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Education to development: Sustainable?

Dec 30, 2000

With industry analysts expressing major concerns over shortage of human resources in the software industry, software education seems to be quite an attractive proposition. In India the market is divided into the organised or branded players like NIIT, Aptech, SSI who are predominantly national players and the unbranded or unorganized local players. The organised sector targets at the premium segment whereas the local players focus on the economy segment (basically offering low cost courses and concentrate on volumes). It very interesting to note that all three software education majors have quite a similar portfolio covering retail education, software development and content. In FY00 68% of the revenues for SSI came from education. The figure was 51% for NIIT and 85% for Aptech. Foray into software was primarily due to the fact that all the market players felt decline in growth rates from their core business (education).

  Quarter ended Sep 00
(Rs m) Aptech SSI NIIT
Sales 1,524 1,015 2,149
Other Income 42 121 97
Operating Profit (EBDIT) 344 262 2,149
Operating Profit Margin (%) 23% 26% 49%
Interest - 17 28
Depreciation 85 51 109
Profit before Tax 301 316 1,030
Tax 48 40 60
Profit after Tax/(Loss) 254 276 970
Net profit margin (%) 17% 27% 45%
No. of Shares (eoy) (m) 30.3 12.8 38.7
Diluted Earnings per share* 34 86 100
P/E (at current price) 11 16 16

NIIT is a clear winner among the three. The software solutions division caters to knowledge management, e-business, traditional client server and enterprise application markets. The company has reorganised itself into four independent business units Education and Training, Project K12 (Computer education for school children), Software Solutions (vertical focus financial services industry) and Knowledge Solutions. It has also set target to grow to Rs 100 bn by 2006.

SSI too has been showing some interesting developments. It has separate division SSI Technologies. It develops solutions for the banking and the securities industry. The company boasts of clients like Cititbank, Bank of Madura and Siam Commercial Bank. It recently completed the acquisition of AlbionOrion. This will help SSI to make inroads into Telecommunications, Healthcare and Insurance verticals. It is quite interesting to note that all the three verticals are very promising. AlbionOrion will also bring technology advantage to SSI. AlbionOrion has experience in the areas of distributed computing and enterprise application integration.

Aptech provides software solutions in the area of knowledge management. This includes dedicated training development for 4 clients, enterprise solutions for which it has tied up with BAAN ERP and software solutions in the area of e-commerce.

Another trend seen in the industry is that all the majors are offering online courses with Aptech’s onlinevarsity and NIIT’s netvarsity.

The reasons for deviating into software development are the comparatively low margin and growth rates in the education sector. But the concern is that with the demand supply gap closing in and fierce competition; the margins will be pressurized in the software business too.

Revenue mix FY99 FY00 FY01E
Education business 38.1 23.7 24
Software development 45.2 27.3 30
Education Software 45 35.4 39.9

The outlook for NIIT seems positive. But for SSI and Aptech caution is the key. Both the companies have just entered the software solutions area. How they perform over a period of time will give an indication of future sustainability.

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