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World Bank's arm IFC backs edu-tech co Byju's

Times of India:  December, 2016

Bengaluru: IFC, a financial institution that's part of the World Bank group, has invested in education venture Byju's. According to IFC's website, it has invested $15 million (Rs 102 crore) in equity for a minority stake in the Bengaluru-based company. Byju's is expected to use the funds to expand domestically and into international markets. TOI had reported in July that Byju's was in talks with IFC for funding.

Ruchira Shukla, regional lead, venture capital investments at IFC, said education is an important sector for IFC, given its critical role in driving economic and social development in India.

"IFC's venture capital strategy in the edu-tech space is focused on technology-enabled learning platforms for academic improvement, as well as low-cost education solutions," she said.

The IFC investment comes close on the heels of a $50-million round in which funds came from Sequoia Capital, Sofina, Times Internet, Lightspeed Ventures and the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). The last is an initiative of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan and has the objective of advancing human potential and promote equality, make private investments and participate in policy debates. The investment in Byju's was CZI's first investment in Asia.

Byju's has so far raised $155 million.

Founded in 2007 as a test preparation platform by Byju Raveendran, the venture moved on to video classes a few years ago. But a big explosion in reach happened with the launch of a mobile app last year. It saw over 5.5 million downloads and 250,000 paid annual subscribers within a year of its launch. The app helps with learning programmes for students in classes 4 to 12, and for competitive exams like JEE, NEET, CAT, IAS, GRE, and GMAT.

"Today, almost 70% of our users come from outside the top 10 cities in India. It is encouraging to see increased adoption from over 1,700 towns and cities, but there is still a long way to go before we call this a learning revolution. To further accelerate our reach in the deeper parts of India, we plan to add channel partners across India," said Raveendran.

India is IFC's top country exposure-wise globally. IFC's committed portfolio in India is over $5 billion as of June 30, 2016. In 2015-16, IFC committed $1.1 billion in new investments in India. Its other education investments include Bridge International Academics, the world's largest chain of low-cost nursery and primary schools, and Coursera, an education technology company offering massive open online courses.