This is a continuation of our piece on Byju’s which appeared last week. If you haven’t read it already, you must.
In the last piece, you understood how Byju’s has been chasing ‘everything exponential’. Both in terms of raising capital and changing almost every year, as to what the company does. A critical shift happened two years ago, in August 2015. Byju’s moved all of its courses, preparatory material for competitive exams, K12 courses like the 11 and 12 grade; everything to the Byju’s Learning App. Everything online. So the content sits on the cloud—a user can purchase the course, watch the videos, learn and score better.
Except, there’s one bit in this whole plethora of changes, which has remained constant, over the years. Let’s call it the SD card play. After our Part I on Byju’s, the company’s founder Byju Raveendran reached out saying that some of the points made in the story were not lining up with his original claims around user engagement due to an offline aspect of their delivery model—an SD card contains the courses. According to Byju, it is offline but its engagement metrics are worth pointing out. In fact, the 40 minutes per day, per user claim is based on the SD card usage. (According to App Annie, arguably the most-cited app analytics service, that figure was close to 11 minutes a month)
So, let’s understand how this works. Every user who buys a course on Byju’s gets an SD card, shipped to his address. This card comes pre-loaded with the course. So that students can watch the videos without internet. Data in India has hitherto been both expensive and patchy. Hence, this fix. The manual instructs the user to insert this card in the phone or tablet and sideload an application called Byju’s Premium. The size of the Byju’s premium .apk file varies—from 12-20 GB or more. For instance, if you’ve bought the 11 and 12-grade courses, there are multiple SD cards. One for mathematics. Another for physics. One more for chemistry. Does it sound cumbersome and complicated? Well, it is. That and more.
Like, what if your phone doesn’t support an SD card or even if it does; you are already using another card, which has music or movies on it? What do you do then? Enter sales. At the point of sale, if a parent brings up these issues, the Byju’s salesperson offers to buy a tablet. For just Rs 4,000 more, your child can enjoy the videos, which look way, way cooler on a large screen. No hassle. Another question. Why should a user sideload an app that’s not on the Google Play Store? This isn’t safe, from a security point of view. Byju’s says its app is absolutely safe. One more. What about iOS devices? Apple doesn’t allow a user to sideload an app. Complicated. You have no choice but to use the online app, which is the Byju’s Learning App.