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

India’s leading online education startup Byju’s has now raised US$200 million in its latest funding round, taking its valuation to $12 billion.

This round was led by private equity player BlackRock and T Rowe Price also participated, the Business Standard reported. BlackRock has been an existing investor in Byju’s, while T Rowe is a new entrant.

Byju’s has so far raised more than $2.3 billion from investors in 18 funding rounds and its past investors include Tiger Global, General Atlantic and DST Global. About two months ago it raised $500 million and the startup crossed the $10 billion barrier in terms of valuation.

Byju’s is now the second-most valued startup in the country and with the latest round, it has inched closer to Paytm, which is now valued at $16 billion, according to the Hurun India Unicorn Index 2020.

After India announced a lockdown in March to contain the spread of Covid-19, online learning companies saw a big leap in users as schools and colleges remained closed. On the other hand, working professionals also saw the lockdown as an opportunity to upgrade their skills and began signing up for various courses.

Byju’s added more than 25 million new students on its platform since March and its app now has over 70 million registered students and 4.5 million annual paid subscriptions. It has almost doubled its revenue in this financial year to 28 billion rupees, from 14.3 billion rupees last year.

The startup has also made six acquisitions so far, the biggest being WhiteHat Jr ($300 million) – a startup that trains children between 6 and 18 years in the fundamentals of coding to build online games, animations and apps. It is also trying to increase its presence in various international markets, including the US.

The ed-tech segment has seen a funding boom in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as online education has found many takers. Byju’s rival Unacademy became a Unicorn in September after it raised $150 million in a round led by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, valuing the company at $1.45 billion.

Other online education companies like Eruditus, Toppr and Vedantu are also attracting investors.

However, industry watchers caution that once the threat of the virus recedes and offline educational institutions resume functioning, these companies will have to work harder to acquire and retain customers. Online education companies are now looking at smaller towns to drive the next phase of growth.