37-Year-Old Celeb Tutor Is India's Newest Billionaire. Hello, Byju

Byju Raveendran set up Think & Learn in 2011

Highlights

  1. Byju Raveendran’s education app grew to $5.7 billion valuation in 7 years
  2. He set up Think & Learn in 2011 and launched his main app in 2015
  3. India’s online learning market is seen doubling to $5.7 billion by 2020

India’s newest billionaire is a former classroom teacher who developed an education app that’s grown to a valuation of almost $6 billion in about seven years.

Byju Raveendran joined the rarefied club after his Think & Learn Pvt scored $150 million in funding earlier this month. That deal conferred a value of $5.7 billion on the company in which the founder owns more than 21 per cent, people familiar with the matter said. Its closing coincided with the announcement that the company’s Byju’s app — named after the founder — will team up with Walt Disney Co. and taking its service to American shores by early 2020.

The 37-year-old entrepreneur — who has said he wants to do for Indian education what the Mouse House did for entertainment — is taking his biggest step yet geographically and creatively. In his new app, Disney staples from The Lion King’s Simba to Frozen’s Anna teach math and English to students from grades one through three. The same characters star in animated videos, games, stories and interactive quizzes.

“Kids everywhere relate to Disney’s Simba or Moana, who grip kids’ attention before we take them through the loop of learning,” said Mr Raveendran, also chief executive officer.

India is going through a dramatic period of wealth creation — and destruction. A new breed of self-made entrepreneurs is joining the ranks of the well-heeled, helping the country’s ultra-rich population grow at the world’s fastest pace. Mr Raveendran, at least on paper, assumes his place among those parvenus thanks to his effort in internet education.

Online learning is booming, perhaps nowhere more so than on Byju’s home turf, where internet usage is exploding because of the ubiquity of cheap smartphones and cut-price wireless plans. India’s online learning market is expected to more than double to $5.7 billion by 2020, according to the government-backed India Brand Equity Foundation.