Embracing digital, Leaderonomics gears up to be ASEAN leader in Learning & Development

  • Embarking on Series A fundraise for scaling digital products, regional expansion
  • Development of Clayton, an AI-powered contextual learning platform

Embracing digital, Leaderonomics gears up to be ASEAN leader in Learning & Development

What is Leaderonomics? It’s not an easy thing to pinpoint. Some may call it a Learning and Development (L&D) social enterprise – after all, it started life in 2008 as exactly that. Corporations may know it as a training company, providing services from advancement coaching to talent assessment. The rest may consider it a digital company, what with its learning management system (LMS) and mobile-first online learning platform, Necole.

Leaderonomics is, in fact, all of the above. As founder and chief executive officer, Roshan Thiran (pic, below)puts it, they’re a mish-mash of offerings. Right now, after 12 years of growth and changes, they’re looking to bring more clarity to how they’re being understood, and perhaps reposition themselves. Leaderonomics is a portfolio company – one that holds multiple brands and companies under one roof, yet focused on the niche of learning and talent development.

“The goal, ultimately, is to become Nestle,” quips Roshan. “But in one space – the learning and engagement space. We’re a company in one space, but with multiple brands doing different things and are independent of each other. As part of the Leaderonomics family, we can leverage the customer base, the market access and the country base. But, as we’re very niched in this space, we can go deeper,” he explains.

This clarity is but one step in Leaderonomics’ growth and expansion. The company is entering what it considers Phase 3 of its growth, marked by a five-year plan to scale its business across ASEAN and grow to a US$20 million (RM81 million) business in each country by 2025. It is very ambitious and to do so, they’re seeking Series A funding.

The goal is US$5 million (RM20.1 million), which will be utilised for regional expansion as well as scaling, with an emphasis towards their digital business.

Embracing digital, Leaderonomics gears up to be ASEAN leader in Learning & Development

Embracing digital

Leaderonomics have come a long way in 12 years. When they started in 2008, they recorded revenue of only RM140,000, which grew to RM10 million by 2015.

[RM1 = US$0.248]

By now, it’s an institutionalised brand name among Malaysian corporates, having served more than 18,000 top leaders across Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and India from over 300 corporations, including the likes of Axiata, Coca Cola, Astro and Sime Darby. It recorded RM13.5 million in revenue in 2019.

Leaderonomics started life as a joint venture with Star Media group. In 2018, the Leaderonomics founders bought the company out, and began investing into digital technology.

Right now, the company is made out of three distinct parts: Leaderonomics Corporate, which is their corporate training and development arm; Leaderonomics Community, the social enterprise aspect focused towards partnering employees, corporates and NGOs in bringing transformation through leadership development; and Leaderonomics Digital, which develops and runs digital services and products surrounding L&D. 

The company is now gearing up to more expansively grow Leaderonomics Digital. According to its Strategic Partnership and Country Expansion Leader Arun Nagarajah, about 80% of the funding will be going towards scaling Leaderonomic’s four existing digital products.

The first being Leaderonomics Academy, a Learning Management System (LMS) that delivers diversified online and offline learning experiences that are skills mapped and tracked. This is followed by MentorCloud, their mentoring platform; and Happily, a gamified Employee Engagement platform that Leaderonomics didn’t develop, but have the exclusive Malaysian rights to distribute.

And then there’s the aforementioned Necole, described as a Learning Experience Platform that utilises AI for unified and personalised leadership content discovery. Arun notes that a bulk of the funding will also go towards marketing and expanding the reach of Necole.


Welcoming Clayton

On top of that, the funding will also be directed towards the development of their new digital product, Clayton. Clayton stands for Contextual Learning at Your Time of Need, and is a learning platform that uses AI to surface contextual learning content to the user at the appropriate time.

Clayton can, for instance, check through your calendar and then provide you with the necessary learning content to fit your next activity. As an example, it may learn through a user’s calendar that they will be meeting someone from a particular company, and then utilise AI to provide the appropriate information about that company half an hour before that meeting. Hence, contextual learning just at the right time you need it.

Arun says that Leaderonomics is aiming to release Clayton by the end of 2021. But that’s not all of the focus of the upcoming funding. 20% of the total funding, Arun notes, is for expansion. Leaderonomics is looking to continue with their regional growth.

While they already have presence in Thailand, India and Singapore, they’re looking to tap into bigger markets that include Indonesia, Vietnam and possibly even China.

Their Series A funding is currently approached through multiple avenues. RM3 million is being raised through equity crowdfunding platform Fundnel, which is expected to conclude by 31 January 2021. For the remaining funds (RM17 million), Leaderonomics will be speaking directly to venture capitals and institutional investors.

The three corporate units of Leaderonomics. Leaderonomics Corporate has always been profitable and has supported its social  initiatves and recently also the R&D that has gone into building up Leaderonomics Digital. But the brutal revenue hit from Covid-19 has necessited Roshan Thiran going to the market to raise his Series A to fund growth.

The right time

A question that permeates Leaderonomics’ fundraising: why now, after 12 years? For Roshan, the timing is just about right. For one, the global L&D market has been growing constantly – market intelligence company Beroe Inc projects that the market will reach US$446.1 billion by 2020.

Furthermore, the industry itself is undergoing constant shifts, with tech-based learning taking over classrooms, and with mobile devices driving L&D and employee engagement. As more companies move towards work from home practices, L&D and human resource processes are seeing need for innovation, too. Innovations that Leaderonomics Digital can drive.  

In addition, there is currently no single dominant L&D player in ASEAN, a landscape of fragmented markets with numerous players. It’s a vacuum Leaderonomics – which has an ecosystem that Arun notes can be replicated across ASEAN countries – can fill.

Covid-19 is also accelerating that need for expansion. According to Roshan, Leaderonomics have relied on their Corporate business to provide the funds for growing their Digital and Community arms. Leaderonomics Corporate has been profitable, which was why they didn’t have to raise funds until now.

The pandemic, however, basically halted their Corporate L&D business. And while the Digital arm’s increased uptake during 2020 did help soften the blow, it’s not enough to fund its own development. But it wasn’t a wholly unexpected thing – the company already forecasted the importance of nurturing their digital offerings.

“We did think that the Corporate business is going to slow down anyway. We were kind of prepared for it. Covid-19 just accelerated the whole thing,” notes Roshan. “Unfortunately for us, we thought we had another two to three years to rely on it to fuel the money to develop Digital.”

Leaderonomics may want to be the Nestle in the L&D industry, but as Roshan notes, they are also looking at themselves as a tech company. Their vision is well mapped, and certainly drawing interest.

Just recently, Leaderonomics Digital was among the top 11 startups in Asia to take part in Microsoft’s Emerge X Program. This year, they will be participating in a year-long mentorship programme with Microsoft for Startups, meant to help them scale and accelerate growth.

It’s the first step towards some truly lofty goals. “In the next five years, we really want to grow exponentially,” says Arun, reiterating their strategy towards scaling their digital platform, developing Clayton, and expanding regionally (with a global goal in sight).

It’s the start of another adventure, one chiselled from 12 years of being a Malaysian leader in Learning & Development. They have a lot to learn themselves, and from what we know, they’re ready for it.


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