The Indian edtech industry has grown tremendously amid the pandemic in 2020. With the nationwide lockdown putting an end to physical classes, schools, colleges, and educational institutions were forced to go online. This gave a boost to the edtech start-ups in the country. The Indian government responded by highlighting its support for online and digital education in the 2020 National Education Policy.

The situation created a clear opportunity for the edtech players in India, with the pandemic helping to dive the rapid adoption of edtech solutions over the last year.

India currently has four edtech unicorns

The edtech industry in India is still dominated by domestic start-ups, with as yet no public edtech companies.

Byju is now the largest edtech unicorn in the world. It is valued at $16.5bn, having received total funding of $3.5bn. The company benefitted from the surge in demand during the lockdown. While it took more than four years for the start-up to amass 40 million users, it’s user base grew to more than 80 million users during lockdown. It also saw an increase in the number of paid subscribers during the period. Between October 2020 and April 2021, annual paid subscribers increased from 4.5 million to 5.5 million.

Unacademy, another edtech unicorn that also benefited during the lockdown, is now valued at $3.4bn with total funding of $876m. The unicorn started life on YouTube in 2010. During the pandemic, Unacademy has amassed 90,000 paid active subscribers in early 2020. By August 2021 it had approximately 0.6 million paid active subscribers and became a unicorn in September 2020.

The two others Indian edtech unicorns are Upgrad and Eruditus. Upgrad is valued at $1.2bn with total funding of $361.2m. Since the lockdown, its customer base has more than doubled to one million users. Eruditus is the newest edtech company to join the unicorn club in August 2021, when it achieved a valuation of $3.2bn and total funding of $593.5m

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By GlobalData

The future edtech unicorns pipeline looks strong. GlobalData expects start-ups like Vedantu, Classplus, Toppr, Next Education, and Cuemath to become unicorns over the next few years.

Indian edtech unicorns are buying other start-ups to expand and diversify

With their huge funding and increasing customer base, Indian edtech unicorns are now acquiring other start-ups to expand and diversify.

Byju’s, for example, has been on an acquisition spree. In the past few months, it has bought Great Learning platform for $600m and Epic, a children’s digital reading platform for $500m. The acquisition of test series provider Aakash Educational Services for $1bn has aided in its offline diversification.  Founder Byju Raveendran indicated that the company will go for an initial public offering in the next 18 to 24 months.

Unacademy has also completed a number of acquisitions, including TapChief (an online platform for freelance work), Mastree (an online public speaking platform for children) and several test preparation platforms (NeoStencil, Coursavy and Kreatryx).

Upgrad acquired edtech start-up KnowledgeHut which offers reskilling courses for professionals. Eruditus acquired Silicon Valley-based iD Tech for $200m that focuses on youth STEM education.

Byju’s and Unacadmey are tapping into other themes

Edtech unicorns in India are reimagining the industry by focusing on themes such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality.

Byju’s has acquired Osmo, a US-based start-up which will bring a team of artificial intelligence and machine learning experts. It also acquired augmented reality (AR) start-up Whodat, which creates immersive experiences that can automatically detect a user’s environment without using physical markers to overlay 3D content. They also apply deep knowledge graphs to develop personalized learning and their content creation process is primarily based on data analytics.

Unacademy’s recent acquisition of Rheo TV, a game streaming platform, enables professional game streamers to livestream and monetize their games.

These acquisitions in a diverse range of themes have elevated Byju’s and Unacadmey to the forefront of the industry. Other edtech companies should also start investing in other areas and technologies as well if they want to attract a larger customer base and improve customer experience.