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Considering both India and the US for listing: Byju Raveendran

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Edtech unicorn Byju’s has sustained its acquisition spree with its ninth deal so far this year and the third in the US following the purchase of kids coding platform, Tynker. With its previous acquisition of kids reading app Epic worth $500 million, this year Byju’s is ramping up its distribution play in the US. With a public listing in the offing, either in India or in the US, Byju’s is also looking to close its final fundraise as a private company, which may skyrocket its valuation to $21 billion.

In an interview, Byju’s founder and chief executive Byju Raveendran spoke about the factors behind the Tynker acquisition, how its acquisitions have fared so far and plans for a public listing. Edited excerpts:

After the WhiteHat Jr acquisition, why did you choose to acquire another coding startup?

Coding is an important segment for us and also an important future skill. Tynker has a dominant presence in the US market and significant presence in other markets. They are really complementary to the WhiteHat Jr and our international ‘Byju’s Future School’ offering. While WhiteHat Jr is where we have synchronous learning expertise (through teachers), Tynker is asynchronous which means anyone can get on their platform and learn.

Coding encourages a creative thinking mindset while math and science foster foundational skills. And Tynker is in the intersection of coding which fosters an active mindset and US, which is one of our primary markets.

Tynker will enhance our platform since it is self-learning and will offer the options to users to use Byju’s to get synchronous learning support from our teachers. Also, we will take Tynker and Epic to India. We depend on these platforms for product enhancement and distribution. With (the US acquisitions of) Epic, Tynker and Osmo, we are already covering 80% of kids in the US (in kindergarten to grade 12 learning segment). We might bring our US acquisitions, under the Byju’s brand name, but it’s still early days and we are figuring it out.

With nine acquisitions in 2021, has integration been a challenge for Byju’s?

The answer to that is, look at our past acquisitions—nine out of 10 times, founders of companies we have acquired have stayed on beyond their contractual commitment. And it is not by chance. It is because we retain all (cultural) aspects which have made these companies successful.

And we turbocharge their growth, by playing a supporting role. We do not go into inside intervention, and founders have their freedom. We are able to increase their distribution as well. We have already launched ‘Aakash+BYJUs’ post the acquisition and it is doing well. In two years, Osmo has been reporting almost four-fold growth.

It is not easy to integrate, but it is also not as difficult as people make it.

What is happening with your fundraise?

At present, we are seriously considering an initial public offering (IPO) and we will be raising our last private round as talks are currently on. There is a lot of interest as we continue to show organic and inorganic growth. India is a hot market, so is education, and Byju’s is in the intersection of it. And we will continue growing and there is a large opportunity. There is no scope for complacency. We are not behind short-term optics. Whatever we have done is through value creation.

Do we see you hitting the public markets sooner than expected?

We might accelerate but exact timelines are still a little too early for me to tell. It (the listing) can be in the next 12 months, but definitely not in the next six months.

Is Byju’s also exploring to list in the US?

We have not ruled out any options. Whether we will list in India first and then the US or vice versa, we are still taking a call. But for now, we are considering and exploring both US and India markets for our listing.

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