Byju’s aims to be one of the largest education providers in the world: Gokulnath4 min read . Updated: 21 Sep 2020, 03:56 PM IST
- The edtech firm plans to launch learning programmes aimed at school children in several English-speaking markets, says Divya Gokulnath, Byju's co-founder and director.
New Delhi: The pandemic has helped online learning firm Byju’s become a decacorn and it is now looking to expand in overseas markets. In India, it plans to introduce more subjects in multiple vernacular languages, along with a new mentoring programme to accelerate growth. The company has raised around $1 billion since January, reflecting the surge in investor interest in Indian edtech startups as remote learning replaced classrooms amid the lockdown, sending the valuation of the company to around $10.8 billion. In an interview, Divya Gokulnath, co-founder and director, Byju’s, spoke about the company’s future plans and the spurt in edtech. Edited excerpts:
Byju's is now a decacorn and the most valuable edtech startup. What's next?
Like every business during a crisis, we have adjusted our short-term goals but our long-term vision of making students fall in love with learning remains intact. Our three pillars of growth will be introducing more subjects, introducing learning programmes for more grades and in more Indian languages so children are able to learn effectively even in their mother tongue. This will enable us to strengthen our offerings and penetrate further into India. Given the current demand, we plan on accelerating several launches this year to revolutionize the after-school learning segment.
How do you plan to deploy the funds raised?
We’ll be focusing on product development and expansion, both internationally as well as deeper into India. Our recent fundraising is also to finance inorganic growth like acquisitions.
For expansion in international markets, we have plans to launch our learning programmes aimed at school children in several English-speaking markets. Through WhiteHat Jr., we will introduce math subjects as part of the offering to serve customers in several markets, including Australia, New Zealand, UK, Singapore and Germany. Our vision is to be one of the largest education-provider brands in the world.
Byju's has seen big growth during the lockdown and raised multiple rounds of funds in 2020. What’s the reason behind this growth?
We started with the simple goal of making learning fun and helping students fall in love with learning. With the help of technology, we moved from being a 100% service to a 100% product company with the launch of our learning app. Since the launch of the app in 2015, we have helped over 64 million students embrace a whole new way of learning and become active learners and self-learners. We believe having a "sense of purpose" is key. We have spent close to a decade teaching, learning and growing. We have moved from classrooms, stadiums to virtual classes and now, personalized, blended, experiential learning, and much more.
What is Byju's' mentoring programme about? How will this work virtually?
Byju’s has launched a first-of-its-kind mentoring programme for students where every student who subscribes to our programme will get access to a dedicated mentor. These mentors will play the role of counselors, guiding the students through their learning journey by suggesting personalized lessons based on their individual strengths and weaknesses.
On our platform, mentors monitor the progress of their students through data-driven dashboards. These dashboards help the mentors stay updated with the performance of the students in monthly tests, attendance, participation and attentiveness in class and consistency in completing homework. With the help of such actionable data, our mentors provide effective feedback and help create an action plan for each student to improve their learning and performance trajectory. This one-on-one online guidance from dedicated mentors also allows parents to be updated on their children’s progress from the comfort and safety of their homes. Currently, Byju’s has a large team of trained mentors to help students and we are planning to grow the team by 100% in the coming year.
Both Raveendran and you were teachers. How has the journey been from teaching to entrepreneurship?
We’re both highly passionate about teaching and believe we are first teachers and then entrepreneurs. We started out with a simple goal of making learning fun and helping students fall in love with learning. To keep solving the learning problem for our students, we disrupted our own model of classroom learning by integrating v-sat into our classes. We brought technology into education when no one else was doing it. Our journey is a clear indication of the fact that we have never shied away from change. In fact, we have embraced it, as long as it would help us continue solving the problem.
Will classrooms become passe now as children adapt to online learning?
The importance of schools and classrooms is uncontested, and it is a crucial component of every student’s holistic development as it teaches them several social and life-skills. Byju’s classes are not focused on replacing schools but on becoming a student’s after-school learning companion. We see a post-lockdown world where students and parents will adopt a more blended approach to learning, with online learning complimenting learning at school. The blended format of education would include the best of online and offline learning. This is an opportunity for us to find the middle ground between offline and online learning and create an education system that is synchronous and efficient.