Blue-collar workers are the foundation of industrialisation, taking up tasks that often require physical labour.
However, companies in capital intensive industries, including ecommerce, logistics, airlines, shipping companies, trucking companies, and warehouses, often struggle to get skilled workers.
While India needs skilled labour to build globally competitive supply chains — owing to a surge in mega-infrastructure projects, investments, and supportive regulatory policies — the entry-level training for such jobs is highly disorganised.
Enters 21CC Education, which provides skilled resources to organisations to reskill and upskill blue-collared workers, helping them increase their earning potential, as well as enabling them to build lucrative careers.
Founded in 2019 by Sanjay Tiwari, Marloeke Werst, Ludo Tieman, and Sumer Shankardass — the e-learning startup for blue-collar workers has created a ‘21CC app’ to present complex concepts of the logistics and transport sector through engaging training modules.
The Mumbai-based startup trains personnel in logistic functions like warehousing, supply chain, freight forwarding, container yard management, building efficiency, and a deeper understanding of the sector. It also has an office at The Hague, The Netherlands.
“The content is delivered through games, videos, PDFs in an engaging user-driven environment that draws the user into an immersive experience embedded in real-world contexts,” Sanjay Tiwari, Founding Partner, 21CC Education, tells YourStory.
The dream team
Sanjay says 21CC Education is the result of each of its co-founders’ motivations.
Sanjay has close to 30 years of experience in trading, transportation, and logistics, having worked for a Dutch steel trading and warehousing company in Singapore and Malaysia, KLM Cargo in The Netherlands, and the US, and Maersk in India.
Marloeke Werst has experience in product management, having earlier worked with L’Oréal, Air France, and KLM Cargo, followed by a consulting and training career. With deep connections in the Dutch government and industry bodies, she drives business in The Netherlands.
With extensive BPO experience, Sumer Shankardass was part of the team that helped the WNS list on the New York Stock Exchange. A strategic advisor to startups, Sumer and Sanjay know each other from their days in Chicago in 2007. As the co-promoter of 21CC Education, Sumer helps the company to secure large corporate contracts, leveraging his network and advising on fundraising.
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Ludo Tieman ran his own company in the DIY space in The Netherlands. He has also worked with two startups in Thailand. Ludo and Sanjay went to the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. He leads the technology development, helping conceptualise the UI/UX of the 21CC app.
“Having had successful corporate careers, we each were at a point in our life when we wanted to leverage the privilege that came from our flourishing professional backgrounds and experiences to truly make a difference. As I shared the idea of 21CC Education with the core team, the idea gained momentum,” says Sanjay.
“Marloeke and I brought our expertise and passion for logistics, while Sumer and Ludo pitched in with their business acumen and technology prowess, respectively, and as a result, 21CC Education was born in 2019,” he adds.
The core team of 16 people is split over India and The Netherlands. Besides, the startup has also hired freelance writers, programmers, illustrators, etc.
According to Research and Markets, the Indian logistics industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.5 percent between 2019-2025.
The 21CC app’s library offers industry-relevant, engaging, and adaptive learning content with more than 110 e-learning modules, over 50 courses, and eight interactive games — focussed on logistics and transportation sectors.
Each course costs around Rs 350, while the bundle courses range from Rs 3000 – Rs 5000. These courses — created by the in-house team, based on best practices from several large logistics companies — cater to sectors, including logistics, supply chain, warehouse, transportation, cold chain, health safety, and environment.
Based on the acquired skills, the 21CC app allows candidates and employers to find each other. Employers can post jobs with specific requirements on the app and prospective employees can apply for these jobs using their digital skill passport that details their acquired skills.
The startup receives payment from the companies that hire the candidates using the app. These companies also pay a fixed monthly amount for ongoing employee training.
On the B2B side, 21CC works with over 20 companies, including Indospace, DHL India, DB Schenker, DP World, and TVS Logistics, among others, to train over 40,000 concurrent employees monthly. It is also working with colleges to drive skill-building among freshers.
21CC Education uses NSDC’s qualification packs to detail skills for specific jobs across sectors.
Through a recent partnership with the NSDC’s eskillindia.org portal — an online learning hub with over 800 courses for 20 sectors — the e-learning startup is offering its app-based content to bridge India’s skill deficit.
“The new association with the NSDC will help build a skilled talent pool in India, ensuring a robust workforce that has the opportunity to be gainfully employed and be constructively aligned with the nation’s growth agenda,” says Sanjay.
Funding and future plan
In March 2020, 21CC Education raised 1.1 million euro in seed funding led by undisclosed investors to become the world’s premier skilling app for entry-level employees in the logistics sector.
“We’re looking at a 200 percent growth rate for this year, coming off a low base with triple-digit growth in India and double-digit in The Netherlands. We are also planning to start our business in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and the US,” says Sanjay.
21CC Education competes with players, including Apna.co, LokalPe, Junoon, JustRojgar Solutions Pvt, Ltd., GlobalSkill, and Jobsgaar.