Orion Edutech Pvt Ltd, a Kolkata-based BPO training provider, has raised its first round of funding from VenturEast by diluting a significant minority stake. Orion plans to use these funds to expand its course offering, boost its presence in domestic and overseas markets and enhance technology.

Orion, which was founded in 2006 by Manish Agarwal and Sanjeev Kothari, currently has over 150 centres across 19 states in India. The company also has centres in Bhutan and Bangladesh. Orion Edutech plans to expand the number of centres to 500 in the next four   years, according to a statement.

"In the next three years, we are also planning to expand into other countries where English is not the first language and outsourcing industry is booming," Orion founder Manish Agarwal told VCCircle. Countries on the radar include Vietnam, Philippines, Kenya, South Africa, among others.

Orion also helps students in placements with companies. It is a member of the IT industry body Nasscom and has tied up with more than 150 companies, said Agarwal. The company offers courses of duration from 3 months to 1 year, with average fees between Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000. It focuses on graduates from non-English medium institutes. coming from tier-II and tier-III cities. Orion also offers courses in retail and corporate training.

Out of its 150 centers, 18 centres are owned by the company while the rest are franchisees. Agarwal said that Orion plans to open 50 company owned centers in within next year.

Gurgaon-based Pulsar Knowledge Centre was the exclusive advisor to Orion on this deal.

India's vocational training segment is a $1.5-billion market growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22%, said a report by education-focused PE firm Kaizen Management Advisors. Factors like low upfront investment and sub-par standards in the core education is driving this segment.

"With the growing number of international and domestic BPOs, India has become an important outsourcing hub of the world. However, this industry has been facing a shortage of trained professional and end up spending large amount of money and time in identifying their resources," said Agarwal and Sanjeev Kothari in a statement.

 "Orion bridges the gap in vocation training infrastructure with a unique program designed to address the problem of employable BPO professional," said Siddhartha Das, a general partner with Ventureast. Das has joined Orion's board of directors.

Education services sector continues to remain an attractive theme for PE players. This calendar year has already seen 13 deals worth $168 million till date, 90% higher than the total investments of $88 million across five deals witnessed in the whole calendar 2009,  according to VCCEdge, the financial research platform of VCCircle.

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