While some investors have turned wary amid growing concerns over the sustainability of India's once-fancied start-ups, Byju's has managed to steer ahead. How?
Hungry to learn
Sunil Kalra, who has invested in 50-plus start-ups in India, tells CNBC, "Education is the primary area investors are looking at now. There is a huge hunger and desperate shortage of quality services in this space and Byju's has emerged as a credible player."
The online education market in India is estimated to grow to $40 billion in 2017 from $20 billion in 2015, with the country's kindergarden to high school segment the largest in the world with an estimated 260 million enrolments. While others have balked at the challenges in India's clunky education sector that is riddled with lack of access to good teachers, a one-size-fits all approach and an overpowering focus on exams, Byju's sees opportunities.
In little over a year since its launch, the app has attracted 250,000 annual paid users , according to the company.
The app at present helps students from grades 4 to 12 to learn science and math, and also offers test preparations for engineering and management courses.
Byju's app costs on average Rs10,000 ($150) for an academic year, an expensive sum for many middle-class Indian families, but in an environment where after-school coaching and test-prep classes are mushrooming with few credible options, Byju's has managed to clear the pack. The company claims to be profitable and said revenues in the first five months of the current financial year ending March 31, 2017 had already crossed total revenues earned all of last year.
Mantra for success
Amid the cacophony of schools, teachers and tuition centres promising to make toppers out of your children, Byju's mantra for success is to make the students fall in love with the subject. Learning on the app is through a mix of videos, informal conversations and relating topics to popular sports such as cricket or online games like Angry Birds, for example.
"A one hour chapter is like a one hour movie," says Byju, 36, who says he himself learnt more outside the classroom than inside it. "I am not trying to change the [education] system, it's easier to change the learning habits of an 11-year-old."
An engineer, who started teaching friends as a hobby during his time off from work, Byju realized he was really good when attendance at free workshops for students preparing for the CAT exam, which one needs to take to get into the elite Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), started doubling every week. He also took the exam twice to test his own teaching methods and topped it on both occasions, but never got tempted to join the IIMs.