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Teaching English to MNC Workforces: GlobalEnglish CEO Deepak Desai (Part 2)

Posted on Thursday, Dec 3rd 2009

SM: When you left Time Warner, you said you joined a dot-com. What did that entail?

DD: I became CFO for a company out of Hong Kong that was in the online advertising business. The idea of the company was to take many of the models that we have in the United States and create similar models in Asia. We had joint ventures with DoubleClick, CNet, MarketWatch, and others. We wanted to create local versions of those businesses for Asia Pacific.

The company was listed on NASDAQ, and we had quite a ride for a year and a half. The company was Asia Content. It was one of the companies that crashed. I learned a lot about business models. I learned what works and what does not work. The Internet was always going to be there, but some of our models were ahead of their time. I then met with the founder of GlobalEnglish about nine years ago.

SM: How did you meet the founder?

DD: It was online. They were looking for an executive. I saw the ad online and thought it was perfect for me.

SM: What stage of the business were they in?

DD: They were just starting out and expanding. They had just finished the product and were trying to sell into the different markets. During the dot-com days they were trying to sell into the consumer markets. Reality came in 2001, and they realized that the corporations where already investing in learning systems and that their focus needed to shift.

SM: It was English learning for international corporations?

DD: Yes, and it has been that way ever since.

SM: Tell me about the technology. How do you do it?

DD: It has always been a hosted service. In the old days there were different names; today it is SaaS. It is comprehensive, with 1,200 hours of content. It encompasses all levels, from intermediate to advanced. The website is in 14 languages. If you are in Chinese you will see the instructions in Chinese. It is designed for you to learn by yourself. It is not instructor-led.

Because it is a pure play, bent on the fact that online education would change the way people learn, companies have gone from a traditional model with teachers, and classrooms struggle with it. I can say that it is a compelling model. Language learning is very interesting. Language learning has been transformed by the online environment. There 2 billion people learning English.

SM: Every year?

DD: At any given time. It has been growing significantly. There has never, in the history of mankind, been a language like English. There are more people speaking it on a daily basis whose first language is not English. The only comparable language is Latin during the Roman Empire, when it was a trade language.

The reason the company is called GlobalEnglish is because it is not American, British or Australian English. English has become global. There are several reasons English has become so dominant. There is the network effect, where hundreds of ministries of education have adopted English as the standard second language for their curriculums. Second, English is an open source language. There are hundreds of thousands of words in its vocabulary, and less than 25% of them have Anglo-Saxon roots.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Teaching English to MNC Workforces: GlobalEnglish CEO Deepak Desai
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