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Byju’s rival Toppr eyes 20 million users by 2020; claims highest engagement rate among e-learning apps

Sandeep Soni

Edtech startup Toppr, which directly competes with the unicorn Byju’s and had even targeted latter in its television advertisement in December last year calling it the ‘better’ learning app, is aiming to hit around 20 million registered users/app downloads by end of 2020 from existing 8 million along with $100 million run rate, Toppr’s CEO and Co-founder Zishaan Hayath told Financial Express Online in an interview. A prolific angel investor in the Indian startup ecosystem, Hayath counts startups including Ola, Housing.com, Chaayos, Fynd etc., among its portfolio companies.

“Apps like Khan Academy, Coursera, etc. have an engagement rate, which is time spent on the app per student per day, at 10-11 minutes, while Byju’s should be around 50 minutes. Toppr’s rate is 110 minutes,” said Hayath.

Missed the bus?

Toppr was launched in 2013, around two years after Think & Learn (Byju’s parent company) was set up. Byju’s app was launched in 2015. However, Toppr has somewhat missed the bus if seen from the valuation and fundraising perspective. While Toppr has so far raised $65 million, Byju’s has raised $819 million, as per deals tracker Crunchbase. Moreover, while Byju’s valuation has reportedly topped $5 billion, Toppr’s valuation as per media reports could be nearly $200 million. Hayath didn’t disclose the valuation.

“Byju’s online and offline entities are older than Toppr. In fact, Byju’s offline entity was already over 10 years in the market when we launched. Yes, it is true whoever raises most funding gets most follow on funding as well, that’s the nature but that does not guarantee outcomes,” said Hayath.

For instance, Grofers raised more money including from SoftBank than BigBasket. However, BigBasket (recently turned unicorn) had the right product with the right understanding of their customers and eventually, they came on top. Snapdeal too had tremendous money when Amazon wasn’t around but today it is barely anything. Uber too, despite having all the capital and a global product they could not adapt to Indian condition the way Ola product adapted, Hayath added.

Anti-coaching

Toppr’s subject coverage spans across 14 different subjects including Accounting, Social Studies, Civics etc., apart from Maths and Science and covers 20 school boards and 60 different exams across engineering, medical, scholarships etc. The engagement modules include online classes, video lectures, practice sessions, mock tests, live doubts clearing feature.

Toppr launched AI-backed bot in 2015 for students to get answers to their queries real time through a bot. The startup had initially built a network of tutors, on-boarded them along with creating the bot and programming it to solve multiple questions without the need for a tutor to help it.

“Once we got to solving half a million doubts per month, we routed it to bots to get them solved automatically. Solving a high number of doubts has made it efficient enough that today it solves 25 per cent of those 5 lakh doubts on its own before it goes to the tutor,” said Hayath. This frees up tutors space to solve more complex doubts.

Topp currently has 2-3 lakh paid users even as convincing users to transition from coaching to online learning remains the biggest challenge for Hayath. “Online learning is better because it is personalized and users (parents) understand this but they are hesitant because still the status quo and peer pressure are on the coaching side.”

Toppr counts SAIF Partners, Helion Ventures, Brand Capital, Eight Roads Ventures, Alteria Capital, Kaizen Private Equity etc., among its investors.