'I will be cautious while spending my investors' money'

In conversation: Byju Raveendran, Founder and CEO, Byju's

'I will be cautious while spending my investors' money'
With $140 million investment in the account, Byju’s, owned by Think and Learn, is now the largest funded edu-tech startup in India. Its founder and CEO Byju Raveendran says that he will not commit mistakes while spending the money raised from his investors.

In an interaction with N V Vijayakumar of DH, Byju explains as to how he wants to tap the $1.96 billion online education market by 2021. Edited excerpts:
 
What prompted you to enter the education technology space?
I was very passionate about what I pursue and approached it in an unconventional way. My parents were teachers and I got all the freedom to pursue my passion from them. I loved teaching during my school days and once passed out of engineering, I conducted tuition classes during weekends for my friends. I started Byju’s with a bigger plan and started booking auditoriums and stadiums to take classes, especially for my favourite subject mathematics. As part of our efforts to reach out to masses, we started video modules in 2012, and in August, Byju’s, introduced its first app.

How Byju’s is reinventing its business model?
With a mix of physical classroom, interactive videos and apps, Byju’s is taking next step in the personalised learning across K-12, JEE, NEET, CAT, IAS, GRE and GMAT. Nowadays, learning is all about ensuring that you pass exams. We haven’t made it for understanding or stooped to the level of learning for passing the exams. Byju’s would like to change that. We are transforming ourselves from the one-to-many learning model to one-on-one personalised learning experience through our app. Byju’s believes that we have to create learning content tailor-made to every student’s individual requirements to ensure a seamless learning experience.

What is the new method in personalised learning?
Byju’s has reinforced its commitment to its learners by launching a major update to its learning app focused on personalised learning experiences for students across grades. In this upgrade, we have personalised the app interface to determine every student’s capability and recommend the right ‘Learn Journey’. Based on the level of understanding, ‘Learn Journeys’ will be tailor-made to every student’s individual requirements to ensure a seamless learning experience. Here we have one-to-many learning model to one-on-one personalised learning experience through app. The company also launched ‘Parent Connect’ app that offers a real-time update on every student’s progress. This app will help parents stay up-to-date and be more involved in their child’s learning journey.

How much money have you raised till now?
Our fund raising plans are well connected with our growth strategy. Last year, Byju’s raised $140 million in three rounds from top investors, including $75 million from Sequoia Capital and Sofina in April, a $50-million round led by the Chan-Zuckerberg initiative (existing investors and others also participated in the round), and another $15 million from IFC, a financial institution that’s part of the World Bank group, in December. The company raised about $30 million from Brussels-based family office Verlinvest, with a higher valuation at about $600 million.

You say that you will not commit mistakes while spending investor money. Can you elaborate on this?
I have seen new age entrepreneurs after building their company in grant scale fail in utilising the money raised properly. The majority find their business model fail or their focus is going away with the money they raised. I don’t have anything to worry in this because all my projects are tested 60% before the deployment of the solution. So they are tested thoroughly and the failure rate is very minimal. I have done it with all new models I deploy in the market and the error rate is very minimal. I am a successful entrepreneur as I am pursuing my passion only. I will be cautious while spending investors’ money that I have raised. My offline experience has given me good experience on the products and services required by consumers, that is my end students.

What is the future of online education in India?
The online education sector in India is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 52% to $1.96 billion by 2021, according to a joint study by Google and KPMG released recently. Byju’s has grown to four lakh paid subscribers since its launch in 2013. Byju now plans to expand to the Middle East and go deeper in India to smaller towns and cities. The company has grown at a phenomenal pace when it registered a revenue of Rs 120 crore in 2015-2016 from Rs 4 crore in 2011-2012. We are also planning some inorganic growth by acquiring a few companies.

What is your ambition for Byju’s?
I want to make Byju’s the largest edu-tech company in the world. I am working hard to come up with new products for the international market and also exploring potential acquisitions. Byju’s is getting more than 89% of its revenue today from the online mode of delivery. We have eight million users and four lakh annual paid subscriptions with annual renewal rates as high as 90%. We are planning to expand it along across the country.

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