2010, we have been very helpful with this mission. It’s a testament that Fortune recently ranked us as one of the top 20 most influential companies. This is a great incentive.

We like to measure ourselves with our impact criterion. Cumulatively at Ereditus and Emeritus, we have offered programs to 250,000 learners from more than 80 countries. We want to reach the target of 2 to 3 million learners in the next three years.


“Right before my college years when the internet was taking off in India, it was my first brush in IT,” he told Study International. Source: Chaitanya Kalipatnapu

Do you have any advice for recent graduates looking to enter the educational technology field?

Everyone’s context is different but what I can say is that when you want to create a new business, you should basically follow the idea of ​​solving a weak spot in the market.

There are things waiting to be resolved and it can also be an opportunity for monetization. There are people who are willing to pay money on a sustainable basis for a product or service.

You have to start from there rather than just focusing on education technology and finance in this sector. It only works when you know the pain point is there and you discover the product’s fit for the market.

If you have a time machine to come back for a one-on-one mentoring session with yourself, what’s your advice?

It’s funny because if I gave this advice to myself, my path wouldn’t be what it is now. However, I would like to say that I really enjoyed the trip I took and the opportunity to venture into it, so it would be: “Enjoy the ride!”

How did you spend your first salary?

Besides shoes and clothes. But most importantly, I bought a set of furniture for my parents for the house they built at the time.

Finally, which matters most to you: job satisfaction, salary, social life or work-life balance?

Former Coca-Cola CEO Brian Dyson addressed priorities in life once using the metaphor of playing five balls: work, family, friends, health, and spirit. “You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce. But the other four balls are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will break, shatter, or be damaged. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”

So, I really believe in that. Taking great care of the other four elements by spending time with family and friends, looking after my health, and searching for my soul and spirit is important to being a good human being.

The business can take care of itself and the input metrics for this are even more important. Doing so with passion, sincerity and integrity. I think work-life balance is very important.

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