Byju Raveendran positions a worksheet in front of a propped-up tablet. Perched on top of the gadget is a small, red plastic “reader” resembling a camera. Almost immediately, the reader captures the image of the worksheet and replicates it on the tab’s screen. Every tick mark or cross made on paper is recorded digitally and the correct answers revealed in a friendly, cartoonish voice.

This is Osmo at work, a physical-to-digital educational games platform, and the newest member of edtech giant Byju’s carousel of “fun-learning” tools. Byju’s recently acquired this Palo Alto-based edtech startup for a cool $120 million to target primary school students who learn better from physical textbooks and worksheets. With this acquisition, claims founder Byju Raveendran, Byju’s can enhance the students’ offline learning experience by connecting their content to Osmo’s repository of offline-to-online games. Osmo’s reader, currently priced at $100, will soon be part of Byju’s subscription pack—a tablet and SD card loaded with video lessons—already Rs 25,000 ($360) a pop. This hasn’t deterred over 2 million subscribers from signing up.

Byju’s, Raveendran’s eponymously named maiden venture, is the newest member of India’s unicorn club—joining the likes of OYO, Ola and Paytm*—and is valued at $3.6 billion as of 2018. According to data sourced from Tofler, Byju’s posted revenues of Rs 490 crore ($71 million) for the year ended March 2018 (and has projected a 270% jump in the current financial year to Rs 1400 crore ($202 million)). Byju’s also posted a net loss of Rs 28.7 crore ($4.1 million) for the same financial year.

Launched initially as a network of coaching centres in 2011, Byju’s has, in less than a decade, become the hottest real estate in the $1.96-billion Indian edtech market. Since the launch of its app in 2015, Byju’s has received both international investment and national recognition: the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative’s first Asian investment, Harvard’s written a case study about the company, and more locally, an endorsement by Shah Rukh Khan, which has unlocked access to a whole new buying demographic.

With its multi-product play—learning app, coaching centres, and now, Osmo—Byju’s is gearing up for a global launch in late 2019.

Amidst such hype, it seems like there’s nothing that can burst its VC-funded bubble.

Except real and long-term value.

“Byju’s videos are superior to Toppr’s (a rival edtech company) in terms of their content and explanations. But can students really learn from just watching a video?” asks an ex-Byju’s salesperson, who spoke to The Ken on condition of anonymity. Having sold over 200 of these subscriptions, he’s not convinced.

A damning question that’s loosened a flood of criticism online.

AUTHOR

Olina Banerji

Based in Delhi, Olina writes about mega-trends in urban mobility, education, skilling and the environment, with a focus on how institutions and innovations can help cities grow sustainably. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and has worked previously with India Today and global non-profit Ashoka.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?

MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500

Subscribe
MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20

Subscribe

Questions?

What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.