Most of us have heard about BYJU’s – The Learning App, but not many know that the seeds of the company were initially sown offline by the founder Byju Raveendran. First, he became a teacher who was loved by students for conceptual clarity and then he expanded his operations to build a successful Ed-Tech Company, changing the way students learn.
With over 10 million downloads and a revenue of Rs. 1341 crore in the fiscal year 2019, BYJU’s Learning App has grown to become India’s leading K-12 education app.
In this blog, we will go back in time to learn about the founding story, discover the driving forces behind the development of the Byju’s app, what factors led to its success & how it makes money.
BYJU’s Founding & Growth Story
Before becoming a teacher, Byju was working overseas as a service engineer for a U.K.-based shipping firm. His teaching journey started when he had come to back India for a holiday and he helped a few of his friends pass the Common Aptitude Test entrance examination.
From then onwards, he began getting requests from friends of friends and their friends as well. The number of students went on to increase from 35 in one class to 1,200 in just six sessions.
The popularity of Byju’s Classes grew to such a large extent that Byju quit his job and began flying from one city to another to tutor students. The number of students continued to increase and Byju had to shift to auditoriums and then to large stadiums where he tutored almost 25,000 students. The brand name Byju’s Classes was created by the students themselves in 2007. Later on, he was able to capitalize on the reputation and popularity that his brand name had already earned.
In 2009, Byju made videos of his lectures and was able to tutor students from 45 cities through the use of V-SAT. Switching to the video format helped him reach out to a wider audience and tutor more students.
Then in 2011, the company Think and Learn was founded, the result of an idea to form a team given by some of his students. The plan was to create video content for school students of various age groups instead of content for just exam-taking classes like CAT.
Here is what he had to say about the decision at that time,
“I felt that most of the students lacked conceptual clarity and a proper foundation. I found that there was a huge gap in how the subjects could be learnt and how they were taught. That is why I wanted to create something that could fill the gap. Looking back, I feel I excelled in exams because I wrote exams for fun, the same way I played games.”
Byju’s never had the passion to start a business but he came to realize that he had a passion for teaching that gave him great joy and satisfaction. As quoted in a blog, Byju Raveendran says, “The real fun is not in creating a multibillion-dollar company, but in changing the way millions think and learn.”
From the year 2011 to 2015, the team mainly focused on creating high-quality, comprehensive video content for school students from classes 6 to 12, covering multiple subjects and digitizing it. Since we tend to remember stories from movies better, the team created every subject chapter like a movie.
The Launch Of BYJU’s – The Learning App
BYJU’s – The Learning App was launched in 2015, acquiring over 5.5 million downloads in just one year. As far as the annual subscription statistics, Byju’s has witnessed an average renewal rate of 85% with some grades surpassing the 90% mark and students spending more than an hour on the app daily.
The fact that so many students renew their subscription and spend a significant amount of time on the app learning proves that they are benefitting from BYJU’s App.
Why Is Byju’s So Successful?
The primary reason why Byju’s has been so successful is due to the format of its video lessons. The concepts are explained in a highly visual contextual format with an amalgamation of animation, gamification, and live-action formats, which make the videos highly engaging.
To make the user experience even better, they even constantly analyze the effectiveness of content modules for improvement
While content is currently available in both English and Hindi only, Byju’s is working towards creating content in other regional languages as well to tap into the large vernacular language audience and deeply penetrate the Indian market.
Another important parameter used by Byju’s to improve the learning experience is its feature of personalizing the learning content based on students’ proficiency. A rich learning profile is built for each student and the app memorizes the student’s learning fingerprint, enabling the app to customize and personalize the student’s learning experience. Byju’s personalization engine mimics the actions of a personal tutor, helping in tackling students’ weaknesses and enabling the students to learn at their own pace.
In 2017, it even came out with BYJU’s Maths App for kids along with BYJU’s Parent Connect App through which parents could track their child’s learning course.
With blended learning and the use of edutainment, Byju’s is changing the face of education. Blended learning integrates teaching and technology, combining traditional classroom education with educational videos and games, providing the best of both worlds.
BYJU’s Business Model
Byju’s is a freemium business model in which some of the basic content is available for free, but accessing further content requires a paid subscription. According to a Dec 2019 report by Economic Times, Byju’s had amassed more than 40 million registered users and 2.8 million paid subscribers.
In the fiscal year of 2019, Byju’s revenue increased to Rs. 1341 crore from Rs. 490 crore in the previous fiscal year, and reported a net profit of Rs. 20 crores. The main factors behind this growth were an increase in the number of paid subscribers and deeper penetration into the Indian market.
After turning profitable in the fiscal year of 2019, Byju’s planned to double its revenue to 3000 crores by March 31, 2020. And to achieve this mark, Byju’s will be launching new products like Byju’s Online Tutoring other than introducing learning programmes in Indian regional languages.
Byju’s Funding Spree
From Tencent and BCCL to General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital, Byju’s has raised millions in funding and has acquired the companies Math Adventures, TutorVista, Edurite, Vidyartha, and U.S.-based Osmo. Byju’s even caught the eye of self-made multi-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and $50 million was invested by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
In 2019, Byju’s valuation crossed the $5 billion mark with a funding of $25 million from General Atlantic. Before that, Byju’s had raised funds from Naspers Ventures and the Canadian pension fund CPPIB, which had raised its valuation to $3.6 billion from the $1 billion valuation in the early fiscal year of 2018.
Byju’s Plans To Expand Internationally
In the financing round held in July 2019, Byju’s raised $150 million as fresh capital. This financing round was led by Qatar Investment Authority, which is the sovereign wealth fund of the state of Qatar. Owl Venture, a notable investor in education technology startups is another partner that invested in Byju’s and it was their first investment in an Indian startup.
These funds will go towards achieving Byju’s target of expanding to international markets. Byju’s is currently present in the Middle East and is looking to enter the U.S., U.K., South Africa, and other African and Commonwealth markets. With the acquisition of Osmo for $120 million, which is a U.S. based learning platform popular among 5-12 year old kids, Byju’s entered the U.S. They have also been working towards customizing the English accents in the app and adapting to different education systems. Byju’s has even collaborated with Disney to launch its services for kids aged between 6-8 years old with the help of Disney’s stories and characters from Frozen, Toy Story, Cars, etc.
With the recent addition of the investment of $200 million in the new round of funding from Tiger Global Management and $200 million from General Atlantic in the beginning of 2020, Byju’s valuation has jumped to $8.2 billion, becoming India’s third most valued startup and keeping the company right on track to achieve its current financial year goal.
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