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Edtech start-up Eruditus gets funding from Zuckerberg duo

September 07, 2020 14:07 IST

Eruditus runs on a partnership model with top global universities such as MIT, Columbia, Harvard, Cambridge, INSEAD, Wharton, and UC Berkeley, offering courses in coding, data science, fintech, block chain, and entrepreneurship.

In 2009, after selling his first start-up Travelguru to Travelocity, Ashwin Damera took a year’s break to think what he could do next.

“I wanted to work in a field which had a high impact on peoples’ lives.

"For this, I was closely looking at health tech and edtech,” says Damera, a Harvard Business School alumnus.

 

Soon, he met Chaitanya Kalipatnapu who had just returned to India after leading executive education programmes at INSEAD and was looking to start an edtech venture.

With common goals in mind, both joined hands to bring quality education to people and Eruditus was born in 2010.

The company, however, had a slow start.

From 2010 to 2015, it could only raise $7 million.

“We wanted to prove our model first. There is no point in starting to run when you don’t know which direction to take,” says Damera.

The start-up is finally inching towards the ‘Unicorn’ club and is valued at around $800 million.

And, it recently got a boost after Chan Zuckerberg Initiative - a philanthropy established by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan - backed it along with other investors in a $80-million Series-D fundraising.

This was the fund’s second bet in the Indian edtech space after an investment in Byju’s.

Damera is a content man today, as his company has grown slow but solid organically with the majority of shares owned by the founders.

Eruditus runs on a partnership model with top global universities such as MIT, Columbia, Harvard, Cambridge, INSEAD, Wharton, and UC Berkeley, offering courses in coding, data science, fintech, block chain, and entrepreneurship.

Around 80 per cent of its revenues come from abroad, said to be the highest for any home-grown edtech player.

While 450 of its workforce of around 650 are based in India, the rest are spread across the US, Mexico, China, Dubai, and Singapore.

“Eruditus is offering some of the highest quality programmes from leading universities that were only available on campus till now,” says G V Ravishankar, managing director, Sequoia Capital India, which had led a $40-million Series-C round in the company in 2019.

The start-up’s education programmes cost between Rs 30,000 to Rs 25 lakh.

The more online the programme, the start-up takes a higher share of the revenue, but with those with higher share of classroom content, the bigger chunk of revenue goes to the university partner.

About 15 per cent of Eruditus’ revenue is generated from courses that are offered in languages other than in English.

“The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative took notice of this… We collaborated with local universities and started giving language options, as is important for access in countries where English is not the first language,” says Damera.

With Covid-19 bringing the importance of online education to the forefront, Eruditus is looking at closing this year with $200 million in revenue, double from the previous year.

In India, it has partnerships with eight colleges such as IIM-Calcutta, IIM-Lucknow, IIT-Bombay, and XLRI Jamshedpur.

The firm will boost partnerships to 20 in the next three years.

Flush with fresh funding, the company is focussing on almost doubling its courses offering to up to 300 and growing five times in revenues in the next 2-3 years.

Eruditus also hopes to increase its user base from 20,000 to 100,000 in the next 2-3 years in India.

“India is a significant market for us. But as India is growing, other markets are also growing. But we are excited about India’s push towards online providing degrees in higher education,” says Damera.

Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

Samreen Ahmad in Bengaluru
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