A teacher’s son have a passion of sports. But history repeat itself, now that boy has their own institute. That one called as BYJU Classes, it’s a IIT-PMT-JEE and other foundation course institute. His classrooms grew from a single room, to a hall, and then an auditorium and at one point even a stadium!
Founded in 2008 “Think & Learn” is the company behind the brand “BYJUS Classes”, “Think Tab” and “BYJUS – The Learning App”. We provide e-learning solutions for the K-12 segment and various competitive examinations like GMAT, CAT, GRE, etc.
Raveendran is the founder of Byju’s Classes, the Education Technology firm whose tagline is “Fall in love with learning”. The test preparation business he founded in 2007, helping CAT aspirants crack the exam by understanding the concepts behind the questions, is now a giant in the Indian education technology space, teaching predominantly maths and science concepts to kids from classes 6-12 along with test preparation for several entrance exams.
He tells that his childhood in a small village called Azhikode in Kerala’s Kannur District, studying at a Malayalam-medium school where both his parents were teachers. Though they wanted him to do well at school, his parents encouraged him to play sports, and he proudly tells that he has played six different sports, including football, cricket and badminton, at the university level.
After school, Raveendran became an engineer and got an IT job that involved spending many months at a time abroad. During a vacation in Bangalore in 2003, he helped a few friends study for the CAT exam, the common entrance exam for the Indian Institutes of Management as well as other Indian business schools. His friends did well, He returned to his job after this, but came back to India two years later, and helped some more people with the CAT. When he got a lot of positive feedback and heard of the good results of the people he had coached, like his parents, he was a teacher. He quit his IT job.
He helped people to understand the problem underpinning a question and break it down into something easy to answer. He says, “you learn the best when you start asking questions, not to teachers, not to parents, but to yourself.”
Pravin Prakash was one of the students at these early CAT sessions in 2007. He describes himself as having been “addicted to CAT” at that time, he wrote the exam five times. It was only during his fifth year preparing for the exam, however, that he heard about “a maths teacher who could do wonders” and decided to travel to Bangalore to try his classes out, just a week before the exam. For Prakash, it was Raveendran’s classes that made the difference between an average performance and getting the calls from the Indian Institutes of Management, but when he called Raveendran to thank him for his help, he was surprised to receive a job offer. Surprising even himself, Prakash took the job instead of going for an MBA, and has worked with Raveendran ever since.
With the business taking off in multiple cities, Raveendran was travelling to nine cities a week. He kicked off revision classes that were pre-recorded and screened using screen-sharing and video conferencing for business. As demand for coaching grew and technology improved, they began to record more classes for more locations. Eventually, they switched over entirely to recorded classes, with a “mentor” present to answer doubts after the video. This is how they operate today for many of their test preparation batches.
With 60 centres Byju’s class isn’t cheap with students shelling out anywhere between Rs 6000-50,000 a year. Having already grossed revenues of Rs 14 crore “Think & Learn” received its first round of funding came in 2013 when Mohandas Pai and Ranjan Pai decided to invest Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million) in Byju’s Classes, from the Manipal Group. What made the Chairman of Manipal Global Education Services and the Former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai bet on Byju was that he had a great business for India and his idea was truly transformational.
Pai heard of him first, when in Manipal we found a rush of young people going to a class. When he enquired as to why they are doing that he found that there was a person by the name of Byju Raveendran who is taking classes for them to enable them to pass their classes in IAM. Students were very happy with him and the success rate was extraordinarily high. “We found that he was a wonderful entrepreneur who has hit upon a successful idea and who has made sure that the idea actually worked. He has tested it out, he has led from the front, done many things himself, he has opened to change, he has changed the way of doing things based upon responses” said Pai.
They were already delivering coaching for many different entrance tests through tablets that would be sent to students preloaded with course material, But in 2015, as phones themselves grew in screen size, they launched their mobile app, which is available for free for the first 15 days and then requires students to pay for continued and more advanced material.
The latest and the most publicised investment was the $50 million invested by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. I do not know how we came on to their radar. I assume it must be through some reference.Two things got them excited in our company: The first was how we use technology to personalise learning and the second was the impact our app has had on students not just in cities, but also in small towns.
It is clear that his image is important to him, but then again, his entire business has been built around his personality and process as a teacher. It doesn’t seem far fetched to suggest that he has different modes: Teacher Byju, Meeting With Potential Investors Byju, Inspiring Boss Byju, Football With Buddies Byju, Media Byju all of which he probably employs at different points in the course of his busy days.
Today, BYJU’s has over 6.5 million downloads, 3 lakh annual paid subscriptions and sees addition of 30,000 students every month. With an average time of 40 minutes being spent by a student on the app every day, the BYJU’s app is making learning enjoyable and effective. Renewal rates are as high as 90%. Launched in 2015, BYJU’s has become the most loved and preferred education app for students across age groups.
There are an estimated 227 million students in India, and education is traditionally a priority for Indians, so it is no wonder that the Indian Ed Tech market. The idea appealed to many investors and in 2016 alone, and is estimated to be worth $40 million by 2017. Byju’s recently raised $75 million in funding from venture capitalists Sequoia Capital and Sofina, the largest funding round in the history of Ed Tech in India.