Reporter (R): Could you tell us a little bit about your background, your company and how you got started business in Romania?
Dilek Batmaz (D.B.): My name is Dilek Saydan Batmaz and I am an entrepreneur for 1 year as founder of DB Academy platform and have 15 years of experience in improving process quality, financial performance, and customer satisfaction results for international manufacturing and service companies. I worked at companies such as Renault, Dacia and Dogus Group – in Turkey, where I have gained a wealth of experience in building & managing teams, business transformation projects, building corporate strategies, and developing risk management systems.
My experience at Dacia as head of Renault-Nissan Consulting, where I helped transform the business into a profit center by opening a new digital platform to deliver consultancy and training services to supplier network, was a major motivation for me to start my own business. I saw the potential of e-learning business by applying lean principles to drive efficiency and effectiveness; and wanted to create a platform that could help other businesses and organizations. That's why I started DB Academy, which we launched just 4 months ago. So far, the platform has been well received and we are excited to continue expanding and improving it in the future.
R: Could you tell us a little bit about how your digital learning platform works and what sets it apart from other e-learning platforms?
D.B.: Our platform is designed to create a learning community-based marketplace in Romania by offering a wide range of high-quality courses to both businesses and individuals. As you might know in platform business models, value is created by enabling interactions and exchanges between different groups of people while in a linear (traditional) business model, value is created through the production and sale of a product or service. That is why we call ours a platform, because we bring value both to our end-clients and partners we work with. In our business model, our corporate partners provide us with their training content which we then convert into e-learning format or deliver as live, instructor-led courses. At the end, we generate revenue through commissions on sales transactions that take place on our platform.
One of the main differences between our platform and others is that we offer a mix of both a rich e-learning portfolio and live, instructor-led courses, which help to create a dynamic learning experience with interaction with trainers. From this perspective, we are the 1st and only platform in Romania which provides service as a marketplace by combining e-learning and online(live) learning for business professionals.
R: How do you decide which partners to work with and what types of content to include on the platform?
D.B.: We work with partners who have expertise in their field and who are committed to delivering top-notch training. We also take into consideration the needs and interests of our audience when selecting courses to include on the platform. Until now we have content partnership with Deloitte, Skillsoft, The E-learning company, Calitop and Bucharest School Alumni and Students Association. For example, BBS Alumni and Students Association will start delivering courses in February and I believe they selected very interesting subjects, Metaverse and Design Thinking , which will be valuable courses for our audiences.
Live, instructor-led courses are a great way for learners to interact with trainers and ask questions in real-time, which can enhance the learning experience. We are looking forward to offering more live courses in 2023 and are always exploring new partnerships and opportunities to expand our course offerings.
R: How do you see the future of e-learning evolving in the world and in Romania?
D.B.: There are several factors that can impact the growth of the e-learning industry in the world. From a global perspective, one key factor is technological advancements. Mobile ownership and internet usage are forecast to keep growing in the future, as mobile technologies are becoming more affordable and available than ever. By 2022, 90% of the global internet population use a mobile device to go online. This upward trend in penetration positively affects the distance learning sector. Government policies and regulations can also impact the growth of the e-learning industry, as they can influence the availability and affordability of e-learning options, as well as the recognition of online degrees and credentials. Social attitudes towards e-learning can also impact the growth of the industry, as perceptions of the quality and value of online education can influence trainee enrollment and employer acceptance of online degrees and credentials. By looking at all these trends and also the numbers, it is very likely that e-learning will continue to grow: the market size was 315 billion USD in 2021 and is projected to be 1 trillion USD in 2028 in the world. And, similar to the trend in the world, e-learning market is expected to increase by 28 billion USD in market size, over the next five years in Europe.
All these trends show that e-learning market will continue to grow in popularity also in Romania. Although here the market is still dominated by public education system, I consider this is also positive since there will be more incentives to transform educational system which will contribute to social acceptance of e-learning in Romania. In addition, in the world corporate e-learning sector is growing much faster in service sector and I think this is another indicator that online learning will grow popularity here since services sector has an important role in the economy, which is around 58% percent in the GDP in 2021.
R: What are some current trends in online learning that you have noticed, and how do you think they will impact the future of learning?
D.B.: One trend in online learning that we have embraced at our platform is microlearning. This approach, involves delivering small, focused pieces of learning content in a short period of time, is particularly well-suited to the needs of modern learners who are looking for flexible, self-paced learning options that can be easily integrated into their busy schedules. Our platform is mostly composed of micro courses, which allow learners to quickly acquire new knowledge or skills without having to commit a lot of time to a long course or program.
Another main trend is the use of gamification to make online learning more engaging and motivating for learners. In 2023, we will also incorporate elements of game design, such as points, badges, and leaderboards, into many of our courses to make the learning experience more enjoyable and rewarding for learners.
Other trends in online learning that we are keeping an eye on include personalization, which involves tailoring the learning experience to the needs and goals of individual learners, and the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve online learning. Since this requires further investment, it is in my middle-term plans.
R: As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to create and grow your own business. Can you tell us more about the rewards and challenges of being an entrepreneur, particularly in the digital industry?
D.B.: Absolutely. Being an entrepreneur can be both rewarding and challenging, and it's important to be aware of both sides of the coin. One of the most rewarding aspects of entrepreneurship is the sense of ownership and control that you have over your business. Although I did a smooth transition to this entrepreneurship journey, since I was an intrapreneur in my last corporate job; still, it is a unique experience from the sense of ownership. You get to make your own decisions and shape the direction of the business, which is quite fulfilling. Additionally, the potential for growth and financial success is one of my major motivators in this journey.
Of course, there are also challenges that come with entrepreneurship. Starting and growing a business requires a lot of hard work, dedication, sacrifice and it is harder to keep the balance between personal and work life. Additionally, as an entrepreneur, I have to wear many hats and handle a wide range of responsibilities, which is sometimes very demanding
Specifically in the e-learning industry, some of the specific challenges may include developing and maintaining a high-quality course catalog, staying up to date with the latest trends and technologies, and finding and retaining partners and customers. However, I believe that with hard work and determination, the rewards of entrepreneurship can far outweigh the challenges.
R: We know that you are currently pursuing a Canadian-Romanian Executive MBA at Bucharest Business School. Can you tell us more about your education and how it has contributed your work with DB Academy?
D.B.: Yes, this program has been a great opportunity for me to refresh and deepen my knowledge and skills in business management, and I believe it has helped me to better understand the needs of our audience and the business landscape in Romania. Additionally, the program has exposed me to a diverse group of professionals, many of whom have shared their real-world experiences and insights with us. This has also helped me to develop a more well-rounded perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing organizations today in Romania and in the changing business world. I am quite happy to be a part of this community.
R: Could you please tell us the advantages and disadvantages of living in Romania from a social and business perspective? How have you personally experienced these factors during your time living in the country?
D.B.: I have found that there are several advantages to living in the country as a Turkish and French citizen living in Romania. One advantage is the convenience of being able to live and work without the need for a visa. The quality of life is increasing significantly year by year while still the cost of living to be relatively affordable compared to other European countries. From a social perspective, I enjoy living in Romania for 7 years due to its diverse cultural heritage and the presence of a variety of groups. Particularly, I have found that there are lots of similarities between Turkish and Romanian culture, which has made it easier for me to adjust to living in the country.
From a business perspective, the environment in Romania is relatively favorable for foreign investors, with a skilled workforce and a growing economy. I am quite comfortable here as a foreign businesswoman and I hope I can continue to contribute positively to the Romanian business environment by bringing diversity.I believe diversity is particularly important subject in the business world, as it can bring new perspectives and ideas to the table and help to foster growth.
Not a disadvantage, but the first barrier is language in Romania; although many people speak English , it can be difficult to communicate in these languages in some areas at the beginning.
R: What is the business magazine/economic news site you consult frequently? Why? What do you think is missing from today's business media market?
D.B.: I try to stay up-to-date on local and global business news from trustable sources. One source I regularly rely on is Ziarul Financiar, since it covers local and international news. I also follow the Wall Street Journal and Business Insider since they also provide comprehensive coverage of a wide range of topics in Romania. I also regularly follow their daily newsletters from HBR and Mc Kinsey; this allows me to receive updates on new content and easily access the articles that are most relevant to my interests like entrepreneurship, leadership, digital transformation etc. Especially I find the insights and research published by Mc Kinsey very valuable and informative.
I believe that business media companies will need to adapt to the changing media landscape and find ways to use popular social media platforms to attract business people. With the proliferation of social media, people are exposed to a vast amount of information on a daily basis and may be reading less traditional business media. This presents a challenge for business media companies, as they need to find ways to stand out and capture the attention of busy professionals.