The rising need for high-quality content at law universities is providing a business opportunity for Mumbai based venture, Rainmaker, which creates specialised learning material.
Across the network of national law universities, a lack of trained faculty for industry-specific courses, is a gap that the four-year-old company founded by law school graduate Nikhil Chandra has zeroed in on. "There is an acute teaching deficit which is not restricted to smaller colleges but also within the top universities," said Antony Alex, 38, chief executive of Rainmaker, which focuses entirely on online delivery of lessons.
The Mumbai-based company creates specilaised content for specific courses, such as securities, merger & acquisition, as well as trade law that are delivered as short- duration courses for university students. In January, Rainmaker tied up with the Nalsar University of Law in Hyderabad to offer short certificate programmes for students, across a gamut of subjects, including courses on various aspects of China's legal framework.
"The response from the students was over-whelming," said Faizan Mustafa, vice-chancellor of Nalsar. The college had been unable to find teachers who could handle specialised areas that are in demand within corporate law firms that hire the bulk of graduating students. "Rather than hiring specialised teachers to teach the subjects, it is better to get specific resources to build the courses for you.
It does not become a financial burden then," Mustafa said. Students opting for these courses however are seeking greater interactivity as in the case of Vartika Jain, a final year student at the Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University in Lucknow who termed course content as "interesting." "I think all the stakeholders- industry, academia and regulatory bodies - feel the need for more structured and focused legal education," said Alex.
In a bid to deepen its engagement with the legal community, the company has also floated a venture that offers legal recruitment services. Rainmaker currently owns a 50% stake in Vahura, the hiring firm. This mix of institutional and retail business has helped Rainmaker find support from the risk capital community. The company has raised seed funding of $3 million (Rs 16.4 crore) across three rounds from a mix of family, friends and angel investors.
It counts among its backe r s, Sa j a n Poovayya, the additional advocate-general for Karnataka and managing partner of law firm Poovayya and Co as well as Bahram Vakil, one of the cofounders of corporate law firm AZB & Partners.
"India has close to 1.2 or 1.3 million lawyers, but there is a huge gap between what the law colleges teach you, and what is expected of you when you put your gown on and step into the real world," said Poovayya, who is surprised that more entrepreneurs are not looking at this as a business need. Chief executive Alex estimates that Rainmaker will turn profitable next year and clock revenues of `100 crore by fiscal 2017.
"We are already on the verge of signing up with four universities. By the end of financial year ended 2014, we will have about 25 universities adding our courses to their system," he said.