Something is happening in Delhi. Mohammed Elmellas, a young student from the UK, has travelled over 4,000 miles to do a training course, and he’s not the only one. IT professionals from all over the world are travelling to India to polish their skills.

The IT industry is fast paced and there is a high demand for professionals with skills in the development and deployment of the latest software. Many use training programmes to get them up to speed and some are opting for courses in offshore training centres.

“I came to India to fast-track my career,” Elmellas explains. “My brother did a career enabler course here a few years ago and recommended it to me.”

It’s not just starters who are making the journey, but also seasoned IT professionals.

Wayne Nelson, an IT contractor from Liverpool with 15 years experience, travelled to Delhi to do a Cisco qualification. He says: “Gaining these certifications increases my skills and reinforces the work I'm doing. It’s a tough economy in the UK at the moment and you’ve got to stand out and fight for the positions that are around”.

IT courses are also attractive to contractors and freelancers who want to charge more for their services. Training for certification is a good way to learn new technologies and to work up the pay scale.

Nelson and Elmellas are some of the 100 or so trainees from Europe, Australia and Africa who have travelled to Delhi to gain IT certification. “The course is full-on”, says Elmellas, “but it will get me to where I want to be”.

One of the companies providing courses is Koenig Solutions, one of India’s largest IT training providers, which offers a wide range of recognised certification in software including Oracle, Cisco, Microsoft, Red Hat, Linux and Java.

Koenig is not alone in the market for offshore IT training. Other Indian companies, such as IPSR, ACIT and IP-GATES, also offer affordable IT courses. IP-GATES, based in Goa, is a new player and runs bootcamps in Microsoft and Cisco. Similarly, IPSR has entered the offshore training market in the past few years and offers IT training and tourism packages in Kerala.

Cut price IT training

The market for IT courses is large, with around $25 billion spent globally on training in 2009. Although there are training providers in the UK and Europe, keeping up-to-date with changing technologies at home is not cheap.

In India, IT training and certification is comparatively inexpensive. The country has a reputation for cultivating highly skilled IT professionals, and low wages mean that offshore training can be delivered at a cut price. Indian IT trainers earn between £250 and £1,000 a month, a fraction of their UK equivalents.

“I picked Koenig because of the cost”, says Nelson. “I'm a contractor so it’s all paid out of my own pocket. No employer pays for my training and exams.”

The price for a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification in the UK costs around £6,000, not including travel and accommodation. At Koenig the price is £1,850 all in. This covers the course, flights, accommodation, food and local transport.

“If you wanted you wouldn’t have to spend a penny more than what you initially paid out”, says Nelson, “it’s a whole inclusive package here and it is much less than what you would pay for a course in London”.
What you get

Although Koenig offers budget courses, there is nothing budget about its state of the art facilities. Class sizes are small – there are not more than five students on each course.

It is also possible to do one-on-one training. In Europe classes often contain 20-plus students and this sort of contact is barely imaginable. One-on-one training is tailored to each student’s requirements and can start at any date. Although the cost of customised training is about 40% more than the regular fees, many students opt for it.

Learning in a training centre allows students to develop specialist skills in a controlled environment. Chris Binner, an IT consultant from Glasgow explains, “I wanted to know how to do disaster recovery in a live environment and you can’t just do that anywhere. Here I get the opportunity to do it because it’s set up for that.”

There can be language issues, but they are not usually a major problem and are easily overcome. Seemab Khan, a Cisco trainer who has worked at Koenig for 4 years, reflects on the success of the students. “The pass rate is high, at about 80-85%. We do all our teaching in English and many students return, year after year. Sometimes there are communication problems but it helps that technical terms are universal. Most of the time we get over language issues quickly.”

The accommodation is clean and basic – not 5 star. The hotel has a youth-hostel feel but is equipped with air-conditioning and wireless internet. The food is cooked by the in-house chef and trainees sit together for breakfast and dinner on long tables. Students work hard, but it is also an opportunity to network with new people.

“I would recommend this course to other people, and the trainers really know their stuff,” says Nelson. But he advised students to be aware of the distance and cultural differences before committing themselves to a course. “I don’t think it would suit everyone. I’ve done a lot of travelling, but for someone who hasn’t travelled they might find it overwhelming.”

Hitendra Bhatt owns a small business in the City of London doing front office development for Investment Banks. He explains “in terms of standards, it’s not luxury, but the organisation of the whole operation is great and the course fits in perfectly with my career”.
Holidays and training

In addition to the Delhi training centre, Koenig also runs boot camps in Goa, Shimla and Dehradun where students can combine learning and leisure.

There are also plenty of leisure opportunities for visiting students. For those attending training in Delhi, students can take trips to the Taj Mahal, while those who train in Goa can relax on the stunning beaches. Going offshore gives IT trainees the opportunity to explore the country, while also gaining valuable qualifications.
The story so far

Koenig founder and CEO, Rohit Aggarwal, came up with his business model almost by mistake. “I set up Koenig as an Indian focused IT training company, but when the dot com bubble burst I decided to look to students from outside India to keep the business going”.

In 2002 the company re-established itself as an offshore training centre. At first growth was slow, but gradually the number of students increased. From one student in 2002, the number of trainees graduating in 2010 reached 160 a month.

The company now employs 300 staff and has an annual turnover of $6 million. “There is a lot of potential for growth”, explains Aggarwal. “India has the second largest number of IT professionals in the world, so we ensure we have the best trainers. The number and diversity of our students is also increasing and due to economies of scale we are cheaper and more flexible than training centres in the West”.

The awareness of offshore training is growing, albeit slowly. “Some students are wary of our courses”, admits Aggarwal, “that’s why we get a lot of our business through word of mouth”.

Koenig is riding on the back of the offshore boom, which has taken foot in India since the economy was liberalised in 1991. According to NASSCOM, the Indian Association of Software and Service companies, Business Process Outsourcing in India accounted for $11 billion revenues in 2008. With the economic squeeze continuing in the West, this figure is set to increase as businesses look to cut costs.

In the next five years, Koenig has big plans. “We want to run IT training courses in French and German so that more people can study here”, says Aggarwal.

What Koenig offers

•    Cut price alternative to UK training
•    Authorised IT certification courses
•    Bootcamps, slow track, fast track and one-on-one support
•    Experienced trainers
•    Latest equiptment
•    End-to-end solution –fees include travel, food and accommodation
•    Combined tourism and training packages
•    Choice of destinations

Koenig student, Dean Smith

I chose to study in India because a Microsoft certification here is a quarter of the price of the UK provider I was looking at. The two exams I’m doing cost £2,600, but in the UK it was just shy of £10,000. I may have flown 4,000 miles to do the course, but I’ve saved myself loads of cash.

I was recently made redundant after 9 years at Adecco. But I’m not looking at it as a negative. I’ve taken my redundancy money and spent it on this training. This way I’m increasing my chances of reemployment and will increase my salary.

The training here doesn’t compare to the training I’ve done in the UK in any way. It’s better. My instructor is 24, his English is excellent and he can code incredibly quickly. I’ve gained more knowledge just being here for a week than I have working on the job for years.

I would recommend it to other people, but I don’t think it’s for everyone. Delhi is mad and I think you have to be prepared to deal with it. Having said that, the service I’ve been given has been great. Everyone has been very supportive. They know why you’re here and they do their utmost to make your stay as simple as possible.

Koenig CEO, Rohit Aggarwal

As a training company, Koenig is unique. We are based in India but our courses are designed for western students. Our customers come across the world - Europe, Australia and Africa – because we provide quality training at good prices. We have over 100 students studying with us each month and even after flights and accommodation, our courses cost half what IT professionals pay in the UK.

Our focus is not only on certification. We like to teach trainees how to problem solve and customize our courses around their specific requirements. Koenig courses are flexible and we offer on-to-one training, starting any day, so IT professionals can fit studying around their careers.

The trainers at Koenig are highly experienced and all speak good English. In India there are many highly trained IT professionals and because the costs of living are low, we can provide the best teachers at good prices.

With the lower cost of IT training, contractors and smaller companies can afford to send their staff on courses. This adds value to businesses and clients and means that certified IT professionals can charge more for their services. Larger businesses who want to save money are also sending employees to us.

Koenig trainees can expect the latest equipment at our training centres. Class sizes are small, with less than five in a class, and all students get individual attention from trainers.