Byju's hopes to replicate successful India model in US, UK, and Australia

BYJU's founder and Chief Executive Officer Byju Raveendran
After disrupting the market for online education in India, Byju’s is getting ready to set foot in select global markets. The education technology firm is keen on rolling out operations in English-speaking markets and some Commonwealth countries. Byju’s is actively looking at opportunities in the United States (US), the United Kingdom and Australia. The company is looking at acquisitions as a model of growth and is hoping to beef up its offering with original video content that will resonate with its target audience.

 

Currently valued at $3.6 billion, Byju’s started the year by acquiring US-based Osmo for $120 million. The acquisition gives it a foothold among a new demographic — kids in the three-eight age group. Supporting the concept of play-based learning for children, Osmo produces augmented reality games for mobile devices. Mrinal Mohit, chief operating officer, Byju’s, says, “We are building a product for the international markets. At present, our focus is getting the K-3 (lower grades first, then second and third grades) product ready for launch in the next few months.”

 

Stepping out of its comfort zone, Byju’s will have to compete with a lot of non-for-profit organisations and established universities. With popular names such as Khan Academy, there is no dearth of competition in the field of technology-led education. What this also means is that the education market overseas is lucrative. “Byju’s should be able to charge better pricing in international markets. Tuition fees are high in developed markets. With its promise of making education affordable, the company should be able to achieve better unit realisation through subscriptions in select markets,” says Rakhi Thakur, associate professor, SPJIMR.

 

The going won’t be easy for Byju’s nonetheless. Building local teams and fighting local competition is easier said than done.

 

The education market is currently valued at $5 trillion globally. According to some estimates, education technology investment alone will reach $252 billion by the year 2020. With digital content being the par for the course, technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual reality and internet of things are commonly employed by edutech companies worldwide to design curriculum and make things interactive  for students. Some of the fastest growing companies in the field — such as School OS which is regarded as one of the best education startups in the world, and Gro Play — have designed products that claim to offer a unique learning experience to the students.

 

Experts in the industry are optimistic that the home-grown edu-tech firm is in a strong position to succeed in the overseas markets as well. To begin with, the company has done well to pick up English-speaking countries as its first overseas stop. Thakur says, “Byju’s choice of English-speaking countries for its international debut will give it a relatively easy entry into these markets. Countries such as the US, the UK and Australia are global education hubs. Classroom experience in some of these countries is becoming expensive by the day. There will be many takers for quality education that is affordable.”

 

For the record, Byju’s closed a $540 million Series F funding round led by Naspers in September 2018. So it has the required resources to expand operations.

 

It is learnt that Byju’s is busy setting up its own office in the US and that country would possibly be its first overseas stop. Byju’s is planning to work with popular global YouTube teachers who are experts in their own domains. In India, Byju’s has been highly successful in leveraging technology to provide quality, yet affordable education to a large section of students. It is hoping to replicate the same model in international markets as well. With smartphone adoption and technology becoming ubiquitous the world over, the focus will be on integrating technology into its products in a way that it makes learning more enjoyable for students. 

 

The company is confident that as long as it succeeds in addressing the needs of local students, and make learning seamless and affordable, retention will happen on its own. “We are trying to address the need for access to quality education. And this need remains the same irrespective of geography. While the education standards and schooling could differ across the world, they are all designed to prepare the students for examinations only,” explains Mohit. 

 

Like in India, in markets abroad, Byju’s will work with the philosophy that standardised tests are not a mark of a child’s learning potential. The goal is to make children active learners — to focus on conceptual learning over rote-learning. In a nutshell, Byju’s is of the view that its challenge from the beginning, irrespective of geography, has been changing the perception about how children should learn.

 

The company’s success in its own backyard has been staggering. The company boasts of 30 million registered students and two million annual paid subscribers in India already. Byju’s reported revenues of ~490 crore for the financial year 2017-18, a 97 per cent jump over the corresponding period last year. It is looking to clock revenues to the tune of ~1,400 crore this financial year. It is not only creating content in English and Hindi but putting together learning programmes in vernacular languages as well.


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