Top 13 Indian Ed-tech start-ups that are aiming to revamp our education system

Edtech Startups in India - Featured Image

In late 2017, when I first heard of Byju’s on a television advertisement I distinctly remember feeling this pang of jealousy for the school-going generation back then for whom education was being made fun. As at that time, education was anything but “Fun”

Fast forward to today and there are a slew of ed-tech start-ups operating in the Indian education space pandering to the Indian parents’ FOMO! Whereas back in 2011, if education and technology were used together it definitely meant the curriculum under your “IT subject” and nothing more.

Anyway, enough of me cribbing over what I lost, and let’s look at some of the established and the-soon-to-be-established home-grown ed-tech start-ups (founded any time after 2010 and the funding details got from Crunchbase as of Jan 2021) in India who are slowly ushering a much-required paradigm shift into our education system.

As an ode to the most formidable ed-tech start-up, which I might also add paved a few for several others, let us start with Byjus:

  1.   Byju’s

  •         Legal Entity: Think and Learn Private Limited
  •         Founder: Byju Raveendran
  •         Year founded: 2011
  •         Headquarters: Bangalore
  •         Funding till date: USD 1.5 Bn

Byjus homepage sreenshot

 

Byju’s Learning App was registered as Think and Learn Pvt. Ltd. in 2011 but however the groundwork began much before that. Since 2007, Byju Raveendran engaged students preparing for the formidable CAT exams across major metro cities in India and for places he could not travel to, he made videos of his lectures and used V-SAT to beam it to them.

Then in 2011, he capitalised on his already swelling brand value as “Byju’s classes” and forayed into creating content for school children. After amassing creatively enhanced content for them to invite students to “Fall in Love with learning”, in 2015, the ed-tech firm launched its application, Bjyu’s Learning App.

From then on, there was no stopping to the funding this ed-tech received which merely mirrored the investors’ judgement of the potential held by this entity. Today Byju’s is India’s largest ed-tech company with the country’ most popular K-12 learning app operating on a freemium model which bodes very well with the Indian mentality of trial and purchasing.

The first ed-tech start-up of the country to achieve the coveted unicorn status in 2018.

During COVID-19, true to their tagline of encouraging students to fall in love with learning, the company announced free access in March 2020 which added 6 million students to its platform in March 2020 alone.

  1.   Unacademy

  •         Legal Entity: Sorting Hat Technologies Pvt Ltd
  •         Founders: Gaurav Munjal, Hemesh Singh, and Roman Saini
  •         Year founded: 2015
  •         Headquarters: Bangalore
  •         Funding till date: USD 198.5 Mn

unacademy homepage sreenshot 

As on 29th August 2020, Unacademy became the official partner for the IPL for the next three seasons. Speaking in terms of branding, ed-tech partnering with a popular sport does not come as a surprise as Byju’s is the official partner for the Indian Cricket team.

So, now that I have your attention, lets know more about Unacademy which acts as a bridge to connect experts / teachers with students across India. Their focus is also to build an online knowledge repository for multilingual education.

In 2015, Unacademy was started by the Gaurav Munjal, Roman Saini and Hemesh Singh as a YouTube channel and then gradually shaped into an online knowledge platform with an aim of experts creating educational videos and offering live interactive classes to students, and students having access to all possible formats of competitive exams.

Fast forward to 2020, the firm seems to have achieved its aim with more than 13 million learners on its platform, partnered with 10,000 intelligent educators. They have maintained a subscriber base of 50,000 for its Unacademy Plus Subscription and providing educational support for exams including competitive ones such as UPSC, IIT-JEE, and CAT.

During this pandemic, Unacademy facilitated 20,000 free live classes for all its existing and new users with an aim to empower India’s youth.

  1.   UpGrad

  •         Legal Entity: upGrad Education Private Limited
  •         Founders: Ronnie Screwvala, Mayank Kumar, and Phalgun Kompalli
  •         Year founded: 2015
  •         Headquarters: Mumbai
  •         Funding till date: USD 500 Mn

upGrad Homepage screenshot

Upgrad would be known to most of us thanks to their brand ambassador, Vicky Kaushal.

Unlike the few ed-tech start-ups back then in 2015 who focused on delivering school education digitally, UpGrad noticed a vacuum towards online higher education. Hence, UpGrad focused solely on upskilling the industry professionals who had the thirst to be “stay relevant” at their workspace.

UpGrad delivered this by providing relevant programs around data, technology, and management in collaboration with national and international faculty and institutes true to its vision of “‘Building Careers of Tomorrow”

Catering to the young graduates seeking employment with programs guaranteeing jobs and providing employed professionals the luxury of continuous knowledge “upgradation”, UpGrad currently provides more than 35 courses across data science, law, digital marketing, blockchain and management.

A year back, UpGrad entered a partnership with two IT giants; Infosys and Wipro which cemented its position in the enterprise business arena where UpGrad receives payment from companies wanting to train their employee base. Whereas for individuals, only 50% of the payment is to be paid by the individual whereas the rest of it is paid after placement / job procurement. This unique pricing method bodes well with the Indian psyche of guaranteed returns.

  1.   Toppr

  •         Legal Entity: Toppr Technologies Private Limited
  •         Founders: Hemanth Goteti, Zishaan Hayath
  •         Year founded: 2013
  •         Headquarters: Mumbai
  •         Funding till date: USD 112.1 Mn

 Tuitions is a word synonymous to Indian education system since the early 80’s and this is what Toppr capitalised on; the after-school learning app for students between standard 5th to 12th. Toppr currently also provides courses for students keen on preparing for various Olympiads, and competitive exams such as IIT-JEE and NEET.

How did Toppr start? For Zeeshan Hayath, tech start-ups were not new. In 2008 he had created “Chaupathi Bazaar”, a phone-commerce platform which got acquired by Future Bazaar in 2010. Amidst all this, Zeeshan realised how collectively huge amounts of money was being spent by Indian parents towards providing additional coaching / tuition for their children. Zeeshan wanted to give children the freedom of choice; be it study time or solving doubts as he was aware of the psyche of the children not to ask doubts openly out of fear towards their peers. Zeeshan along with Hemanth created a live app, Toppr Doubts which clarifies doubts of students at any odd time.

Toppr’s tagline is “Better Learning for Every Child” which reflects the customisation that this entity wishes to deliver to students which is also made possible with help of Artificial intelligence and machine learning. This has all helped Toppr to target more than 14 million students across India.

  1.   Leverage Edu

  •         Legal Entity: Leverage EdTech Private Limited
  •         Founder: Akshay Chaturvedi
  •         Year founded: 2017
  •         Headquarters: New Delhi
  •         Funding till date: USD 3.3 Mn

 

Foreign education consultants signages at crucial junctions in metro and tier I cities was and is a common sight. However, one entity joined this business in 2017 but added a twist – introduced Artificial Intelligence to help make decisions.

Leverage Edu leverages AI to help students with the right guidance along with providing guidance for college admissions for higher education to both professionals and high schoolers. Leverage Edu seems to have partnered with more than 1,200 mentors from Ivy League universities such as Stanford, Oxford, MIT, Yale, and Harvard. The guidance is driven by these mentors and global universities and it does not just end there, Leverage Edu believes in providing end-to-end solutions, hence they also assist students with educations loans, forex requirements and even assist them with accommodation!

The counselling at the initial stages is free for the students however students interested in a particular university are charged according to the pricing for the mentors. With minimum expenses incurred towards marketing, the firm is dependent on word of mouth advertising and collectively all of this has helped Leverage Edu cross its break-even mark in early 2019 itself.

 

  1.   NoPaperForms

  •         Legal Entity: NoPaperForms Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
  •         Founders: Naveen Goyal
  •         Year founded: 2017
  •         Headquarters: New Delhi
  •         Funding till date: USD 4.9 Mn

 

The name of the business clearly gives away the sole business purpose of this 2017 formed entity and leaves no room for ambiguity. NoPaperForms offers an advanced SaaS-based Enrolment Automation Platform to several academic institutions in the country.

 Though it would be unfair to state that all institutions are not tech-savvy, there are few institutions in India who have been using ERP solutions but NoPaperForms stands apart from these as it covers all stages of the admission on a single platform.

This entity does away with the need for parents and students to stand in long queues and run between windows. This is the benefit NoPaperForms offers to the students but for the educational institutes, the benefits are galore, provides a comprehensive enrolment automation software, which even initiates the necessary marketing for lead generation followed by the actual management of admissions, and the necessary call centre management as well. NoPaperForms also helps fee collection via an online payment gateway. The value-add does not just stop there, for they also interpret the data and provide updates on the ROI to the institutes.

  1.   Quizizz

  •         Legal Entity: Quizizz Inc.
  •         Founders: Ankit Gupta, Deepak Joy Cheenath
  •         Year founded: 2015
  •         Headquarters: Bangalore
  •         Funding till date: USD 3 Mn

 When anything educational takes on a format of a Quiz, it is bound to get fun and enjoyable. This is exactly what Bangalore based Quizizz does. They convert homework and tests into quizzes, for teachers who then administer these quizzes to their students. The quizzes offer a gaming effect which only makes these quizzes more enjoyable to the students.

With a motto to motivate everyone to learn, the application also provides instant feedback for the student to learn from the quizzes.

Currently this start-up has teams operating in the US as well and have seen a better adoption rate than India with more than 50% of US schools using Quizizz and why is that you and me both are not surprised with this!

  1.   Cuemath

  •         Legal Entity: Cuelearn Pvt. Ltd.
  •         Founder: Manan Khurma
  •         Year founded: 2011
  •         Headquarters: Bangalore
  •         Funding till date: USD 24.5 Mn

Mathemaphobia is what most of us faced growing-up! Basically, the fear of Maths had hit most of us, barring a few geniuses who would get that most coveted 100/100! Rightfully speaking, no one can run away from Math, you think the relationship ends with school, but it does not. Math skills are essential for solving any form of problem in the real life.

Cuemath was formed to allay these fears, as an after-school math excellence program which taught math in the right manner to children right from formative stages of Kindergarten to Class 10.

If the benefit to the students was not enough, Cuemath gave opportunities to educated women and homemakers who could work again, albeit from the comforts of their home. These Cuemath Teacher Partners are hand-picked and further trained on proprietary learning systems and later then certified by Cuemath.

Going back to the student benefits, Cuemath does not solely focus on maths, it also includes mental aptitude, and creative reasoning. This pedagogy is further customised for each child which only reflects in better learning outcomes among these children.

  1.   IndigoLearn

  •         Legal Entity: IndigoLearn Edu Tech Pvt Ltd.
  •         Founders: Sriram Somayajula, Suraj Lakhotia
  •         Year founded: 2017
  •         Headquarters: Hyderabad
  •         Funding till date: USD 285 K

 “India’s best CA prep destination” is what immediately catches your attention when you land on the webpage of this entity. I am sure each one of us would know someone or the other in our circle who has sacrificed their prime years towards cracking the formidable CA exams in India.

 IndigoLearn observed and interacted with several of these aspirants to develop a different pedagogy which includes gamification, real-life and practical implementations.

Currently, IndigoLearn’s offers all courses under purview for CA Foundation, which is the first hurdle of the chartered accountancy examinations. The other courses for other stages are available but completeness is yet to be achieved for CA intermediate and CA final.

The offering however may seem niche, digitally but this entity is likely to face stiff competition from offline classes who have decades of expertise in this arena.

  1.   Thinkerbell Labs

  •         Legal Entity: Thinkerbell Labs Private Limited
  •         Founders: Aman Srivastava, Dilip Ramesh, Saif Shaikh, Sanskriti Dawle
  •         Year founded: 2016
  •         Headquarters: Bangalore
  •         Funding till date: USD 47 Mn

 Among all the ed-tech start-ups covered in this article, this one is special as this entity caters to the need for learning solutions for the blind.

 Annie, the world’s first self-learning braille literacy device is a product of Thinkerbell Labs. No guesses here for why this device was named as Annie (Annie Sullivan was the teacher for Helen Keller)

 Annie is powered by a programming language developed by the founders during their college days. This unique offering got the attention of the Royal family in UK and Anand Mahindra. The latter has further invested in this start-up. The NITI Aayog has recommended the usage of Annie across all government schools.

 It offers 16 smart classes for students to learn without supervision. The device is connected to the teacher to monitor the progress. Annie can teach in English, and 7 regional languages. Currently, the entity is waiting for the lockdown to normalize and put together more classes.

 

  1.   Adda247

  •         Legal Entity: Metis Eduventures Private Limited
  •         Founder: Anil Nagar, Saurabh Bansal
  •         Year founded: 2016
  •         Headquarters: Gurgaon
  •         Funding till date: USD 6 Mn

Adda247 started its journey in 2010 by providing learning solutions for bank exams as Bank Power and later changed to Career Power to include other exams as well. Since then has garnered more than 40 million online users spread across all major cities across the country. Interestingly buoyed by this response, the ed-tech start-up generating an average revenue of INR 50 crores each year has set its eyes on an IPO in the next 5 years.

But what exactly does Adda247 provide that has made their achievements so quantifiable?

Adda247 provides comprehensive online learning platform for lakhs of young Indians aspiring for a government job in India. The provide learning solutions for various bank exams (such as SBI, RBI), Staff Selection Commission Exams (SSC), Railways, Teaching exams & Defence Exams. The learning is imparted via digitally via live classes, video courses and ample number of mock tests and e-books.

It all boils down to vision, if not how would you explain how this platform which had a humble start via a YouTube channel would chalk its IPO launch plan after a few years of operation.

  1.   Embibe

  •         Legal Entity: Indiavidual Learning Private Limited
  •         Founder: Aditi Avasthi & Nishant Menon
  •         Year founded: 2012
  •         Headquarters: Mumbai
  •         Funding till date: USD 196.7 Mn

In April 2020, Reliance Industries invested INR 500 crores into this start-up. Why did Reliance do so?

Embibe is not just another Edtech company out there, as it uses a mix of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to offer personalised learning solutions to students by identifying each student’s weaknesses based on certain performance metrices such as speed, accuracy, and time management being a few, for competitive exams such as JEE Main, JEE Advanced, BITSAT and CET/AIPMT.

Putting into action smartwork, Embibe trains students on exam strategy while the rest of the exam prep institutes hoard questions to be prepare a question bank!

Embibe has a student reach of 19 million across the country. The sheer presence of this platform across the country is attributed to the optimisation to work on low bandwidth internet and low-cost devices as well. And also, the most important factor is that all content on Embibe and its features are free for students.

So now you won’t be surprised why Reliance Industries invested INR 500 crores, I assume!

  1.   Vedantu

  •         Legal Entity: Vedantu Innovations Private Limited
  •         Founder: Anand Prakash, Pulkit Jain, Saurabh Saxena, Vamsi Krishna
  •         Year founded: 2011
  •         Headquarters: Bangalore
  •         Funding till date: USD 190.9 Mn

 Vedantu is one of the veterans in the e-learning space which provides real-time personalized learning via an online platform. The online platform connects the tutor with students for a real-time and one-to-one online teaching. Vedantu was not the first venture for the three founders, Anand, Pulkit, Saurabh and Vamsi. In 2006, these four had formed Lakshya, an offline mentoring and test-prep entity which was acquired by Mahesh Tutorials. However, by then these founders had understood the need for going online and Vedantu was born.

Vedantu, currently, provides live online classes to students between Classes 6 and 12th Standard. They also have course materials for students preparing competitive exams for engineering and medical entrance examinations.

Vedantu today claims to have a teacher base of 500+ who collectively have taught more than 40,000 students across 1,000 cities in 30 countries.

 

 

Shivaharsh Murugan
Shivaharsh Murugan

A company secretary and lawyer-turned SEO geek and also someone who thinks he is deeply passionate about startups.

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