Why Did Mark Zuckerberg “Like” This Bengaluru Startup?
Aayush Ailawadi chats with Byju about his journey, funding and the ed-tech space.
Imagine being a good friend and teaching your friends some math so they can clear their exams. That’s perhaps something we’ve all done, or been at the receiving end of at some point. And that’s exactly where the journey began for Byju Raveendran, who was content with his overseas job but chose to help his friends prepare for competitive exams while visiting India.
Little did Byju know that this would be the start of his journey as the founder of India’s largest ed-tech company, one which would eventually impress none other than Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Earlier this month, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), the philanthropic organisation founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, along with a group of investors invested a whopping $50 million in Byju's. The icing on the cake – this is the CZI’s first ever Asian investment. In Facebook terms, it’s safe to say Zuckerberg has ‘super-liked’ Byju’s.
Byju started off with coaching classes in Bengaluru with the sole purpose of making learning more fun. As he grew more popular, he began delivering lectures in large auditoriums with thousands of students. “That’s when I realised teaching is almost like an art or a performance. It gave me so much satisfaction because it was making an impact and the students were giving me so much respect, which I never got before,” he says.
Soon, he was getting requests from all over the country and in 2011, he began delivering lectures through VSAT. But 2015 proved to be the real game-changer for Byju’s classes. That’s when he launched what has now become India’s largest K-12 learning app. The app has been downloaded over 5.5 million times on iPhones and Android phones. It has 2,50,000 paid users and gets an additional 30,000 users each month. The app also boasts an annual retention rate of 90 percent.
Byju’s success story isn’t restricted to the big cities. In fact, over 70 percent of its users come from outside India’s biggest cities – from more than 1,400 towns across the country.
It relies on original content, adaptive learning technologies, and interactive video lessons to deliver personalised learning to students.
In his Facebook post, Zuckerberg cited a survey which claims that almost 80 percent of parents said the app has improved their children's learning dramatically.
Still a young ed-tech startup, Byju's is already profitable in India with a month-on-month growth of 15 percent. Revenue in the first five months of this financial year (FY17) has already crossed its FY16 revenue of Rs 120 crore.
For now, Byju’s only creates content in English for Indians, but its founder has ambitious plans for the future. He wants to use the most recent round of funding to expand to English-speaking markets around the world. He also hopes to launch content in regional languages across India very soon.
What does Byju Raveendran attribute his success to? While reminiscing about growing up in a small town in Kerala and attending a vernacular language school, he said sports has helped him evolve into Byju, the entrepreneur we know today.
Outside classrooms you learn real life skills which you can never learn inside the classroom – how to play in a team, lead a team, how to have that killer instinct and controlled aggression, how to be extremely positive – a lot of parents and students miss out on this aspect today...Byju Raveendran, Founder and CEO, Byju’s