BYJU’S “Today we’re the most valuable edtech organisation in the world”

According to global league tables for edtech unicorns, BYJU’s is the most valuable and it was valued at $ 8 billion after the last round of funding in February when it raised $ 400 million from private equity funds.

By Sanjeev Sharma

“Today we’re the largest edtech company in India and the most valuable edtech organisation in the world”, says Mrinal Mohit, Chief Operating Officer, BYJU’S in an interview with IANS.

According to global league tables for edtech unicorns, BYJU’s is the most valuable and it was valued at $ 8 billion after the last round of funding in February when it raised $ 400 million from private equity funds.

The company is said to be in talks to raise as much as $400 million in fresh capital at a $10 billion valuation.

The BYJU’s COO said the on-going crisis has caused a paradigm shift, making online learning a vital part of mainstream learning.

Mohit said that with 50 million registered users and over 3.5 million paid users, BYJU’S has paved the way for online learning in India.

“We have seen a 3X increase in the number of students accessing our app. Now because of the lockdown, they are using the platform on a daily basis and spending an average of 100 minutes. In the month of April alone, we saw 7.5 million new students access the learning app”, he added.

There has also been a behavioural shift in the parents’ mindsets. They were apprehensive about their children learning from screens but now that they are seeing their children benefit from online learning, they have become more accepting towards it, Mohit added.

Q: The lockdown restriction due to the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a quantum jump in online learning? Is this a shift that will endure?

A: Online learning platforms have become almost a necessity in today’s scenario to ensure learning and education for kids around the world is not impacted. With students now completely depending on online learning to fulfil their daily learning needs, the on-going crisis has caused a paradigm shift, making online learning a vital part of the mainstream learning.

On the other side of the crisis, we don’t expect things to go 100 per cent online or 100 per cent offline. Instead, we expect the rise of a blended model of education that will give students the best of online and offline learning. The proliferation of smart devices coupled with them democratisation of the internet will fasten this process. Screens have become the primary mode of content consumption for the new generation. This will further boost the adoption of the new model of learning.

While students have always loved using the BYJU’S learning app, we have seen a significant behavioural shift in the parents’ mindsets. They were apprehensive about their children learning from screens but now that they are seeing their children benefit from online learning, they have become more accepting towards it.

With teachers also now understanding the advantages of online learning tools, we will see tech-enabled learning gain importance even in a classroom setting. The ‘Classrooms of Tomorrow’ will have technology at its core, empowering students to cross over from passive to active learning. The future will see us take a leap from the traditional one-to-many approach to blended one-on-one learning experiences, providing students the best of both physical and digital worlds.

Q: Schools have started online classes for students. How can this be scalable?

A: It is extremely heartening to see the education industry come together at this difficult time. More avenues have emerged to assistonline learning with several educational institutes switching fromoffline to online classes. Everyone is innovating and trying to put the student first. We certainly believe that this trend will continue and serve the industry well in the long run.

At present, the society at large — schools, teachers, parents, policy makers are turning to online learning to fight this crisis situation. However, it is more of a reactive measure. This might lead to students experiencing a suboptimal online learning experience as the only thing that is changing right now is their delivery model, i.e. going online from offline.

In reality, online learning is not just about offline education delivered online. Creating a truly personalised learning experience and utilising technology to its fullest possible extent will prove to be a big challenge for them. The biggest advantage of edtech solutions like ours is that ‘engagement’ is a part of our core design. The traditional classroom has a teacher at the center with students learning in a group through conventional methods. Online learning, when done right, flips this model and puts the student at the centre.

Q: What is your assessment of the online learning initiatives announced for the education sector in the financial stimulus package?

A: We believe that the promotion of online learning by the government will prove to be very beneficial for the education sector as a whole.

Q: What has been the strategic interventions by Byju’s during the lockdown since there was a lot of interest in unconventional studies?

A: The lockdown has brought the importance of online learning to the forefront as students are now completely dependent on online learning to fulfil their daily learning needs.

At BYJU’S, we want to provide students with viable learning opportunities, from the comfort of their homes. We have made the content on our app free for all and also introduced LIVE classes to enhance students’ engagement and bring in the missing sense of schedule to their learning.

We accelerated the launch of our LIVE classes and made it available for free in April. While it was scheduled to be launched later in the year, we realised the value of bringing this form of scheduled learning into the lives of our students during the lockdown and their overwhelming response and uptake has been highly encouraging, further validating our proactive approach.

We have seen a 3X increase in the number of students accessing our app. Earlier students used to spend 2-3 days per week on the platforms. Now because of the lockdown, they are using the platform on a daily basis and spending an average of 100 minutes. In the month of April alone, we saw 7.5 million new students access the learning app.

Q: The company has set a target to build the world’s largest education company. With India having the largest school-age population in the world, how close or distant is the target?

A: India has the largest school-going population in the world and is naturally our primary target market. Today we’re the largest edtech company in India and the most valuable edtech organisation in the world. With 50 million registered users and over 3.5 million paid users, BYJU’S has paved the way for online learning in India but we strongly believe that we still have a long way to go.

Q: What are the numbers for the company in terms of students registered?

A: Ever since our inception in 2015, we have seen students embracing BYJU’S as a preferred learning solution. Till today, we have helped over 50 million students become active and self-paced learners. Even prior to the lockdown, we have seen students from both metros and non-metros using the learning app to enhance their learning experience. In fact, 70 per cent of our students come from outside of the top 10 cities in India.

In addition to the increase in engagement, the behavioural shift amongst parents and teachers, coupled with the increased access to a smartphone and the internet will further boost our growth in the future.

(Sanjeev Sharma can be contacted at sanjeev.s@ians.in)

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