Byju’s is an educational app focusing on providing an online classroom-like environment to students across the country. The app offers videos, practice tests and a lot of study materials at prices that are affordable in comparison to offline methods of teaching. It caters mainly to school students from grade 1 to 12 (primary to higher secondary level education). The company also trains students for higher-level examinations in India, such as IIT-JEE, NEET, CAT, IAS, and postgraduate proficiency exams such as GRE and GMAT.
Their primary focus is mathematics and science, where concepts are explained using 12-20 minute digital animation videos. BYJU’S reports to have 33 million users overall, 2.2 million annual paid subscribers and an annual retention rate of about 85%. The app tailors the content provided to the individual student’s learning pace and style. Recently, they also launched classes for kindergarten students. A survey found that almost 80 per cent of parents said it improved their children’s learning dramatically. Its growth with 300,000 annual paid subscribers helped turn it into a case study at Harvard. The reason for this venture’s success can be attributed to its motto of accessible education emulating a one-on-one type teaching environment.
“We are teaching students how they should learn rather than what they should learn” .
– Byju Raveendran
In 2003, while on a break from his job as a service engineer, Byju Raveendran decided to help his friends appearing for CAT in Bangalore. Albeit an informal way of helping, he also took the exam and scored 100 percentile. He started teaching other friends, and took up the test again in 2005 without any preparation, and still scored a
perfect 100 percentile. This time, he also appeared for IIM-A, B, C interviews and cleared all of them. However, he decided against pursuing an MBA and instead saw potential in teaching students how to crack CAT. It was just by chance that he approached the entrepreneurial path. Slowly and steadily, the number of students grew through word of mouth. He would teach around 1000 students in a packed auditorium in 2007 when his venture in the absence of an online presence at the time.
Building an Online Presence
Hopping between 9 cities, Byju soon started using a video format for CAT and other entrance exams. It was in 2011 that he formed the company, BYJU’s, with the help of some of his IIM graduate students. They started creating modules focused on core learning, which are today a part of the app-based format. He feels that their learning experience is created in a format that students like. It’s always useful, but while creating products for students, they tried to make it useful as well as enjoyable through interactive videos.
They aimed to build a learning app for school students to get their fundamentals clear in those crucial early years as it will have an impact in the future.
The aim of the transition from online to core-learning was to help school students learn better. Byju’s dive into the online teaching world was well-timed, or more likely a step ahead. He had been keeping pace with technology with the timing of the app launch being almost perfect. The quick smartphone penetration enabled easy access for a country like ours. The app-based model has several advantages; students understand it easily after some usage, and the app also begins to understand the student learning behavior.
Byju’s online and mobile products have reached out to students across India, not just limited to metros, but also small towns, wherein accessibility remains a struggle. Coming from a small town himself he always believed that a balance between academics and extracurricular has had a significant impact on him. Today, the products are built around those ideologies wherein students can learn on their own. His products are about breaking the vicious cycle of memorizing, replicating, and forgetting soon after the exam.
Byju’s wants students to compete with themselves to do better. He did face the challenges that came with the concept. It’s not easy trying to convince parents of online teaching methods, especially when they think that students need to follow a particular way of exam-based learning. When parents begin to notice that the app is being used for education, then it becomes a significant advantage. It breaks the negativity around technology being just used for fun and leisure. They like the explanation of concepts with interactive videos and reports to become continuous learners and opt for an annual subscription.
The company is looking to create a reliable product that can help students and make learning more effective and believes that it can come from India.
Byju’s first funding in 2013 came from Aarin Capital; in series A funding. In the series B round in 2015, Sequoia Capital invested $25 million, and the Byju’s app was launched. In 2016, Byju’s raised four rounds of funding from Sequoia, Innoven Capital, Sofina Group, Times Internet, and the International Finance Corporation, which is a World Bank Group, quickly rising in the valuation charts. In the same year, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s funding initiative – Chan-Zuckerberg initiative led a $50 million round.
They boosted the startup’s value to $462 million. Verlininvest, a family office based in Brussels, came on the board of Byju’s in 2017. Its valuation touched $600 million. The same year, Byju’s signed Shahrukh Khan as its brand ambassador. Its reported valuation was at $800 million.
In 2018, Byju’s turned into a Unicorn – becoming the first Ed-tech company to achieve it in India. With its valuation crossing $1 billion, the startup becoming the 11th unicorn of the country in all. It received funding from General Atlantic, Naspers, and Tencent.
2019 turned out to be another milestone for Byju’s – it turned profitable. The startup reported that its revenue had tripled to reach $14.3 billion in the financial year ending March 2019. These swollen revenues come at the back of an increase in its paid user base, which stood at 2.4 million. The number doubled from 2018 when it was 1.26 million. In 2019, Byju’s also secured an investment of $150 million from Qatar Investment Authority and Owl Ventures. According to reports, Byju’s was valued at $5.7 billion.
Byju Raveendran also became a billionaire – entering the Forbes Billionaires list. Come 2020, and Byju’s raised funds from General Atlantic, Tiger Global to be valued at $8.2 billion.
Due to the nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19, the company has gained a huge number of new users and attracting parents to this E-Learning platform . The company is touching the new heights everyday.