[Podcast] Vamsi Krishna on Vedantu's hard road to success

In a conversation with Anand Daniel, Partner at Accel, Vedantu CEO Vamsi Krishna talks about the unseen struggles of an entrepreneur and what it took to make Vedantu what it is today.
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The story of Vedantu is a heady mix of grit, determination, and conviction. The Bengaluru-based startup — which raised almost $200 million — has had a journey and a story that will inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The startup witnessed 4.5X growth in the last financial year on each of its core metrics. And the growth trajectory has been rocketing upwards with 12X growth in the past two years.

But how did it get here?

In a candid conversation with Anand Daniel, Partner at Accel, Vamsi Krishna, Co-founder and CEO, Vedantu, talks about the unseen struggles of an entrepreneur and what it took to make Vedantu what it is today.

Vamsi says the business has seen unprecedented growth, and it has very strong tailwinds, given the situation with offline education. But there have been multiple challenges not just to keep up with the growth but also having to deal with the humanitarian crisis unfolding due to the pandemic.

As the category went mainstream during the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth has been exponential. The startup, however, had to navigate through multiple challenges during this period.

Onboarding teachers and providing them with the right infrastructure to operate was a top priority. The team had to support and be empathetic in dealing with people and family members falling sick. 

The journey back

Born into a middle-class south Indian family, Vamsi says his upbringing has played a huge role in his life. His parents instilled in him that there were no shortcuts, and he had to find his path through hard work and effort. 

Early on in his life, he was cognizant of the fact that education was the only way he could achieve success. When he moved on to IIT Bombay, Vamsi recalls he was rather an unusual candidate, as he was not a topper but an above-average student, who scored 65 percent in his boards. 

Entry into IIT Bombay was the culmination of long years of hard work and perseverance, which gave him the confidence that what he wanted to achieve would be possible with focus and consistency. And that has been the mantra of his life. 

He says IIT Bombay gave him the next level of exposure and experience, coming from a Tier II city. Although he succumbed to parental pressure and took up a job with L&T, he was restless to start something of his own.

The first taste of entrepreneurship

The story of how four IITians and friends hit upon the idea of Lakshya — Vamsi’s first company — is better told by him in the podcast.

As Lakshya gained momentum between 2009 to 2011, expanded to about five locations, and grew to a 250 people strong team, it also became very profitable.

But Vamsi and the others wanted a business that would help them scale, and scaling an offline business was not going to be easy. Being IITians, they were aware that technology would be the enabler to help them scale.

After a year, they decided that sailing in two boats would not be possible and exited Lakshya, selling it to Mumbai’s MT Educare.

The Vedantu journey begins

Vamsi and his co-founders knew that if they were to start an online platform — which would compete with the offline players — they had to have a full-stack solution.

Between 2015 and 2017 was also the time when the founders for the first time felt the pinch of not having enough capital and had to let go of 15 percent of their workforce. This was one of the hardest phases of his entrepreneurial journey, recalls Vamsi. 

And though uncertainty was looming large on them, they somehow managed to float. 

What kept them going? 

Vamsi adds that the belief and conviction in what they were doing and the team helped them marched forward and kept finding a way to endure.

The one-to-many model the startup introduced in 2017 was a game-changer for the business, and then came the pandemic. Not only did it have exponential growth, it raised its Series D funding, landed Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador, and also sponsored the popular game show KBC. 

Being able to adapt and move with the times is what gave Vedantu an edge all these years. For example, the sales function — offline all these years — was suddenly moved to online, and that too, in five days. And yet, they adapted and thrived.

The energy and conviction to endure fuels the growth of this startup, which has taken online education in India to the next level. 

And so much more is yet to come.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Notes:

2:30: The pandemic, struggles that came with it, and the spirit of Vedantu

5:00: On Vedantu's growth last year and the numbers

7:40: On people management during the crisis and how everyone rose to the challenge

10:38: Vamsi's childhood and the road to IIT Bombay

17:00: How Lakshya was born in Barnala, Punjab

23:00: On exiting Lakshya and how that felt

24:00: The beginning of Vedantu - The idea of impact at scale

26:00: Vedantu's journey to PMF

29:20: On mistakes made, and the struggles of 2015 and 2017

32:30: Letting go of people, and what that meant to Vamsi

34:45: The low points at Vedantu and how Vamsi coped with everything

45:40: On to hyper-scale and the challenges that came with it

49:40: "Just be there, and things will happen"

55:10: What this Vamsi would tell a younger Vamsi

Edited by Suman Singh

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)