Pre-school education: Byju's using tie-up with Disney to expand its appeal

Topics BYJU’s

The ongoing campaign has Shah Rukh Khan endorsing the new association with Disney and is among the most frequently aired during the India matches in the ICC World Cup
If it was Bollywood calling with Shah Rukh Khan as brand ambassador, Byju’s is invoking Hollywood razzmatazz and Disney’s long-standing affinity with children to push its way into the largely unorganised early-school edutech segment in the country. Advertising vigorously on television during the World Cup matches, the company is playing for mass recall and credibility but say experts, this could be its biggest gamble ever. The freshly-anointed unicorn among start-ups is not only stepping into uncharted waters, it is doing so with a new partner and is also eyeing a global launch in the near future. Is the brand ready for the company’s ambitious plans?  

The eponymously labelled Byju’s (after founder-owner Bjyu Raveendran) has spent significantly on its brand over the past year. With Shah Rukh Khan as brand ambassador it has sought to create recall and a pan-Indian identity. The actor has brought mass recall for a brand that was once limited to southern states. The brand has been careful with its use of the superstar, sticking to a narrative that keeps the brand’s core promise intact said Mrinal Mohit, COO, Byju’s. The aim, he added, “has always been to make students fall in love with learning.” 

“Shah Rukh works for the brand at a macro level,” said Harish Bijoor, founder Harish Bijoor Consults. The actor has helped the learning company find an all-India appeal. The advertising and allied communication around Byju’s, over the past year, has also sought to affirm its national identity. 

Now it is time for a bigger, riskier leap. Byju’s has built its credentials in the test prep category and tech-enabled learning for middle and high school learners. The Class 1-3 category, fragmented and unorganised, is not its forte. To break into this segment, Disney is an important ally and as Bijoor says, “The Disney connect is umbilical to the target segment being addressed here.” The ongoing marketing activity, he believes, is one that neatly ties in with the larger brand purpose and is hence impactful. But Disney is a global brand with heft in the sector, which could bring its own set of negotiations to the table said an industry expert. It is a leap of faith, but an even bigger one awaits the brand as the company looks to go global.

Mohit says that the company has been prepping for its future for a while and that its app for classes 4-12 has been seeing good traction among students and parents. This has given them the confidence to step into the lower grades. Plus there is a gap here that the app could fill. In early school learning, the use of technology in the classroom in increasingly gaining traction, which is being primarily driven by informal parents’ groups and educational bodies. The ongoing campaign uses this insight to target the communication at parents and children, expecting the use of the app to grow beyond individuals and homes to large schools.

With over 300 million enrolments, India is among largest K-12 education systems in the world. Mohit says that the core focus of their learning programs has been to help children learn on their own and love what they are learning.

Under the agreement for its early school learning app, Byju’s will use a set of licensed Disney characters to engage with children. While Disney has been partnering with apparel brands and merchandise portals in the run-up to the release of their films in India, its alliance with Byju’s is unique and long term. For both, the stakes are high and the playground is an unfamiliar one. Analysts said, the strategy has been successfully applied by consumer goods companies; to expand the product range to cover the entire lifecycle of the user. But it has not been attempted in education in India so far. 

“With this, we want young learners to understand concepts through visual, engaging and interactive lessons,” said Mohit. The company has launched its product in Hindi, hoping to break into regional markets and is working on creating learning programmes in other regional languages and heading into international markets.

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