IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, announced on Tuesday that it had made an undisclosed investment in Bengaluru-headquartered edtech startup BYJU’s. This investment, though, is an independent round and not part of the previous $50 million Series D round co-led by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and Sequoia Capital, along with investors Sofina, Lightspeed Ventures, and Times Internet Ltd.
Launched in 2015 by Byju Raveendran, the venture aims to be a pioneer in the ‘Better Learning’ space by enabling students in classes 4–12 (K–12) to become self-paced learners and also help them crack competitive exams like JEE, NEET, CAT, IAS, GRE, and GMAT. With the aid of animation and visuals, BYJU’S aims to make learning contextual and visual, and not just theoretical. In an earlier video interview with YourStory, Byju had described the company's content creation process as a combination of "mixing real teachers with animation" to create "personalised educational movies."
“Learning through technology triggers changes in how students consume content. It offers them newer ways to explore concepts and initiate learning on their own,” Byju noted.
BYJU's currently claims to have clocked seven million downloads for its education app, with 3.3 lakh annual paid subscriptions. BYJU's also notes that their renewal rates are as high as 90 percent while seeing approximately 30,000 new students sign up every month. Currently active in about 1,701 cities, the average time spent on the app per day is 40 minutes.
Byju, Founder and CEO of BYJU’s, said, "Today, almost 70 percent of our users come from outside the top 10 cities. It is encouraging to see increased adoption from over 1,700 towns and cities in the country, but there is still a long way to go before we call this a learning revolution. To further accelerate our reach in the deeper parts of India, we are planning to add channel partners across the country.”
This partnership (with IFC) will enable BYJU’s to further their plans to make quality education accessible for students across the nation as well as in international markets. Ruchira Shukla, Regional Lead, Venture Capital Investments at IFC, said
IFC’s venture capital strategy in the EduTech space is focused on technology-enabled learning platforms for academic improvement, skill development platforms, as well as supplemental and low-cost education solutions. BYJU’s is the market leader in the 4–12 segment, offering engaging content and building concept clarity by identifying and addressing students’ learning gaps.
IFC’s venture capital team has also invested in the education space earlier, with ventures like Bridge International Academies, a chain of low-cost nursery and primary schools, and Coursera, an education technology company offering massive open online courses. India is IFC's top country exposure, globally. As of June 30, 2016, IFC's committed portfolio in India was over $5 billion. In FY16, IFC committed $1.1 billion to new investments in India.
India, with over 260 million enrolments, is estimated to have the largest K–12 education system in the world and is estimated to grow by 30 percent by 2022. The one-size-fits-all approach, restricted access to quality education, and learning driven by fear of exams have been among the main reasons why India consistently ranks low in all global education assessments. Technology can play a key role in addressing these issues and making education more engaging and accessible.
Ventures like Simplilearn, Embibe, PaGaLGuY.com, and Toppr are some of the other players looking to improve the Indian education system. Coming to massive open online courses (MOOC), Khan Academy launched in India last year by partnering with Tata Trusts to offer freely available online content tailor-made for India.
Related read: 10 emerging EdTech startups of India