When a new sales cohort joins edtech decacorn Byju’s, headquartered in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, the first meeting is always with Byju Raveendran himself. The founder and brains behind the world’s largest edtech company by valuation knows that the sales teams are the company’s backbone. His messaging is consistent, says a former sales employee who’s attended these orientations. There’s an emphasis on the “work hard, play hard” philosophy. 

But what he says next is an unvarnished peek into his ambitions for the company. Sooner or later, claims Raveendran, everyone in edtech will directly or indirectly work for Byju’s. “They’re clear they are going to buy everyone,” says the former employee. They, like other sources in this story, requested anonymity so as not to be seen publicly commenting on Byju’s.

If Byju’s’ acquisition spree over the last two years is any indication, Raveendran’s prophetic prediction is already in the offing. Since 2017, Byju’s has acquired nine companies of varying sizes. Its most recent most recent Entrackr Byju’s acquires on-demand tutoring app HashLearn Read more  being doubt-solving platform HashLearn, while its most prominent buy is 33-year-old test prep company Aakash Educational Services (AESL), which it acquired for US$1 billion in April. 

There are at least three more deals in various stages of completion, according to information sourced by The Ken from two people close to their deal making process. Byju’s is close to acquiring its one-time competitor Toppr at a valuation of US$150 million, is in talks with test-prep company Gradeup for a US$40-50 million deal, and has shown interest in upskilling platform Great Learning at a potential price tag of US$250 million. 

With these, Byju’s—which began with pre-recorded and heavily produced English-language content—is trying to both lengthen and widen its distribution pipe. It wants to offer something to every type of student, from kindergarten to professional upskilling. 

Backing up Raveendran’s ambitions is the company’s relentless mergers-and-acquisitions (M&A) team, headed by chief strategy officer Anita Kishore. Kishore has been a core team member since the company’s early days. In April 2021, Byju’s hired Roshan Thomas, an M&A specialist, in a senior role. Thomas was a partner at one of India’s leading law firms Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas. 

This well-oiled machine is backed up by two important factors—Raveendran’s ability to make quick decisions, and the in-bound investor interest that lets the company raise capital at sky-high valuations. 

Raveendran's reign

According to a source who’s watched these acquisitions closely, Raveendran is an “empowered” founder and chief executive officer. He's also able to convince his board swiftly about Byju's ambitious bevy of acquisitions

“Where other companies would take 40 days to complete a deal, Byju’s does it in four.

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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