Unacademy is an eLearning company founded by Gaurav Munjal, along with his co-founders Hemesh Singh and Roman Saini.
Recently, Unacademy raised USD 50 million as a part of Series D funding. And with this, according to me, The company is on its way to becoming India’s big bet education Unicorn after Byju’s.
It might be too early to judge the financial success of Unacademy but we can surely say that it has created a presence among its peers and its success is commendable.
Unacademy boasts of a community of 3 million+ subscribers and 250 million+ views on it’s YouTube channel. With the funding raised in the last two rounds, Unacademy has been able to explore the Indonesian and Brazilian Education market.
Although there are other education channels which might boast of a comparable viewership and following in relation to Unacademy, they have not been able to monetize the platform the way Unacademy has.
So I felt it right to analyse what led to this eLearning company raising money successfully from a group of investors and what other startups in general and eLearning, in particular, can learn from them.
While analyzing the success of players like Unacademy, we have to analyse the uniqueness of the Indian Education System –
Along with mainstream education, one of the biggest revenue eaters in the country is the parallel education system which has been very conveniently named as the Coaching sector. There is a huge number of coaching classes helping the students to learn the concepts they have learnt in schools and revise for their exams. There are towns and areas which have developed purely due to this coaching mania (Kota, a case in the study).
Any revolution in education cannot start in mainstream education, it has to start and penetrate in the parallel education system first. This is where Unacademy (even BYJU’s) has been able to create a mark. They do not replace the school or the college. They currently concentrate on replacing the parallel education system. The concept of learning from the comfort of home at much lesser fees makes these apps a very attractive proposition for the students.
These apps and websites have a very clear goal as of now – they are not here to replace the teacher, they are here to augment the teaching and learning process. Recent history has shown that any giant company trying to replace the traditional classroom teaching model or TEACHER for that matters has been teetered to its fall.
Our culture still has the profound importance of a teacher and a physical learning process. It will take us a profound cultural shift and a generational change to replace this learning process by a virtual learning environment.
Virtual learning and Teaching is definitely the future but the future is not here as yet. We have to prepare ourselves for what will come but we have to prepare for it in a manner that does not hamper our current survival.
The success of Unacademy and Byju’s along with a lot of test-taking and test preparation platforms that the current smartness is not in replacing the teacher but in augmenting the teaching process.
BACKGROUND OF FOUNDERS
Gaurav Munjal, the founder of the company, has a successful history of the building, scaling up and selling businesses earlier. (He was the founder of a flat-sharing company called flat.to which was later rechristened as
Flatchat and brought over by Commonfloor, he already had a good connect with investors while being associated with Flatchat).
Gaurav had parallelly launched Unacademy while working on flat.to and he invested the proceeds of his stake sale in earlier companies in his new venture.
His co-founder and the principal content creator in the earliest days of the learning platform is Roman Saini, who had an established reputation as being one of the youngest persons to clear the IAS exams. He is a trained Medical Doctor. With his educational background, he was well placed to create courses which takes me to the next point.
CONCENTRATING HEAVILY ON COURSES WHICH NEED RELEARNING
When Gaurav brought Roman on board as the cofounder, the team was uniquely placed to create courses for the students. The courses that they started creating are high-value intensive courses like the preparation for IAS concentrating on certain subjects.
In our country where there are lakhs of aspirants for the civil services exams, the popularity of the offering was bound to increase given their background. These are such types of courses where even if the student has studied multiple times she/he would still want to practice and be more prepared.
A free YouTube offering by a young IAS officer is like an icing on the cake for the students.
In addition, they concentrated on creating spoken English courses and Coding courses which require a student to keep in touch with the subject.
SPREADING OUT THE BURDEN OF CREATING NEW CONTENT
Once they understood the growing popularity of the platform, the team was quick enough to bring more educators on board as collaborators with an exclusive app meant for educators.
Now it was easy for every educator to create their own content and put it online for the students to view it. These educators have acted as the influencers and marketers for the company. By bringing in educators as collaborators, Unacademy killed multiple birds with a single stone.
UNACADEMY’s VERY OWN KOTA FACTORY COMPLETES ONE YEAR- GET BEHIND THE SCENES WITH MAYUR MORE (VAIBHAV PANDEY)
MONETIZING THE FOLLOWERSHIP QUICKLY BY LAUNCHING A PREMIUM SERVICE
The biggest problem with launching anything as a free service is the ability to monetize at the right time. The biggest drawback with other popular education channels was that they never understood the right time to monetize their popularity or they dint have the resources to do it.
The founders of Unacademy are smart enough to understand that YouTube might always remain free for all platform and it might be difficult to make a business out of the popularity of the channel.
Hence, they were agile enough to create an app and push their faithful followers to use the app and their own website alongside the YouTube channel. This made it simpler for the company to push the subscription-based model to the users of the app and website.
DELEVERAGING THE RISK ASSOCIATED WITH LAUNCHING A PREMIUM PRODUCT
In the initial time of the launch of the Unacademy plus – Unacademy’s subscription-based model – the team had also made sure that some selected courses of quality collaborators are launched on the Plus Premium Model. As far as my memory goes, they launched with the English speaking course.
They still had their most popular UPSC training videos on youtube as a free for all. They gradually nudged their users to start using the app and log on their own website frequently.
LOW COST OF CONTENT CREATION
What makes Unacademy a very attractive partner is the Unacademy educator’s app which makes it easier for the educator to record his or her lectures on the phone at the very least.
As compared to other eLearning ventures like Byju’s that need to invest heavily in creating attention capturing content (purely due to the target age) and other education companies which invest heavily in infrastructure and studios, thus making it difficult for a small educator to produce his own content. Unacademy has democratized content creation.
As visible from the composition of educators, many contributors are young pass-outs or teachers who have recently completed the same exams successfully.
This has kept the cost of content creation and onboarding of teachers at a lower rate which I feel gives the company enough space to burn cash for marketing.
SCALABILITY OF THEIR OFFERINGS
By choosing to venture into India’s postgraduate entrance exams as an entry point, Unacademy hit the proverbial gold mine. The nature of the content created by the educators is easily replicable and scalable to be rechristened as multiple offerings.
For example, if a content is being created for the IIM – CAT exams, more or less it can also be replicated for the 30 plus other management exams for states and private universities, the same content is also applicable to the Banking entrance exams.
Thus, what makes Unacademy a current darling of the VC/PE funds is the easy scalability of the content it has created for the market. This makes it earliest among the peers to stand a chance of profitability.
One factor I would like to just mention here is Luck! Yes, Unacademy has been one of the lucky ones to get all the combinations right along with being present at the right place at the right time. Whether it will have a sustained advantage or some other player will be able to overcome it, is something that we will have to wait and see.
This article was originally published by Harsh Modi