In this photo taken on January 10, 2019, Byju Raveendran, the founder of Byju's, the Bangalore-based educational technology start-up, poses at the company's premises. Photo: AFP

While most sectors of the Indian economy are floundering under the weight of the pandemic and lengthy lockdown, online learning platforms are witnessing a sharp rise in demand and investor interest.

Market leader Byju’s has reportedly raised US$500 million at a valuation of $10.8 billion, according to media reports. The fresh round of funding is led by US-based private equity investor Silver Lake, while existing investors Tiger Global, General Atlantic and Owl Ventures also took part.

The company confirmed that it has raised a new funding round from Silver Lake, but declined to reveal the amount. The education technology unicorn was earlier valued at $10.5 billion when it received funding from Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital in June.

Byju’s founder and CEO Byju Raveendran said, “We are fortunate to be in a sector of positive relevance during this crisis. This has brought online learning to the forefront and is helping parents, teachers and students experience and understand its value. Our classrooms are changing possibly for the first time in 100 years and I’m really excited about the opportunities that we have to redefine the future of learning.”

Greg Mondre, Co-CEO of Silver Lake, said, “We look forward to working with them as Byju’s builds on and accelerates its compelling growth trajectory by forging new partnerships and continuing to cultivate a comprehensive ecosystem of innovative educational offerings.”

The company has raised around $1 billion this year in a slew of funding rounds and the investors include Tiger Global, General Atlantic and DST Global, the investment fund headed by tech billionaire Yuri Milner.

Byju’s app currently has over 64 million registered students and 4.2 million annual paid subscriptions. The company said it had “seen over 20 million new students start learning” on its platform since the lockdown.

Byju’s last month acquired another education technology firm, WhiteHat Jr, for $300 million. Founded in 2018, WhiteHat helps children from six to 18 build commercial-ready games, animations and apps online using fundamentals of coding. Apart from India, Whitehat has a presence in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

Its rivals Unacademy, Toppr, and Vedantu are also attracting investors. Recently, Unacademy turned into a unicorn when it was valued at $1.4 billion. It received $150 million from Japan’s Softbank.