Aspire Human Capital Management Pvt Ltd, a Gurgaon-based education services firm, has raised $4.5 million (around Rs 20.2 crore) in its series B round of funding. The round was led by Foundation Capital, a US- based early stage fund, along with a personal investment from Neeraj Bhargava, co-founder of private equity firm, Steer Capital.

With this, Warren Weiss, general partner, Foundation Capital, and Neeraj Bhargava have joined the board of Aspire as directors, the company said in a statement. The quantum of stake each of the investors will pick in the firm was not disclosed.

The company plans to utilise the fund in product development and expand its presence across 15 states, from eight states now. Aspire provides embedded employability and professional education to schools and colleges, and currently has operations across 14 cities in India. Aspire offers in-campus education that enhances employability through its Employability Education Management System. Its services are catered to both students and corporates in the process of hiring fresh talent from campuses.

Amit Bhatia, founder & CEO, Aspire, said, in the statement, “We are embarking on a new growth orbit, with new leadership and new growth capital. This year, we plan to grow our student base three-folds from 15,000 currently and extend our offering from 14 cities in 8 states to 25 cities in 15 states. We will make a real difference to the lives of over 1 million students in 5 years.”

According to the data given in the statement, India currently has 600 million youth below 25 years of age of which 320 million are in schools and colleges. Less than 25% are employable. Moreover, India expects 500 million new job seekers between 2007 and 2022. Aspire targets to address this severe job-talent mismatch.

“We are excited about the $1.4 billion market opportunity in embedded employability education, which is the best answer for India’s skills gap challenge,” Weiss said, in the statement.

Private equity and venture capital investment in education sector has been gaining momentum in recent times. Since January 2010, Indian PE and VC players have invested $129.5 million across seven deals so far. This is higher than the total investments of $88 million across five deals in 2009, according to VCCEdge, the financial research platform of VCCircle.

In April, three new deals were struck, of which two were debut investments for new private equity funds. While Reliance Capital's PE arm invested Rs 100 crore in Pathways World School, India Alternatives invested Rs 28 crore in the merged entity of animation training firm Frameboxx and Indian Institute of Financial Management.

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