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 learning company Byju’s is reportedly close to acquiring rival Toppr Technologies, signaling further consolidation in the sector, report multiple publications.

Mumbai-based Toppr, which provides online learning materials to students from grades 5 to 12, has been valued at about US$150 million. Byju’s and Toppr representatives declined to respond to media queries.

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.

Acquisition spree

Byju’s has been aggressively expanding its footprint – both organically and through acquisitions, and is also looking to strengthen its presence abroad. Last August, Byju’s acquired WhiteHat Jr, an online coding school for young children, for $300 million. It is also closing another transaction to buy offline test preparation firm Aakash Educational Services for $1 billion.

Funding boom

Byju’s has raised more than $1.25 billion in 2020 and is now valued at $12 billion. The company spent the latter half of 2020 raising capital from notable names including Mary Meeker and Yuri Milner. The e-learning unicorn has so far raised more than $2.3 billion from investors in 18 funding rounds.

Other online education companies are also seeing a funding boom. 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.

In recent months it acquired many startups including NeoStencil, Mastree, PrepLadder, Kreatryx, CodeChef and Coursavy. Unacademy founder and chief executive Gaurav Munjal recently hinted that more acquisitions were in the pipeline.

Toppr also raised 35 million rupees last year from Foundation Holdings and its erstwhile backers include SAIF Partners and Helion Ventures. Other online education companies like Eruditus and Vedantu also attracted investors.

India’s online education sector has seen an investment of $2.1 billion in the calendar year 2020, compared to $1.7 billion in the entire previous decade, according to a report by research firm Anand Rathi Advisors. It has projected that by 2025, the online education sector is poised to reach $12 billion.