Meet Anita Kishore, the strategist behind Byju’s global acquisitions


In 2006, Byju Raveendran, now famous tutor turned tech entrepreneur, traveled to Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI) in Mumbai to host a math session for competitions. Also in the audience was Anita Kishore, a mechanical engineering student.

“It was brilliant. I really liked the session and the way he approached and thought about math,” Kishore said. “I went to him and asked him to do a few more sessions. I told him. that there was “an auditorium and 500 students in our college and I would make sure it was filled.”

Participation in this first session was a turning point in the life of Kishore, who then joined the edtech startup Byju’s founded by Raveendran in 2011. Kishore, 33, quickly rose through the ranks and is now Chief Strategy Officer of Byju’s, which has become the most valuable edtech in the world. company with a valuation of $ 16.5 billion. She is the mastermind behind some of Byju’s largest acquisitions globally and in the domestic market. She participates in negotiations to conclude acquisition agreements, strategic partnerships and raise major financing rounds with Raveendran. These include the $ 1 billion acquisition of New Delhi-based Aakash Educational Services (AESL) in April and the $ 600 million acquisition of Singapore-based Great Learning, a leading global professional and higher education segment in July this year.

“It’s not a very large (F&A) team. It’s mainly the two of us (Raveendran and Kishore), ”said Kishore, a mechanical engineer with an MBA from IIM-Ahmedabad. Prior to Byju, she worked at the Boston Consulting Group and was briefly a summer partner at Lehman Brothers. “We clearly saw that inorganic opportunities were working well and were able to integrate businesses and products. As organic growth continues to be strong, we see the inorganic (pathway) as another mainstay for us as we grow. “

Byju’s is on a wave of acquisitions to expand rapidly in India and around the world as the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the adoption of online education. Students and professionals seek to improve their skills, while schools and offices remain closed.

Byju’s has acquired around 6 companies in India and the United States this year and has spent more than $ 2 billion in the past 6 months on those acquisitions, according to the sources. The inorganic route is expected to help Bengaluru-based Byju quickly dominate the edtech market which has boomed due to the pandemic. It helps the company increase its lead over competitors such as Unacademy, Vedantu, Simplilearn, UpGrad, Amazon Academy and traditional educational institutes, backed by SoftBank, to tap into the $ 180 billion education sector of the country that has come online to adapt to the new reality. .

“None of these companies were actually planning to sell. Most of the founders wanted to keep building, ”Kishore said. “We see these acquisitions more as partnerships or an integration. The founders continue to manage the company independently.

The acquisition process does not consist in having a budget or a specific number of targets but in evaluating complementarity. One of these major acquisitions is the American educational game company Osmo. Byju’s acquisition of Osmo closed the acquisition of Osmo, its first overseas, for $ 120 million in a stock and cash transaction in 2019. This prompted Byju to exploit global markets, especially the United States. The Palo Alto-based company brought physical tools to the digital world through augmented reality. and its proprietary reflective artificial intelligence technology. The fusion of digital gameplay and physical interaction creates fun and challenging play experiences designed for all children.

“The core technology is the reason we decided to acquire Osmo,” said Kishore. Osmo’s revenue was around $ 25 million at that time and increased four times in two years to around $ 110 million.

In July of this year, Byju’s acquired the US-based digital reading platform Epic for $ 500 million, further strengthening its position in the educational technology (edtech) industry. The acquisition would give it a boost in the overseas market. The acquisition will help Byju expand its presence in the United States by providing access to the more than two million teachers and 50 million children of Epic’s existing global user base, which has more than doubled over the past year. Last year. Epic, aimed at children up to 12 years old, has a collection of over 40,000 popular and high-quality books, audiobooks and videos from over 250 of the world’s top publishers available by subscription.

“As we expand internationally and into the United States, which is an important market for us, there is a strong complementarity (in terms) of distribution that Epic has,” said Kishore.

Byju’s aims to become one of the largest space players in the United States, with a revenue target of $ 1 billion over the next three years.

Domestically, Byju’s closed the deal to acquire Aakash Educational Services (AESL) for nearly $ 1 billion in April. With more than 215 centers and a student body of over 250,000, Aakash has provided test preparation services to students preparing for medical and engineering entrance exams, school exams and counseling. Kishore said that when Byju sought to exploit the test prep space, he realized that the future of learning was hybrid and that this union of Aakash and Byju will bring together the best of learning. offline and online.

In August last year, Byju’s acquired Mumbai-based coding startup WhiteHat Jr for $ 300 million in a cash deal. However, a year after selling his start-up, WhiteHat Jr founder Karan Bajaj decided to move on this month. Kishore said Bajaj’s decision to move on after a year is already part of the plan. Asked about the challenge of having enough executives to run so many companies, she said the company has added strong talent at the top of the leadership and expanded the bandwidth of those companies. For example, Trupti Mukker, senior manager of WhiteHat Jr and alumnus of IIM-Bangalore, now heads the firm. But Kishore said Byju’s gave the founders of the companies he acquired independence to operate separately and maintain their core culture.

Kishore does not follow any manuals and does not consult with M&A and venture capital experts for the company’s major acquisitions. She acquired most of the skills related to negotiations and making deals in the field during these years at Byju.

“Some of the transactions we’ve done are the largest in the industry,” Kishore said. “There wouldn’t be a lot of venture capitalists or private equity (people) doing transactions of this size (in edtech).”

One of the main factors that helped Kishore complete these acquisition transactions was convincing the founders of the acquired companies of the vision for the partnership. This included providing them with resources to boost the growth of their businesses.

“The biggest thing that drives us is the vision to help more children learn better and fall in love with learning,” said Kishore, who is also a teacher at Byju’s. Before joining Byju’s, she taught part-time at the company on weekends. Kishore also enjoys playing sports such as lawn tennis and table tennis. Over the past few months, she has taken a keen interest in learning music and playing the keyboard and guitar.

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