Make a list of things you are proud of as an Indian, and… well, this is definitely not a skip. India is home to the Most Valued Edtech Startup in the World! The valuation of a whopping $16.5 Billion is no joke. If you aren’t imagining, that’s more than India’s Education Budget of 2021 ;-)
Not just that, the Decacorn we are talking about is also India’s most-valued startup and the World’s 14th most-valued startup. Remember the name - BYJU’S
Well, without further ado, let’s dive into Byju’s story & see what all we can learn from ‘The Learning App’.
BYJU's - The Birth of a Decacorn
The year is 2011. That’s the beginning of a decade that would go on to make management education increasingly enticing! Umpteen numbers of students start enrolling for entrance exams to crack their dream b-schools. Which only meant more demand for tutors of India’s most-taken management entrance exam, CAT. Although coaching institutes had already made their mark in the field, students needed someone to help them ‘bell the CAT’ at an affordable price.
In an attempt to leverage this situation, emerges a ‘lone-wolf’ tutor from Bangalore who would travel from city to city across the country, taking sessions in stadiums or whatever could accommodate large batches. Within a year or so, he would go on to bring more than 1000 students under his kitty. This might not seem to be a big feat today, but mind you - he did it before it was cool ;-)
So far, so good. But soon, he would realize that this nomadic setup limited his scalability! He had to reach every nook and corner of the country, especially tier-2, tier-3 cities and villages. The only thing that could make him omnipresent was, obviously, technology. Education blended with technology, what we call EdTech today, was the need of the hour.
BYJU’s is born.
And the man we are talking about is the CEO and co-founder of BYJU’s, Mr. Raveendran Byju. A multiple-times CAT 100%iler who began coaching students by traveling across the country would then take the stint online along with his wife, Divya Gokulnath. What could be India’s next big ‘Decacorn’ had already sown its seeds!
The Dark Knight Rises
Before BYJU’s, ‘Think and Learn’ happened. It was a company set up by Raveendran and his friends to run classes (subsequently under the brand BYJU’s). It was bootstrapped by Raveendran with an investment of a little over USD 2500 out of his earnings.
Initially, the focus was on two spaces: the emerging K12 segment and their cash cow Competitive exams preparation segment.
After some funding by VC firm Aarin Capital in 2013, it was time BYJU’s took the business online! With its mobile and tablet classes, students could now learn anything, anywhere, and anytime.
Even before it launched its app, BYJU’s had entered both Deloitte Technology Fast50 India & Deloitte Technology Fast 500 Asia Pacific ratings. Within just three months of its app launch in 2015, BYJU’s had scaled to more than a whopping twenty lakh students! Since then, there has been no looking back.
In 2016, BYJU’s was awarded the 'Best Self Improvement' app award in Google Play India ratings. It also made its way into a business case study at the prestigious Harvard Business School in the next year itself.
In the year 2018, when BYJU’s had registered more than 15 million users and nine lakh paid subscribers, it attained the coveted tag of a ‘Unicorn’ with a valuation of over $1 Billion! In 2019, it made headlines for partnering with Disney to integrate Disney’s most iconic characters to capture India’s younger audiences.
Not long after, in 2020, BYJU’s would go on to become the World’s Most-valued Ed-tech Startup with a valuation of $10.5 Billion! Welcome to 2021, and you witness BYJU’s overthrowing Paytm to become India’s most-valued startup at a massive valuation of $16.5 Billion!
Mind you, fellas, we ain’t talking about any ‘Unicorn’ here, it’s more than ten times that size ~ a ‘Decacorn’!
This wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination! Apart from BYJU's core competence of lucidly-explained concepts and a streamlined product-market fit, something that made BYJU’s stand apart was its aggressive go-to-market sales strategy. And we can’t help but talk about it...
BYJU's Aggressive Sales Strategy
We think most of you would be familiar with how BYJU’s has been selling its products. Or rather, if you wish to call it ‘mis-selling’, so be it. ‘Aggressive’ could be a misnomer, but you can’t deny that it wasn’t just a simple plan; it was a war strategy, i.e., a game plan to reach farther and deeper than its competitors could! That meant chasing huge quotas, aggressive door-to-door selling, and personalized customer meetings for every household.
You see, India has nearly 800 unofficial languages, which make the market quite diverse and complicated. For something like education, where a trust factor of personal handling and parents’ counseling has been of utmost importance, this was a formidable barrier to overcome. And the only way you could overcome this was by getting your feet dirty.
That’s basically what BYJU’s did. It adopted a ‘feet-on-the-street’ approach, which meant hiring sales executives, sales managers, etc. The idea was rather traditional… ‘hire men, pitch customers’. You won’t believe it, but at one point of time in 2018, the company had a massive sales force of above 1000 employees! This might just have become bigger, if not double.
In addition, making Shakrukh Khan its brand ambassador and its sports sponsorship, BYJU, with its marketing spend of over a massive $25 Million, leaves no stone unturned to capture the market.
Well, that wasn’t all. If you feel BYJU’s growth has been entirely organic, you must be living under some caves. Tata group and Reliance would lose the game to BYJU’s if you were to see how rapidly it has been acquiring companies since its inception!
New Month, New Acquisition
One of BYJU’s prominent acquisitions was the 2017 acquisition of TutorVista and Edurite from Pearson, one of the largest online tutoring brands for school students globally, especially in the US. Two years later, its major acquisition was the US play-based learning platform for children named Osmo. Coming to 2020, BYJU’s $300 mn purchase of online coding platform WhiteHat Jr. was the highlight of the year. And now, you have 2021...
Scholr, HashLearn, Toppr, Aakash Educational Services, Epic Games, Great Learning, Whodat, GradeUp, and now, Tynker ...with nine acquisitions in nine months of 2021, or an average of one each month, BYJU’s seems to be in a buying spree this year.
It's like... New Month, New Acquisition, isn’t it?
Well, whether it’s organic growth or inorganic growth, money is the fuel. So now, let’s talk a bit about how BYJU’s has been funding all of these.
Show me thy money!
BYJU’s, which begun as a bootstrapped startup, got its Series A funding round of $9 Million from Aarin Capital in 2013. Going ahead, it secured $25 Million in Series B round in 2015 and $75 Million in Series C round in 2016, both led by Sequoia Capital. In 2016, it again raised $50 Million in Series D round from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. A year later, it reached a valuation of $600 Million following its subsequent funding rounds.
One year rolls down, and BYJU's achieves the celebrated ‘Unicorn’ tag. Come 2020, and it raised funding from BOND to become the world’s most valued Ed-tech startup. Oh, and now, BYJU’s is expected to showcase what could be one of India’s biggest startup IPOs. So, there you go.
The Bottom Line
It’s 2021. Uncertain times are back again! WFH and online classes have rejoined the new normal. Exams are either being postponed or made online. Classes and meetings, all from home. Schools need partners to reach out to students effectively. Businesses need relevant digital skills training for their workforce that could be working from home for an extended period.
Even if things are back to old normal, a new change has been introduced to people, a system wherein you can study, give exams and work ...all from home! This is a ‘revolution’ that has changed the way people lead lives and things like this are here to stay! No wonder why Indian startups are perfectly positioned to solve all these problems.
The Indian government is getting increasingly enthusiastic about the digitalization of almost everything, and funds are also pouring into these highly-ambitious startups. Apparently, with the best Public-Private Partnership model we’ve ever seen, this EdTech is solving problems that haven’t been created yet!
Having said that, BYJU’s, with its core competence, product-market fit, and sales & marketing strategy, is all set to take this market. What do you think?