Global Study Partners panel at an event
Global Study Partners

How Australia's Edtech Aggregation Platform Became India's Formidable Student Recruitment Marketplace

- Story of Being and Becoming through Democratising Access, Improving Learning Outcomes, Enabling Exposure and Expertise

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Digital disruption in the education sector is redefining quality, access, and offerings in the much more complex world of knowledge today. This new reality is driven by a convergence of forces: from the capabilities of new technologies to the changing demands of customers, or rapidly evolving multidisciplinary learning to the needs for closer links with the job market and making competitiveness a priority. Founded in 2014, Global Study Partners (GSP) is driving digital transformation in the student recruitment sector. Its all-in-one online platform connects international students with education providers worldwide. It allows students to research and compare courses, find finance, and enrol in international institutes.

Global Study Partners at an event
Global Study Partners at an event

Currently, GSP has a network of over 1,000 institutions in Australia, UK, Europe, Canada, and the US. It also has over 2,000 international recruitment partners, which include education and migration agents, schools, test preparation centres, and alumni associations. Since launching in India in 2015, GSP has signed up 900 recruitment partners in India to use its online portal. It currently processes over 2,000 Indian student applications a month to overseas education institutions. This case study shares GSP's India successful market entry story so far, the drivers, barriers and the lessons learnt.


Founded on the digital disruption approach, GSP's CEO Elaine Starkey was determined to create a compelling proposition for the international education sector. The early vision started with a proto-type Course Search and apply function in 2014, exposing the challenges students faced when embarking to studies overseas. The industry was manual, paper based, with low/no technology, and was lacking in transparency and choices. GSP was innately conscious of the enormous sacrifices parents make to send their children to study overseas, wanted to empower and deliver the best possible outcome for students who were often being placed in the wrong course and institution with the right set of information.

GSP provides access, expertise, platform, and services needed to enable students to study anywhere in the world. It is a unique service model. Their cloud-based two-sided marketplace offers a blended high tech and high touch approach, using Al and machine learning to match the needs of the student with the right study outcome. This digital marketplace opens up access for students around the world to over 65,000 courses from 800-plus education providers. On another level, GSP is a technology firm creating innovative solutions that streamline and improve the complex international student recruitment process.

"GSP is unique in combining technology and people to provide a hands-on service that delivers a greater level of choice, transparency, and access to their customers. In this age of digital transformation, GSP is well positioned as a world-class recruitment platform." - Australian National University (ANU)

India Strategy

Driven by the existing challenges to improve learning and career outcomes for students, offering them the best international education institution choices available, and inspired by the volume of growth forecast for student mobility from India; GSP began to partner with Australian institutions and Indian recruitment (distribution) partners to deliver a unique, digital, EdTech marketplace.

Workforce planning and hiring local staff was fundamental to GSPs market entry strategy, to drive channel strategies and deliver operational efficiencies. The strategic approach was developed with a view that India is not a single market, but several key markets with specific regional nuances, and demographic diversity. In 2015, GSP made India inroads, setting up its presence in the commercial capital of Mumbai, followed by offices in Hyderabad and Delhi. In 2019, GSP formed its Indian PTE in New Delhi, as well as expanding with new offices in Bengaluru, Kochi, and Ludhiana. GSP widened its base in 'Tier 2' and 'Tier 3' cities, with their overall India staff numbers expanded to 85.

GSP's sales growth in the Australia India market is driven by its localised partnerships. It was prompt to understand that attracting and on-boarding the right Channel Partners is complex when the majority of Indian students used local education agents as the conduit to study in Australia.

These agents are SMEs with little access to quality Australian education providers. Hence, student choice was limited to the institutions that the education agent represented.

GSP was driven by addressing this lack of access and choice to deliver the best possible outcome for the students through a unique partnership model. In this context, GSP's approach shifted from a direct consumer attraction strategy to a channel engagement strategy underpinned by its broad ecosystem representation of over 350 institutional providers in the Australian education sector and over 1100 recruitment partners in India. It offered a comprehensive service delivery model that did not compete with but rather empowered the supply channel with improved access to institutional course stock.

GSP's collaboration strategies were focused on the identification, segmentation, profiling, and onboarding of new partners according to an established channel management framework, as a targeted approach. As a technology-driven company, it embraced business intelligence tools to deploy data, insights, and maintain comprehensive digital records to improve operations in the local operating regions. This aided GSP's reporting capabilities and provided practical strategies for the local staff to assist recruitment partners, and their prospective student applicants to enrol successfully.

Nearly 9,000 student applications from India were processed by GSP in 2022 for entry into 104 Australian Higher Education Providers.

"GSP opens a new chapter in global education as the biggest supplier market for studying abroad - India, is strengthening its relationship with the biggest destination markets in the world via GSP." - Ronnie Screwvala

GSP developed its "7 Wheels of Growth" market entry strategy, as a blueprint for building a sustainable business model in India. Key Performance Indicators are used to measure and monitor success in each target wheel, strategies are adjusted to ensure that right tactical decisions are being made at the right time. The 7 Wheels for market entry focused on:

  • The Right Places: GSP staff completed a detailed analysis of student mobility and gained an understanding of future indicators of student mobility such as socio-economic data across a broad range of regional Indian markets. This helped them to determine the right places to locate staff to focus their growth efforts
  • The Right People: Given the criticality of the services, GSP's recruitment focused on the employment of local individuals with identified traits associated with deep domain experience in international education
  • The Right Mix: Channel diversification offered new pathways for growth, GSP leveraged investment to expand into additional channels which offered higher margin returns
  • The Right Partners: Finding the right partners and engaging them effectively in India is both complex and critical. GSP digitalised its partner onboarding framework to mitigate operational risk
  • The Right Processes: To fully capitalise on its India market entry, GSP focused on building disciplined and enterprising operational processes
  • The Right Time: Focus on establishing future growth opportunities
  • The GSP platform: Used for open engagement between teams to verify data andto provide evidence for operations

Seeing The Future

"The Global EdTech market is expected to reach US $233 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 13.2 percent over the next five years. After nearly two years of applications being
'on hold' due to the global pandemic, universities have reported unprecedented demand from foreign students, sending visa applications 40 percent above pre-COVID levels, driven by huge demand from students from India and the subcontinent." - Elaine Starkey, CEO and Founder, Global Study Partners Pty Ltd

Forecasts remain strong for education export growth with India likely to overtake China as the largest source of international student revenue within 5 years. Strong demographics, economic and aspirational drivers will continue to drive demand for international education and migration to Australia from Australia from India.

"While the number of Indian students studying in Australia was 15,800 when GSP first started in 2015-16, that increased to 35,400 by 2019. Australian education solutions can identify and meet the growing skills needs of the domestic Indian workforce."

The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI-ECTA) has further opened the sectoral potential for discourse on skills, higher education, transnational Education . Australia offers a great opportunity to leverage its vast capabilities and capacity in the higher education space to become a partner of choice for Indian institutional collaboration and engaging with a larger cohort of high-quality Indian students.

"GSP was 'blindsided' by a global pandemic right in the middle of our five-year market entry plan. During this period, we committed to retaining all Indian staff on full salaries and took cost-cutting measures outside of human capital to survive. This proved to be a critical decision in building a loyal culture that has ensured strong staff retention in an unpredictable market."
university student smiling

Planning Ahead

In 2022, upGrad, an Indian Edtech unicorn, a leader in online education focused on reskilling and upskilling commenced the acquisition of GSP. This will drive GSPs growth and innovation in the next phase of its scale-up.

"The partnership accelerates GSP1s opportunities to achieve market reach and productivity improvements by creating new solutions, to meet the skills needs and career aspirations of millions of Indian students."

The acquisition is the first international venture for upGrad and marks its move into the study abroad sector, one of the fastest-growing segments worldwide.

The key takeaways from this case study are -

  • Companies seeking to position a service and/or product to gain traction for future growth in the India market should do so as a long-term commitment, also consider seeking advice from Federal and State Governments to facilitate research and introductions
  • Detailed market research with effective planning and flexibility is critical. GSP's experience suggests that making your service more accessible; building a strong localised service culture; and enhancing technological capability to support data-driven decision-making are fundamental
  • Workforce planning is critical, with focus on attracting and retaining right domain expertise, along with effective performance management systems
  • Be open to tailor-make your solutions. GSP shifted the model to a B2B service, by identifying and addressing the unmet market needs for a broad range of quality Australian education products.
"In India, each regional market has deep-rooted localised business ecosystems that control the student recruitment value chain. The international student recruitment sector in India is a crowded space and is fiercely contested. In this context, address the diversity of the Indian education consumer and recognise the role that education agents play in the selection of foreign institutions."

"Acknowledging the complexity of the Indian market, it took GSP nearly three years to carefully plan and execute its entry strategy into India. GSP had to make a distinctive brand for itself as a reliable partner. This was not easy when working from our Sydney base. We started every day early and ended late."

"Often there were last-minute changes and a plethora of cultural understandings to be learned personally and professionally. While there were times that we felt despondent, we learned to persevere."

"Our first event had 30,000 students registered with only 58 attending - understanding marketing channels in India and customer acquisition is essential."

"After nearly two years of applications being "on hold", strong growth has followed since Australian borders re-opened in early 2022. Applications have increased eightfold from 1,074 in FY20 to 8,886 in FY22. We expect growth to increase significantly over the next five years through further localisation."