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The techie-teacher who pulled off a $100 mn funding deal over a Zoom call

Topics Online education | EdTech | Zoom

As chief executive and co-founder, Vamsi Krishna’s role is to manage the overall operations of fast-growing edtech firm Vedantu, which enables students to learn online by providing live tutoring with some of the best-curated teachers. But Krishna may not have imagined that one day he would also have to woo investors online to raise the capital. 

Sometime last month, when the whole country was under lockdown and restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Krishna negotiated with investors on video conferencing platform Zoom to raise funding. He was successful in closing a $100 million funding deal led by top-notch US-based investment firm Coatue, with participation from existing investors. With this round, the Bengaluru-based firm’s valuation jumped to $600 million, making it the second most-valued company in the Indian edtech space.

“When I look back, it looks strange,” says Krishna. “But we at Vedantu fundamentally believed that something as big as (learning) can completely happen online. Now the whole world is realising that. All the big meetings and recruitments are happening (online).”

Indeed, Vedantu was the first to start with live interactive teaching in the country when it started in 2014. The firm has received fresh funding at an opportune time. The country’s $180-billion education sector has gone online to adapt to the new reality, leading to opportunities for edtech firms. Vedantu recorded a growth of 220 per cent during lockdown, with more than two million students attending live classes and teachers delivering over eight million hours of classes. With this definitive shift in consumer behaviour from offline to online, Vedantu is investing to scale impact, get into new categories, and establish itself as the leading brand in the online live tutoring space.

During the pandemic, Vedantu also entered the early-learner segment with the launch of Vedantu SuperKids, its coding programme for 6-12-year-olds. The company plans to launch more programmes in this category. It is targeting 10x growth this year.

“Before the pandemic, we were growing three times year-on-year,” says Krishna. “Now we are (witnessing) the same growth in four months' time frame.”

An alumnus of IIT-Bombay, Krishna has been a teacher for over 10 years and has now emerged as a seasoned edtech expert. In the early stage of his career, Krishna, along with his IITian friends Pulkit Jain and Anand Prakash, had founded his first educational venture called Lakshya, an offline test preparation organisation, in 2006. Lakshya was subsequently acquired by MTEducare in 2012. After the acquisition, they founded Vedantu, which has emerged as India’s leading interactive online edtech player.

“Lakshya was great in terms of learning outcome, but scale was an issue,” says Krishna. “Getting teachers into remote Tier-3 and Tier-4 locations and making them stay there was a big issue.”

Krishna implemented these learnings at Vedantu, which is betting big on the K-12 online live-tutoring space. It offers live interactive classes to students across grades K1-12, for all major boards and top competitive exams like JEE and NEET.

The name Vedantu is formed by two Sanskrit words signifying a 'knowledge network', where a student can tap into and learn from a teacher, anytime and from anywhere. It offers individual and group classes delivered by experienced ‘Master Teachers’ in a live real-time, virtual learning through their patented platform. The indigenous platform built for online learning captures over 70 parameters. It helps drive high engagement and interaction in a virtual class, and give students their personalized learning reports to help them understand the knowledge gaps.

“We designed the entire classroom experience where the teacher is at the centre and that gave us massive impact and outcome,” says Krishna. 

Over one million students study live every month on the Vedantu platform. Also, more than 25 million users every month from over 1,000 cities and 40 countries access free content, tests, doubts, videos on Vedantu's platform and its channels on YouTube.

However, Krishna says that Vedantu has a culture of not celebrating funding or valuation milestones. He says the firm measures its success by focusing on the impact it is creating on the students.

“My aspiration is that we want to create the world's largest impact company out of education,” says Krishna. “I think fundings and valuations would follow, I don’t really worry about them.”
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