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From a terrace to the the rooftop of $15 billion- The journey of world biggest Ed-tech startup

From dungy, dull and sitting pack classes in school and coaching centers to interactive and ultra-engaging sessions, Covid-19 pandemic has made us comfortable with all. With the electronic mode of studies being a new normal, a brand is getting resonate to all of us.
The edtech sector has grown leaps and bounds since inception, accelerating the growth in recent years. However, Byju’s is one name which stands out, amongst other homegrown peers. The passion towards teaching and learning of Byju Raveendran, the founder of the learning app, has led the journey to create India’s most valuable edtech startup.

Beginning of the Journey
Born in 1980 in a Malayaly family, living in Azhikode- a small coastal village of Kerala, Byju had inclination towards education. The son of a physics and mathematics teaching couple is a multitime CAT centi-percentiler. Despite that, he did not enroll into any top rated B-school, but followed his passion for teaching.

He chose to become an engineer. He graduated in Mechanical Engineering from Government Engineering College, Kannur. Engineer by degree, and teacher by choice and entrepreneur by chance, Byju taught MBA aspirants tips and tricks to solve aptitude questions on the terrace of a friend’s house. As the number of students increased, the venue shifted to auditoriums.

Byju’s was founded in 2011 by Byju Raveendran. He became India’s youngest billionaire with a net worth of $3.05 billion as per Forbes list of India’s 100 Richest People (2020). Byju’s- The Learning App was launched in 2015 and became an instant hit.

Prior to the launch of the app, Byju started with offline classes, but later moved to online mode as the popularity gathered amongst the masses. He added other competitive exams and later expanded his portfolio to class 9th to 12th module. Within a few months of launch, the number of enrolled students topped the mark of 2 million.

The learning app also coaches for CAT, the civil services examination, the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET), the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).

Currently, Byju has the expertise with a more than 700 high-quality product development team, 200 content creators who develop quality content; 150 creative media teams to make interesting videos and more than 100 technology teams.

Bengaluru headquartered Byju is the world’s most valued education technology enterprises. According to recent reports, it is valued at over $15 billion. The company has roped in some of the hot shot private equity funds like Sequoia Capital, Aarin Capital and Sofina, along with Cheng Zuckerberg foundation.

Business Model
Byju’s works on a freemium business model wherein it offers customers both complementary and paid (premium) services. The company asks the students to submit their details on its application or website and offers them a free 15 days trial. Once the free trial is exhausted, the student has to buy the courses from BYJU’s to access the complete content.

A business model can be defined as a strategy of how the entrepreneur will make profit.  The company has a triple way revenue generation module.

a) The first one is through the app. After the free trial of 15 days, students have to purchase the courses to continue their educational journey on BYJU’s. The app offers a variety of test series, courses, etc. which actually compels people to make the purchase.

b) BYJU’s offers electronic tablets that customers need to procure when they buy the course of their choice. This tablet has the videos, tests, practice questions, quizzes, etc. pertaining to that course.

c) The third revenue generation mechanism is through classroom teaching. However, these classes are restricted to only a few bigger cities in the large states.
The business model of Byju’s is brilliant and extremely profitable. This business model has helped Byju’s transform in-to a company worth a decabillion unicorn.

Revenue of Byjus

After becoming an educational learning app, Byju’s  revenue was Rs 4 crores in 2011-12, which increased to Rs 12 crores in 2012-2013, Rs 20 crores in financial year 2013-14, Rs 48 crores in fiscal 2014-15 and to Rs 120 crores in financial year 2015-16. This increased to Rs 260 crores in the year 2016-17.

In the fiscal year of 2018, Byju’s clocked a revenue close to Rs 500 crore, which jumped to Rs 1350 crore in the next fiscal. Byju’s is currently a part of the Indian markets and the Middle-East. It plans to be a part of the European, American, African, and other Commonwealth markets

The journey of Byju’s classes started with a first ever investment of Rs 50 crore investment from Mohandas Pai and Ranjan Pai in 2013. Byju is the only startup in Asia which is funded by Mark Zuckerberg. Cheng Zuckerberg Foundation is named after Facebook’s founder, his better half.

In September 2016, Byju received $50 million from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), the philanthropic organisation created by Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook and his wife Dr Priscilla, Times Internet- the digital arm of BCCL, Lightspeed Ventures, Sequoia and Sofina.

Byju’s attained the decacorn status with an investment by Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital. Blackrock and T. Rowe Price entered the company in November 2020, at a heavy value of $12 billion. In April 2021, B Capital, Baron Funds and XN invested $1 Billion in Byju’s.

Mergers and Acquisitions
Byju has been very aggressive in acquiring small players in the market, to gain market share at a very high rate. However, this kind of strategy often leads to more cash burn. Also, over acquiring or diversification may lead to a fall shift of focus from the core business.

In 2017, the company acquired learning guidance platform Vidyartha to boost its personalized learning products. In the same year, it took over education platforms- TutorVista and Edurite- from Pearson to expand its footprints in international space.

In January 2019, Byju’s acquired a US-based Osmo, a maker of educational games for children aged 3–8 years for $120 million. In February 2021, Byju’s acquired Mumbai-based doubt clearing platform Scholr.

During the crisis of Covid-19, Byju’s engulfing journey did not halt. It bought the coding application platform of WhiteHat Junior for a whopping $300 million through an all cash deal.

In next month, that is September 2020, Byju signed a deal to acquire brick and mortar test preparation leader Aakash Educational Services for an humongous amount of $1 billion. In the same month, it seized the rights of ed-tech startup LabinApp for an undisclosed amount.

Covid-19 pandemic emerged as a blessing in disguise for the unicorn enterprise. When the world was suffering from the wrath of health crises and school, colleges were shut during the lockdown, it became the world’s most valued edtech startup in June 2020. Its valuation surpassed $10 billion.

In 2017, Byju’s named bollywood magnate Shah Rukh Khan as his brand ambassador, who has been associated so far. In March 2017, a case study on BYJU’s was featured in Harvard Business School’s curriculum. It is one of the biggest achievements for any company from a non-monetary perspective. It paved a way for the global market for the company.

In 2019, Byju became the official title sponsor of the Indian Cricket Team jersey, replacing Chinese mobile brand Oppo. In November 2020, Byju’s became the title sponsor of the Indian Super League club Kerala Blasters FC, co-owned by master blaster Sachin Tendulkar. It replaced Muthoot Group.

In a way, Byju enjoyed monopoly before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many similar major players entered the market when the government imposed lockdowns and put restrictions on attending school and colleges. This meant that students had to now learn everything from their homes, which paved the way for other edtech.

Various new entrants like Vedantu, Unacademy, Toppr, Meritnation, etc have tapped the markets, but they are not much close to Byju’s. The focus of the learning App was to provide online coaching to fourth to 12th class students. Byju tried to make it effective as well as interesting. This has been the moat of the company so far.

His learning App is replicating and forgetting soon after the exam. It is about breaking the vicious cycle of memorising. The app-based model has several advantages. The app is getting more popular in the smaller cities and towns, where the education infrastructure is shattered and scanty.

Challenges for Byju’s
As said by Byju Raveendran, the founder, on various media platforms, converting the students to paid subscribers after the free trial ends is a major challenge for BYJU’s. The company is also working towards expanding to other English speaking countries, and finding suitable partners to assist with this expansion is the second challenge.

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