Edtech decacorn Byju’s is in talks to acquire exam preparation firm Aakash Educational Services Limited for about $700 million-$750 million, according to the sources.
“But the conversations are very early. Even the term sheet has not been signed yet,” said an industry source with direct knowledge about the matter.
If the deal is signed, it would become one of the biggest edtech acquisitions in the world.
New Delhi-based Aakash Educational Services Limited (AESL) is the biggest education organisation in India. It provides comprehensive test preparatory services for students preparing for medical and engineering entrance examinations. It also provides services related to school and board exams and competitive exams such as NTSE, KVPY, and Olympiads.
Aakash has over 33 years of operational experience in the test preparatory industry with a pan India network of over 205 Aakash Centers (including franchisee) and a student count of more than 2,50,000. The institute clocks an annual turnover of about Rs 1,200 crore. In late 2019, private equity firm Blackstone picked up 37.5 per cent stake in Aakash Educational Services Ltd, valuing the company at around $500 million.
A Byju’s spokesperson declined to comment.
Bengaluru-based Byju’s which is valued at $12 billion has been on a fund-raising spree in 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic helped it to become a decacorn (a company valued at over $10 billion). The company founded by Byju Raveendran has raised a total funding of about $2.1 billion from investors. It is backed by investors such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan, Sequoia, Tencent, General Atlantic, Tiger Global and Qatar Investment Authority.
“It makes sense for Byju’s to acquire Aakash, because the company has to justify the $12 billion valuation,” said an industry source. “For that to happen, their revenue has to scale up, which has not been happening in the current business and they are trying to achieve it through the inorganic route.”
Last year in August, Byju’s acquired Mumbai based ed-tech start-up, WhiteHat Jr, which teaches coding to children for $300 million. One of the other reasons was that WhiteHat Jr’s US business was growing rapidly. It also had plans to expand to other global markets such as Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand after strong growth in the US. In 2019, Byju’s also bought the US-based educational gaming company, Osmo, for a whopping $120 million in a stock-and-cash deal.
The country’s $180-billion education sector has gone online to adapt to the new reality, leading to opportunities for edtech firms, including Unacademy, Vedantu, and Byju’s.
Byju’s has seen tremendous growth in 2020. Since the lockdown, it has added over 25 million new students on its platform.
Today, the app has over 70 million registered students and 4.5 million annual paid subscriptions. The firm had almost doubled its revenue from Rs 1,430 crore to Rs 2,800 crore in FY20.