We Are Only Looking At An IPO In The Next 15-18 Months
Business Today|September 19, 2021
In just a decade, Byju Raveendran, Co-founder of Byju’s, has turned a fledgling math tutorial outfit into the world’s largest ed-tech venture and India’s biggest unicorn, valued at $16.5 billion.
Udayan Mukherjee

Not the one to rest on his laurels, this sport fanatic upped his game during the pandemic, raising and spending billions of dollars in a flurry of acquisitions that has put Byju’s on track to become a highly profitable, $5-billion revenue company by 2023-2024. This could make it one of India’s five most valuable companies, and him one of the country’s richest business founders. Raveendran talks to BT’s Global Business Editor Udayan Mukherjee about Byju’s explosive growth, the future of ed-tech, and more. Edited excerpts:

UM: You started Byju’s barely a decade ago, and it is already valued more than some of India’s oldest and biggest companies such as IndianOil or Bajaj Auto. Did you ever imagine that Byju’s would become so big in such a short span of time?

BR: To be honest, I didn’t start Byju’s as a business. I was only following my passion. Slowly, it moved from a class of 30 students to auditoriums, then stadiums and, finally, to millions of smartphones. I am still in pursuit of how to make it better and bigger.

UM: From a tutorial teacher to grappling with deals running into hundreds of millions of dollars…do these valuations strike you as a bit of a bubble?

BR: I think it is very early days for our sector and what technology can do for it. This is one of the last sectors technology is going to disrupt. It took a pandemic for a lot of people to realise the benefits of online education. There are many things which can be done better online, though there are areas where offline is better.

You may become the most valuable ed-tech company in the world, but unless you match that with value creation, the valuation will remain just a number. We have been student-centric from the start and if you ask me our motto in one sentence — it’s making every student on our platform an active learner. We need students who want to learn. In a country used to spoon-feeding and learning driven by fear of exams and not love of learning, we have been able to create this small but fast-growing category of active students. Twenty-first-century illiterates are not people who can’t read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. So, you can say we are the largest in the world, but it’s a relative success. There is a long way to go before I can call it a true success story.

UM: But education is a sector that requires physical presence — the classroom, the student-teacher equation. Can online replace the experience and benefits of classroom learning? It may have worked in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic, but once that fades, will the role of online education start to diminish?

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