Byju’s is not just an unicorn. The 18-billion-dollar company, one of the biggest ed-tech companies in the world is not actually an ed-tech company. So what is it? In India, on
an average, an urban family spends around 15 to 20 lakhs for their child’s education up to the 12th grade. In today’s world of internet where any person can learn almost everything online in budgets that fit their pockets, why do parents spend so much online on a child’s education?
Ed-tech companies compel parents to spend over-limit on education – but how these companies persuade them is the real question. To understand this, let’s consider the case of Byju’s.
In 2009, Byju Raveendran started taking online classes for the CAT exam. In 2011, he registered his business as ‘Think and Learn’ Private Limited and after 4 years in August 2015 Byju’s launched its learning app. After the launch of Byju’s online learning app, in 3 months, they had more than 20 lakh children as subscribers. In 2018, it became the unicorn meaning, they crossed their valuation of 1 billion US dollars. Today the company’s valuation is more than 18 billion US dollars. They made it big in a very less span of time but how did they do it?
Wolf Gupta who is 9 years old claims that by taking online coding classes on ‘Whitehat Jr’, he cracked the package of 1.2 crore rupees. Interestingly, Wolf Gupta is sometimes of 9, 12 or 13 years old, sometimes his package is of 1.2 crore, sometimes 150 crores. It is very evident that this story is fictional which was created by Whitehat Jr – a Byju’s 300 million US dollars acquisition. Strangely, this entire marketing gimmick happened after the Byju’s acquisition. However the favourable consequence of the advertisement was, more than 20,000 people enrolled in the Whitehat Jr’s course.
Whitehat Jr’s basic entry level course price is Rs.7200. During this time 14 crore 40 lakhs rupees were earned in revenue. Now, the question is, in spite of knowing the fact that no parent will be likely to name their child as Wolf Gupta, people bought this story and eventually, the course. The answer to this is still hidden in Byju’s dark side.
Every company runs on marketing and sales. Byju’s is no different. But when the focus seems to blur, there might be a problem. In 2019 Byju’s reporteda Rs. 1306 crore operating profit which in 2020 increased to Rs. 2381 crore. Byju’s main revenue comes from BDAs or Business Development Associates or in simpler language – salesmen. Byju’s hires BDAs at salary scales ranging between 10-12 lakh per anunm.
So how does it work?
Cold calls from Byju’s sales team land up randomly to parents or at times directly to students where they ask about future aspirations and discuss about it. The mechanism is interlinked with retargeting on digital & satellite platforms through advertisements where you see Shahrukh Khan endorsing the brand. Eventually, most of the people take the bait and end up in the sales funnel.
But it doesn’t stop there. Doubt solving is also a major way to reach people. In other words, problem solving when students face any issue with their subjects. People mostly go on the internet to look for answers and there is a high chance that they will land in Byju’s marketing landing page. No matter in which way you come in contact with Byju’s, you will get one thing in return for sure – a 15-day free trial (you’ve taken the bait).
In these 15 days Byju’s tracks and studies the behavioural data of students who have taken the free trial, based on which they create a strong profile of the student. All students who have logged into 15 days trial will get study material in video format and quizzes. During this trial period Byju’s will track the average view time, the speed, does s/he revisit, their consistency, all these are being monitored. A digital profile full of various parameters are created.
Also, quizzes help them to judge the accuracy and time taken. After knowing all these Byju’s sales executives contact the parents and depending on which bucket the child is categorised into; they have their sales pitch customized accordingly.
Byju’s sales team tries to figure out what that particular child is likely to become in future after talking to the parents based on that they sell their various courses starting from NEET to JEE to CLAT to CAT. This entire thing is planned very strategically and converts 70% of the customers but how? Studies show most of the parents have insecurities in their minds about their children’s careers. Their choices to some extent are also driven by the uncertainty of the changing industry and social dillema. Parents start feeling secured when all these factors are met. Biju’s sales team offers the convenience between this journey of insecurity to security and people easily fall for it.
In a nutshell, although the company offers value in online education, parents do not buy Byju’s education, they purchase the convenience. Every good decision will include time, effort and intellect but in between when convenience is provided then chances are people will buy it. Shockingly, even those who cannot afford Byju’s courses, Byju’s sell their course to them as well through to their strategic partnerships. Byju’s have financial partnerships with companies like Capital Float, Bajaj Finserv, Cash Care which provide loans to parents who apparently cannot afford the classes for their children but aspire for great careers for them – an unconditional parental love.
Through these companies Byjus sales team targets people’s insecurity and let people buy Byju’s courses on EMI and unfortunately, many of the people don’t even know that while purchasing the Byju’s course they sign up for the loan because Byju’s executives don’t often use words like loan or installment.
Byju’s success during the pandemic added millions of subscribers to its user base but there have been complains too about sales techniques and high-pressure work environment, the company has several allegations as it pursued its hyper growth path.
Parents of various students are demotivated by asking their child difficult questions and claiming the fact that their children doesn’t know and are not guided well. Parental anger is growing at least from some who have claimed that sales people were selling expensive courses, parents faced difficulty in getting refunds and lack of customer support after sale is made.
Not just parents, there are employees who also left the company due to the extreme pressure to reach unattainable sales targets. Byju’s has become a revenue generating machine at the cost of teaching students. But Byju’s have denied all these allegations.
As a matter of fact, a lot of parents are unable to repay loans but as per financial agreements between the lenders and Byju’s, the company is suppose to pay the lenders their money back as a part of First Loan Default Guarantee. While the costs looked smallers at first, but adding up the numbers puts the unicorn under a huge financial threat. To come out of this condition – simple logic suggests Byju’s need continuous sales or recovering loan amounts.
Presently, Byju’s has acquired 14 educational companies to increase its catalog of programs and courses. With the acquisition of likes of Akash Institute, Byju’s is slowly moving towards dominating the offline academic space after already having dominated the online education domain.
Byju’s Tuition Centre — is a network of offline tuition centres that combine the offline and online learning experiences. The company is investing around $200 million in this new segment over the next 18-24 months. These will operate as tech-enabled physical tuition centres for students in classes 4-10 and will focus on better engagement and outcomes for students through a two-teacher model (one present inperson and other virtual).
However, critics of Byju’s argue its time to crack down on these businesses similar to how China has banned for profit-education technology companies, but so far, the government
hasn’t stepped in yet.
Do you think it is good to give so much power in the hands of a single company to get access a basic right like the right to education? Email us your throughts at firstname.lastname@example.org
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