There is an urban legend that circulates within the corridors of Byju’s, India’s largest edtech company. Every employee has heard it. What’s more, given the decidedly hierarchical and centralised organisational structure, every employee believes it to be true. 

Rumour has it that before Byju Raveendran, the eponymous founder, acquires a company, he puts it through a litmus test. If Byju’s son likes the product, the legend goes, he buys the company. That’s how WhiteHat Jr, India’s fastest growing coding startup, was scooped up scooped up The Ken Decoding Byju’s $300-million acquisition of WhiteHat Jr Read more by Byju’s for a cool US$300 million in June 2020. WhiteHat Jr was barely 18 months old at the time.

Beyond rumours, of course, are cold, hard numbers that WhiteHat Jr projected like beacons before the buyout. Between June and July, WhiteHat Jr claimed claimed Exchange4media In the first month of acquisition, WhiteHat Jr's revenue run rate was $220M: Karan Bajaj Read more its revenue run rate run rate Run rate The run rate refers to the financial performance of a company based on using current financial information as a predictor of future performance. The run rate functions as an extrapolation of current financial performance and assumes that current conditions will continue doubled from US$75 million to US$150 million. The company also claims to have four million users, of which 100,000 have paid for the service. There was no better way for Byju’s to both establish itself in the up-and-coming ‘coding for kids’ category and also take out a rival that was doubling its revenue projections month-on-month.

“This is what Byju’s does well. It’s not an innovative company. Neither is it a product company. So it acquires other companies that have figured out a product, and applies its aggressive sales and marketing strategies on top,” says a former senior executive at Byju’s. The executive wished not to be identified as he didn’t want to publicly comment on a previous employer. “It’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle of successful companies together,” he says.

Byju’s has used this strategy effectively from the very beginning. In 2015, Byju’s acquired Infinite Student, a modest startup with a few thousand users that had built software to stream videos online. It formed the basis for Byju’s pivot from largely offline CAT CAT Common Admission Test The Common Admission Test is a computer-based test for admission in a graduate management program to prestigious Indian management colleges classes to an all-encompassing K12 product strategy. 

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.

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