Slow and steady: Inside Sri Chaitanya group’s dual growth strategy for education dominance

Founded in 1986, the Sri Chaitanya group has a formidable presence in India’s test preparation segment. With its edtech vertical, Infinity Learn, tasting early success despite declining trends, the group intends to play a larger role in the evolving learning landscape.

Slow and steady: Inside Sri Chaitanya group’s dual growth strategy for education dominance

Tuesday October 31, 2023,

8 min Read

Thirty-seven years ago, Dr B S Rao and Dr Jhansi Lakshmi Bai Boppana founded Sri Chaitanya Junior Girls College in Vijayawada to prepare higher secondary students for local- and state-level competitive exams. Today, the Sri Chaitanya Group of Institutions (SCGI) is renowned for being one of India’s oldest test-preparation companies, with 32 students ranking within the top 100 in the all-India open category in JEE Advanced 2023. 

It has also expanded beyond its traditional brick-and-mortar setup and tasted success in the online channel.

Its online learning platform, Infinity Learn, managed to turn profitable within two years. It turned PAT positive in FY23, which is no mean feat considering many other edtech companies incurred widespread losses as schools re-opened post-COVID-19 lockdowns, and are still grappling with profitability. 

The class is crowded in India’s school of learning. While digital-first firms like BYJU’S, Unacademy, and the profitable PhysicsWallah are applying offline tactics, traditional offline players are striving to expand their presence in the growing online education space. Kota-based coaching giant ALLEN secured funding exceeding half a billion dollars last year for the same. 

So, is there room for another edtech’s ambitions to grow?

Infinity Learn CEO Ujjwal Singh emphasises that Sri Chaitanya’s approach has always been to “build it for long,” and the edtech vertical leans on the Hyderabad-based group’s extensive resources and strong educational track record. 

“We were looking at a much larger picture,” he tells YourStory.

With Infinity Learn showing promising growth, the group is pursuing a dual strategy to expand in both offline and online sectors, aiming to reach 2.5 million students by 2025.

Online play

Sri Chaitanya launched Infinity Learn in 2021 with a $50 million investment that has been utilised for expansion, development of digital content, and three acquisitions. Last year, it acquired cognitive development startup WizKlub for $10 million. Earlier acquisitions include Don’t Memorise, a multilingual platform focused on concept-based content, and Teacherr, a digital platform created by the teaching community.

In coming months, SCGI plans to raise approximately $100 million for Infinity Learn through private equity, says Sushma Bopanna, CEO and Academic Director of Sri Chaitanya Educational Institutions and Founder-Director of Infinity Learn. 

The group envisions “steeper growth” for the edtech entity, with a revenue target of Rs 500 crore by 2025. While these projections seem ambitious, Infinity Learn has done it before. Its revenue soared past Rs 100 crore in FY23 from Rs 2.3 crore earned in FY22.

The edtech matches step with Physics Wallah, which also crossed the Rs 100-crore revenue mark in its second year (FY22). Meanwhile, it took Unacademy, upGrad, and Vedantu five, six, and seven years, respectively, to either get closer to or surpass the mark.

However, it’s still early days for Infinity Learn as it contributes a fraction to Sri Chaitanya’s over Rs 5,000 crore revenue.

“While there are established players in the online space, the advantage that Sri Chaitanya educational group has is its experience offline, which will help it build on quality content and that's what matters for the students,” notes Anil Joshi, Managing Partner, Unicorn India Ventures. The VC fund’s portfolio included edtech companies.

Bopanna believes that about 1.5 million students can be reached online—double the current base—especially in areas where there are no Sri Chaitanya schools or are limited by their infrastructural capacity of 1,000-1,500 students.

Joshi remarks that it is natural for Sri Chaitanya to enter the online segment. “Considering the fast-changing scenario in the education vertical, it makes sense to leverage their brand for building a robust online presence,” he notes.

Infinity Learn provides diverse study resources, including extensive question banks and tailored content for grades 6 to 12. Its offerings range from a Rs 500 test to a premium one-year online subscription priced at Rs 40,000, catering to test preparation for competitive exams like IIT and NEET. Recently, it introduced an AI-powered education solution born out of a nearly million-dollar investment.

It also has six physical centres, including locations in Bengaluru, Chennai, and Patna, with plans to expand to 15 centres by March 2024.

While B2C is its main channel of operation, Infinity Learn also offers school-integrated programmes (SIP) designed for IIT-JEE, NEET, CUET, and CBSE board exam test preparation. The company is now looking at synergistic acquisitions to diversify its portfolio in the B2B school space, says CEO Singh.

The test preparation market in India is projected to reach approximately Rs 1,03,279 crore by 2027, with a CAGR of about 23.24% from 2023 to 2027, according to

Sri Chaitanya

Infographic design credit: Nihar Apte

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Dual strategy

Since its inception in 1986, Sri Chaitanya has grown into an educational powerhouse in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, with 643 junior colleges and schools focused on test preparation for medicine (NEET) and engineering (JEE).

The traditional brick-and-mortar educational institute has over 750 branches, including 107 CBSE-affiliated Chaitanya schools. It is also increasing its presence in the north, including Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, and aims to expand to about 500 schools in the region by 2025.

“The experience of the south Indian market will help the group in faster implementation in other markets, including north India,” says Unicorn India’s Joshi.

“Our schools are excelling due to our unique integrated programme, providing students with a comprehensive approach that enhances their development, particularly in maths and science,” Bopanna notes.

Infinity Learn complements Sri Chaitanya’s offline reach, extending it beyond India’s borders. It currently serves some overseas students in the Middle East and Singapore and plans to create tailored products for these markets after 12 months.

“Infinity Learn will have a larger scope compared to Sri Chaitanya in the longer run in terms of reaching out to students, and the fee might be less compared to brick-and-mortar,” she remarks.

Effective approach

From 87 learners in 1986, SCGI has expanded to educate nearly 700,000 learners today. It boasts a workforce of about 50,000 employees. Also, Infinity Learn employs 1,500 with plans to take this number to 2,500-3,000 by the end of FY24.

The expansion has propelled the group’s topline to Rs 5,500 crore in FY23—up 20% from the previous financial year—fuelled by the growth in its school network. According to Bopanna, SCGI has set up about 100 new schools in the past 12 months.

“We managed this effectively because, post-COVID-19, many schools were seeking new management. By taking over existing schools and rebranding them, we avoided the need to build new infrastructure from scratch,” she explains.

The measured growth has borne fruit as Sri Chaitanya’s revenue surpassed that of competitors. In FY23, ALLEN logged a revenue of Rs 2,600 crore, while BYJU’S-owned Aakash Educational Service Limited anticipates a revenue of Rs 3,000 crore for the same period.

Most of the group’s revenue comes from schools and colleges. Meanwhile, Infinity Learn derives 50% of its revenue from B2C, 40% from the SIP model, and the remaining from its physical centres.

Sri Chaitanya says the Net Promoter Score (NPS) for its offline channel is “quite high.” It is a vital metric that reflects customer perception and is often correlated to revenue growth. 

However, Bopanna acknowledges that there isn’t a clear consensus on the best approach for edtech startups, and Infinity Learn is also still in the early stages. “Now the challenge is that the number is growing, and retaining and improving upon it will be difficult,” she explains.

Sri Chaitanya

Infographic design credit: Nihar Apte

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Student retention

While edtech players democratised learning during COVID-19, they have experienced a decline in demand since schools and colleges started reopening.

“The problem was in how things were dealt with, rather than the products. Any company which grows too fast will not sustain itself. It's not easy to maintain quality, and especially in education which is so personalised,” Bopanna remarks.

She also says that many Sri Chaitanya students enrolled in edtech courses from companies like BYJU’S and Unacademy during the pandemic but these subscriptions remained unused due to a lack of follow-ups, which—along with parent-teacher meetings and student counselling—are critical for student engagement and retention.

Bopanna finds customer acquisition and retention easier offline due to consistent interaction between educational institutions and parents, who tend to recommend the institution to others.

The educational group targets online engagement of over 70% and maintains offline engagement at 95%, she says.

“While many focus on acquiring learners, our primary concern is learner outcomes. In the end, if teaching and learning happen without yielding tangible results, it is not serving the larger purpose of education,” CEO Singh explains.

Path forward

Although learning strategies align in both channels, Sri Chaitanya remains committed to the traditional brick-and-mortar approach. For Infinity Learn, a hybrid transition is on the horizon—a blended approach that has also been adopted by online players such as BYJU’S, Unacademy, Vedantu, and PhysicsWallah.

“Learning practices change over time, and we are working to tailor our approach to meet these evolving requirements,” Bopanna notes.

While Sri Chaitanya has focused mainly on test preparation, it looks to cater to higher education post-2025. “It's a matter of finding the right time and focus to pursue it,” she says.

However, SCGI doesn’t want to steer away from its belief in sustainable organic growth. “We don't want to grow too fast and struggle, we would rather take it slow. Do lots of things that will create outcomes in students rather than growing numbers,” she adds.

(Cover image and infographic by Nihar Apte.)

Edited by Kanishk Singh