'Now, because of COVID-19, we have become the only way to learn.'
Since the enforcement of the lockdown, Bengaluru-based edtech unicorn Byju's has not only seen a threefold jump in its user base, it has also quietly entered into the live tutoring segment, with an aim of positioning the company as the best platform for after-school learning.
Chief Operating Officer Mrinal Mohit tells Bibhu Ranjan Mishra how the company is coping up with the new normal.
The lockdown seems to have opened up more opportunities for you...
The COVID-19 outbreak is unfortunate and we all hope that it should not have happened. But it has actually been a big opportunity for us.
For us, one of the challenges was consumer behaviour, especially in terms of convincing parents that their children can learn maths, science and other subjects, from screen.
Now, because of the COVID-19 situations, we have become the only way to learn.
Parents are first hand seeing how their children are using the app and are spending several hours to learn things.
This huge barrier in terms of consumer behaviour has changed to a great extent in the past six weeks.
How is this reflecting in your user numbers?
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit India, we realised that we have become the only way where students can learn.
Keeping this in mind, we decided to make the app free for this whole period.
Because of the scenario and change in consumer behaviour, the engagement on the app has increased significantly.
In the past one month, almost 6 million students used our app, growth of almost three times over the previous one month period while the level of engagement has also increased almost 200 per cent.
Are you making available the premium version of the content to everyone, free?
We always had a free premium model (one can download the app at any point of time and use it free for 15 days).
But now, we are encouraged by the whole engagement.
Because, when you download the app, we ask you whether you are a student.
Now, we have seen there is a tremendous increase in the percentage of parents downloading the app.
Also, we launched a new feature called Byju's Live when we found that students are not able to attend classes as schools are closed.
Byju's Live is the live classes taken by some of our best teachers where the students can attend the class as they are attending in a school.
Because of that also, we are seeing a huge increase in engagement.
So you have made a foray into live tutoring in addition to the learning app. What is the thinking behind it?
We were always the 'Learn at Home' company.
If you look at the education space, from the beginning it has been quite teacher-led, as the teachers decide the pace of teaching in the class.
But with the Byju's Learning App, we created a fine balance between teacher and the student.
All our contents are teacher-led, but is delivered on a platform, which is student-led or controlled by the student.
So with the 'Live Classes', we are also looking at the after-school segment.
You don't have to go for tuition classes, and Byju's Learning App and Byju's Live will take care of all your requirements outside of schools.
Since it is being offered free now and the classes are being attended by lakhs of students, we are not offering a two-way interaction feature.
But we will add this in the paid version.
How did you mobilise resources as staff must be working remotely, to prepare yourself to tap the opportunity?
The whole scenario was the testing time for all the businesses.
It was the testing time in terms of how adaptable and how flexible you are as far as the business model is concerned.
But then for us, we being a digital first company, our challenge was far lower. Also, most of our employees are very young and tech-savvy.
So they found it easier to move to the work from home model.
The start-up segment is going through a tough time, with salary cuts, layoffs and so on. How are you responding to the situation?
I think this (time) is the real test of the business model of the firm as well.
This has shown that our business model is strong and the business segment where we play has been positively impacted by the whole disruption.
We do expect a positive impact in mid and long-term.
Also, we will honour all the job offers we have made and hire more people as the year goes by.
We are not looking at any salary cut.