Byju Raveendran is the CEO and Founder of BYJU'S, the world's highest-valued edtech start-up. In this interview, he talks us through their innovative teaching module, challenges encountered in the education sector and how technology can enhance learning.
What was the initial catalyst behind BYJU′S and the key milestones that make the model ripe for worldwide expansion?
The idea behind starting BYJU'S was to make learning accessible, effective, engaging and personalised for everyone. We noticed a huge gap in the way students learn. In a traditional, face to face learning set up, access to high-quality education and personalisation of learning has always been an issue. In our system, children are still getting trained to solve questions and not ask questions.
Learning happens because of fear of exams, and not for the love for learning. Students memorise and forget after exams. The need of the hour is for a product that brings the childlike curiosity back in students and makes them look forward to learning something new every day. When we launched, children were browsing the internet and watching videos online. The internet was not considered a reliable learning source. We have managed to change that by creating and establishing the 'app learning' segment.
Our vision is to now be viewed as not just a 'digital learning' medium but as leaders of the 'learning at home' segment. By 2020, we would like to transform into a learning-at-home platform. BYJU's will be able to provide everything a student needs to learn at home. Currently, there are no products like BYJU'S learning app that can reach out to such a large number of students and create great engagement at the same time. The market opportunity is huge, and we believe our product can create the kind of engagement one has never seen before.
What is the role being played by edtech in meeting the Skill India challenge?
India is set to become the world's youngest country by 2020. And while India will have the advantage of having an increased working population, the reality is that globalisation, technological advancement and high level of automation will lead to the emergence of a whole new set of jobs in the coming years. Research by the World Economic Forum shows that 65 per cent of the children entering primary school will find themselves in jobs that do not exist today.
Early conceptual understanding is essential for students to be in a position to re-skill and up-skill themselves at any given point in the future. It is only through right education that we can prepare our youth for the unknown/unseen jobs of tomorrow. The use of technology in education can help in making learning simple, fun, contextual, interactive and personalised.
It enables a combination of teachers, videos and animations to deliver an enriching and engaging learning experience. Additionally, big data analytics enables personalised learning, feedback and assessments. It also ensures that every child learns at their pace and style.
Access to quality and engaging content will automatically help students move towards 'active learning' from passive, making them life-long learners. Strong concepts and a positive attitude towards learning will make them ready to upskill and evolve as times change.
What are some highlight trends in online learning that deliver the best results?
The advantage of integrating technology in education is that it enables students to learn from the best teachers from across the country with the same high quality. It also personalises the way students learn. In fact, teachers are crucial to keep students engaged through the program/video lesson and give them the 'someone who they can relate to', and 'someone who can explain the concepts' to them in a fun, simple and engaging way. This also solves the problem of access to quality teachers in a one-on-one format.
At BYJU'S, we have tried to create a complete learning experience that integrates classes from the best of the teachers (who are empowered by tech teaching tools), assessments and assignments which are personalised for every student, along with in-depth analysis and recommendations. As a brand, we are solving core problems like access to quality teachers across geographies with technology and have personalised learning.
Are there particular connectivity or other barriers that limit the reach of edtech across India?
The challenge since the beginning has been around changing the perception or mindset about how children should learn. Students should take up the initiative of learning on their own, while parents should take up supporting roles. Online learning is not just offline learning taken online, by simply digitising content; technology is used extensively to make learning better and more effective online. Technology has helped us innovate the way subjects are being taught, and personalise it based on the capability of each student.
Are there certain learning challenges that you see edtech overcoming?
At BYJU'S, we understood the challenges the ecosystem faces and one of the key challenges we could address immediately and effectively is the method with which students consume knowledge and information and are working hard towards bringing changes to the system. The core challenges in traditional education formats face are:
Good teachers are hard to find at scale.
Ability for personalisation is limited.
Format of learning (rote memorisation vs. wanting to learn).
Our approach from a content creation perspective has always been to focus on engagement and effectiveness i.e. if it will be useful to students and it will be used by students. We approach subjects by first identifying concepts and curriculum that need to be covered and then identifying the best mode to teach these concepts, be it through video, gamification or interactive media.
With over 40 million downloads, 2.8 million paid users, and average engagement time of 71 minutes, our approach, both in terms of engagement and effectiveness, has been received positively by students, parents and education providers which is helping propel our growth.
We have been fortunate to reach scale relatively quickly due to our student and learning-focused approach and are increasing year-on-year, which is helping us achieve progressively higher earnings, enabling us to invest more organically in improving engagement and effectiveness in the product.
What are some of the growth areas in the sector, in India and globally?
While our focus is to expand to international markets to help achieve scale and build a global brand. We are also working on creating learning programs in vernacular languages to provide access to quality content and teachers to the students even in the remotest parts of the country. We have also launched a language switch option in Hindi.
Going forward, there will be a strong focus to further accelerate our reach and create awareness in deeper parts of India. We are also working on creating learning programs in other regional languages. The availability of BYJU'S learning programs in multiple vernacular languages will make quality learning accessible for children in every nook and corner of the country and fulfil their aspirations of building better lives.