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Unacademy - E-learning Platform
Founded in 2011, Unacademy has built a $140M+ revenue business that helps students crack competitive exams.
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Founded in 2011, Karnataka-headquartered Unacademy is India’s leading online education platform. With the help of top educators, it targets students preparing for competitive exams for college admissions, as well as those who are pursuing graduate-level courses.
In 2020, Unacademy became the second unicorn in the Indian ed-tech industry after raising $150M in a Series F round led by Softbank, a Japanese multinational conglomerate. Today it is valued at $3.44B after its latest Series H funding round in August 2021, where it raised $440M.The company is funded by notable investors such as SoftBank Vision Fund 2, General Atlantic, Tiger Global, Tracxn, Steadview Capital, Sequoia Capital India, Dragoneer Investment Group, Mirae Asset Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, Sachin Tendulkar, Facebook and SAIF Partners.
Business Overview & Products
Unacademy is a learning platform that prepares students for competitive exams. Unacademy prepares learners for a long list of subjects and exams from university-entrance exams, to professional and career certifications, to general career upskilling. Offerings range for students from grades 6-12 all the way up to general career professionals.
It offers courses in 14 languages and operates in India, Brazil and Indonesia, with plans to expand its footprints globally in the future.
How It Works
Unacademy offers daily live classes to its students, where they not just consume educational content but also get a chance to interact with educators, ask them questions and answer live polls. During these live classes, in case students have a query or doubt that needs further elaboration, they are allowed to raise their hands virtually and upon being invited by the educator, discuss their issue. Moreover, if students have trouble with a certain topic after the class has ended, they are also provided with the option to connect with teachers for one on one interactions.
The platform also provides learning materials as PDFs for revision and practice, these include mock tests, practice sections and lecture notes. For students to keep track of their class schedules, upcoming tests, announcements and personalized messages, Unacademy provides personalized planners as well so they can plan ahead and utilize the free time between classes to incorporate self-study sessions. The performance tracker feature helps users track their academic performance, test grades and overall progress.
Students preparing for the same goal can also arrange group study sessions where they can study together and later compete with one another in weekly competitions. To ensure students have clear concepts, educators dedicate every 4th class to answering their queries while weekends are for conducting mock tests. The prices of these courses range from $20 per month for exam preparation to enter the job field of government-owned banks or Indian railways, to $150 per month for the tests to enter civil service jobs or elite engineering schools.
Business Model & Pricing
Unacademy has a business-to-consumer (B2C) freemium business model where consumers are provided basic features for free. However, they can only access premium features after paying a subscription fee for Unacademy Plus. This is an ad-free platform that offers paid live classes for one-on-one sessions to clear doubts and is the company’s major source of revenue. Other streams of revenue include earnings from their multiple Youtube channels for different competitive exams and school grades.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Unacademy witnessed a significant spike in its growth, due to the country’s shift to digital learning. As a result, the company stood out as one of the largest edtech companies among its peers and acquired 8 companies in 2021 alone. As for their revenue, the startup reported operating revenue of $53M in 2021, which was a 6.1x year to year increase from 2020’s revenue of $8M, with the largest source of income coming from the platform’s paid subscriptions. From 2020-21, the company has witnessed an 80% to 100% growth and claims to have an annual revenue rate of $140M. Unacademy became India’s second ed-tech unicorn in 2020 and is now valued at $3.44B after raising $440M in a Series H funding round in 2021. The company was reported to have over 6 million monthly active users, out of which 600,000 were paid subscribers as of August 2021, and their app had been downloaded more than 15 million times.
Hemesh Singh: CTO and Co-Founder at Unacademy. A graduate of Motilal Nehru National University of Technology, with a degree in B-Tech, Hemesh was previously CTO at Flatchat, a mobile-based application that enables users to connect with people looking for flatmates.
Roman Saini: Co-Founder at Unacademy. A graduate of AIIMS Delhi, with an MBBS degree, Roman passed the IAS exams and served as an IAS officer for almost two years before founding Unacademy.
Gaurav Munjal: CEO and Co-Founder at Unacademy. A graduate of NMIMS Delhi, with a B-Tech degree in computer engineering he co-founded Flatchat with Unacademy co-founder Himanesh.
History & Evolution
In 2010, Munjal, an engineering student started Unacademy, an educational Youtube channel that offered Java coding lessons as a hobby. He soon gained immense popularity and became one of the most followed people on Quora for questions about the subject of Computer Science. He then brought Saini, one of the youngest persons to clear the IAS exams on board. Together they started creating high-value intensive courses like the preparation for IAS, concentrating on certain subjects as well as English and coding courses.
In 2015, Munjal, Saini, and Singh registered Unacademy, a digital education platform comprising a mobile app, web portal, and YouTube channel as a brand under the parent company Sorting Hat Technologies Pvt. The platform aimed to provide free online coaching to underprivileged students. Within a day of launching, the Unacademy app had 3000 downloads and that year a total of 10 students of Unacademy passed the civil services exam.
In 2016, Unacademy had more than 100 educators on board who reached 500,000 students through 2,400 courses and delivered 11 million lessons. In 2017, the platform collaborated with the leading career advice platform, TapChief, and launched courses on job preparation for first-year students, recent graduates and working professionals. That year the company reported more than $1M registered users. In 2018, Unacademy acquired WiFiStudy, an online exam preparation platform. The aim was to increase its presence in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities among students who prepare for public recruitment exams including railways and banking. That year the company reported 5,000 active educators, 5 million learners, and over 50,000 courses in more than 10 Indian languages. In 2019, it launched Plus Subscription after a beta of two months. The subscription gives students preparing for various examinations unlimited access to live classes by the country’s best teachers. Within 11 months of the launch, it had 74,000 active subscribers and 31 active categories.
In 2020, Unacademy went on an acquisition spree. It acquired Kreatryx, an online GATE and ESE preparation platform; CodeChef, an algorithm and coding platform; PrepLadder, a postgraduate medical entrance exam preparation platform; NeoStencil, a test preparation platform focused on government jobs; Mastree, a K12 learning platform; and Coursavy, a platform for UPSC test preparation. During the pandemic, the platform offered over 20,000 free live classes across categories like UPSC, Bank Exams, Railway Exams, and became India’s second edtech unicorn.
In 2021, Unacademy continued its acquisition journey with TapChief, an online learning platform for professionals to earn incomes without full-time jobs. It also acquired Handa ka Funda, an online coaching institute for CAT and MBA preparation; Rheo TV, a live game streaming platform; Swiflearn, K-10 online tuition platform; and Spayee, a software as a service (SaaS) education platform. The company also revamped their entire learning experience on the app and launched it to all the students via their first-ever Unveil 1.0 event. It also announced Teacher Stock Options (TSOPs) for its educators, where it will grant over $40 million to all tutors on its platform over the next few years. The startup is now valued at $3.44B and has over $50M active learners and over 1000 top educators. It has also launched Relevel, a platform that enables job-seekers to showcase their skills and get employed at some of India’s largest startups; and Graphy, a platform that allows users to explore stories, ideas, books and original content through video, audio, images and quizzes.
What makes Unacademy different is its free education policy. The platform provides free pre-recorded lectures by expert educators and that is what initially reels users in. Unacademy Plus is an added service that they can avail but otherwise, there is no concept of trial expirations because lectures are free for all.
The company has also set up a Grievance-Redressal-Council, the first of its kind in the edtech industry of India. The council will deal with issues in the following categories, content on Unacademy, the conduct of educators, and consumer grievances. More importantly, this platform will be open for everyone irrespective of whether or not they are paid subscribers. The company’s initiative aligns with the government’s Consumer Protection Act 2019 and aims to safeguard the interests of consumers.
The edtech industry saw a significant boom globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the market size expected to increase from $85B in 2021 and expected to reach around $218B till 2027.
India’s EdTech user base is estimated to be around 90M in the k-12 and post k-12 sector, making it a very lucrative industry for investments.
Leading EdTech companies in India including Unacademdy, Byjus and UpGrad have formed the Indian EdTech Consortium ( IEC ) which is under the aegis of Internet and Mobile Association of India.
Suggested Next Reads
Unbundling Unacademy (Punita Sabharwal, Entrepreneur Europe, July 10, 2021)
Exclusive: Unacademy in talks to acquire Swiflearn (Harsh Upadhyay, Entrackr, October 18, 2021)
Stock option for teachers, a first for gig workers in India — what does Unacademy’s offer entail? (Pranav Mukul, The Indian Express, August 3, 2021)
[TechSparks 2020] Our audacious goal is to compete with Netflix: Unacademy's Gaurav Munjal (Sohini Mitter, Your Story, October 30, 2020)
Millions of Unacademy user accounts exposed in data breach: Report (Abhijit Ahaskar, Live Mint, May 6, 2020)
Building Unicorns Podcast: Unacademy's growth strategy different, not building a conglomerate like Byju's, says Gaurav Munjal (Mugdha Variyar, CNBC TV, August 20, 2021)