In September 2021, edtech decacorn Byju’s signed a pact with an unusual partner. For once, it wasn’t going to take over take over The Ken How world’s largest edtech Byju’s makes rivals an offer they can’t refuse Read more  a brand-new startup or end the cash-poor journey of an older rival. Byju’s, instead, walked down the corridors of power in New Delhi, inking a partnership with the central government’s policy think tank, NITI Aayog. 

The partnership taps into two of Byju’s programmes. Through ‘Education for All’, Byju’s will provide free “scholastic material” to students in grades 6-12. And through ‘Career Plus’, it will run a coaching programme for a select group of students to prepare them for competitive selection exams such as NEET NEET National Eligibility cum Entrance Test NEET is an all India pre-medical entrance test for students who wish to pursue undergraduate medical (MBBS), dental (BDS) and AYUSH (BAMS, BUMS, BHMS, etc.) courses in government and private institutions in India and also, for those intending to pursue primary medical qualification abroad and JEE JEE Joint Entrance Exam The Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) is an engineering entrance assessment conducted for admission to various engineering colleges in India . The edtech behemoth has extended this support to 112 of India’s most developmentally challenged districts—termed ‘Aspirational Districts’ by Niti Aayog—to begin with.

On paper, it’s a win-win deal. “Byju’s has a reputation problem. They want to give material away for free to state governments, and they don’t want to go through a tendering process,” says an edtech founder who works closely with state governments to design solutions. They and others quoted in the story requested anonymity as they wished not to be seen publicly commenting on Byju’s. 

NITI Aayog, for its part, has a mandate to ensure that its Aspirational Districts improve their economic indicators. “You just have to convince [Amitabh] Kant, and states will be given the directive to follow,” says the founder, referring to the CEO and public face of NITI Aayog. And education is one area that could really do with a leg-up.

After two Covid-riddled years, India’s public education system is a battered ship. There has never been a greater need to quickly cover the accessibility gap to online education, even as schools are reopening across the country. While private sector players such as tuition and coaching centres have always existed, Covid gave them the opportunity to officially partner with states to roll out their platforms at scale.