Ed-tech unicorn Byju’s, owned and operated by Think & Learn Pvt. Ltd, said it has raised $150 million (Rs 1,035 crore at current exchange rate) in a fresh round of equity fundraising led by sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority.
This round includes Owl Ventures, an investor in education technology. The development marks Owl Ventures' first investment in an Indian startup.
This is the second big-ticket bet by Qatar Investment Authority this year in an India-related company. In January, it invested $200 million (Rs 1,423 crore then) in Airtel Africa Ltd, a subsidiary of telecom company Bharti Airtel Ltd.
The latest transaction is likely to value Byju’s, which is already backed by global investors General Atlantic and Tencent Holdings, at over $5 billion.
The ed-tech major will utilise the funding for its aggressive global expansion plans.
“Investment from prominent sovereign and pension funds validates our strong business fundamentals. Indian ed-tech firms attracting interest from eminent investors demonstrates that India is pioneering the digital learning space globally,” said Byju Raveendran, founder of Byju’s.
The partnership, Raveendran believes, will help the Bengaluru-based firm to leverage its expertise in creating immersive tech-enabled programmes for students in smaller cities, regions and newer markets.
Mansoor Al-Mahmoud, chief executive of Qatar Investment Authority, said, “This investment underscores Qatar Investment Authority’s strong commitment to the education sector and our focus on investing in leading innovators in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry globally.”
Founded in 2011, the venture runs learning apps for school students and produces all its content in-house. Byju's originally started off as a coaching platform for entrance exams and for students studying in classes 6-12. Last year, it launched content for students from classes four to five, helping them further accelerate their growth and then targeted students from classes one to three.
The company is the best-funded and most-valued Indian startup in the ed-tech segment.
The following are among the firm's investors: Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which is the philanthropic foundation of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan; Verlinvest, which manages funds for the founding families of Anheuser-Busch InBev; Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB); and the World Bank’s private sector arm International Finance Corporation.
Byju’s sharply narrowed its loss for the year through March 2018, as a two-fold jump in operating revenue offset a rise in expenses.
The company reported net sales of Rs 471 crore for 2017-18, up from Rs 230 crore the previous year.
Net loss reduced by almost half to Rs 37 crore from Rs 61 crore, despite an increase in total expenses to Rs 537.4 crore from Rs 309.4 crore during the period.
Byju’s has made a number of acquisitions in its quest for growth. It made its fifth acquisition in January 2019 by buying US-based digital learning platform Osmo for $120 million (Rs 840 crore then).
In July last year, it bought learning platform Math Adventures for an undisclosed sum. In July 2017, Byju’s bought Pearson-owned TutorVista. Six months before that, it acquired Bengaluru-based learning guidance tool and student profile-builder Vidyartha for an undisclosed amount.