At a time when so many edtech firms in India are attempting to cut their reliance on teachers, a Noida-based startup that is helping teachers and creators operate, manage and sell courses to students has raised $70 million in a new financing round. That startup, Classplus, is now valued at $570 million.
Alpha Wave Global and Tiger Global co-led Classplus’ Series D round, the four-year-old startup said. Abu Dhabi-based Chimera Ventures and RTP Global also participated in the round, which follows the startup’s $65 million Series C funding eight months ago. The new round has more than doubled the startup’s valuation, it said in a statement.
There are millions of teachers in India who teach students in small Indian cities and towns. In their own localities, they are among the most popular from whom students wish to learn. Their offline coaching continues to flourish.
But traditionally, these teachers have struggled to reach students living just a few miles from them. With the advent of smartphones and cheap mobile data, some teachers have started to experiment with a variety of tools — from a spreadsheet processor to YouTube, Zoom, SurveyMonkey and Instamojo — to record, stream and monetize their lessons. But the experience of using so many tools is confusing and clumsy.
That’s where Classplus comes into the picture.
“We enable these teachers and small institutions to stream, distribute, sell and manage their classes online through just one platform,” said Mukul Rustagi, co-founder and chief executive of Classplus, in an interview with TechCrunch.
“The platform took off in 2019 as educators were able to leverage it to become brands, and do commerce and make more money. They were able to reach more students than ever before without cannibalising their offline businesses,” he said.
Things changed for the better for Classplus during the second wave of the pandemic, says Rustagi, when creators, artists, fitness and lifestyle experts and others discovered and started to use the platform to sell their courses to their audiences.
“Now we have both academic and non-academic educators on the platform,” he said.
The unexpected vote of confidence from creators has made Classplus confident that it can also serve the creator economy. “Many of these people have large social followings, but they are not able to make money. On Classplus, they are finally able to monetize. And like teachers, they don’t have to work with several business-to-business vendors. We are offering them a one-stop shop for everything,” he added.
The startup, which has built and designed the tools in-house, says educators on the platform additionally also receive instant feedback from their students. They get access to analytics that shows just how many students attended their classes and how they performed.
The platform, amusingly, also allows them to generate teasers of their classes. “We have ‘Indianized’ the platform with local needs. Just like how you have trailers in movies and shows, these teachers’ classes also have their teasers.”
On top of it, Rustagi said one of the reasons Classplus has been able to make inroads outside of urban India has to do with localization of content itself. “The vast majority of classes — academic as well as non-academic — uploaded on our platform is in local languages with local accents. What we found was that students here want to learn from people they can relate to,” he said.
Classplus, which counts Blume Ventures and GSV Ventures among its early backers, has amassed over 100,000 educators and creators from more than 3,000 towns and cities of India. More than three-fourths of its creators live outside of urban Indian cities. These customers are able to increase their profitability by two to three times within six months of adopting the Classplus platform, the startup said.
“Over the last few years, Classplus has established itself as a market leader and has created a highly differentiated and sophisticated technology product, while building a robust management team,” said Navroz D. Udwadia, co-founder of Alpha Wave Global (formerly known as Falcon Edge Capital).
“We like that the company can successfully cater to the large offline market of educators across segments such as K-12, test prep, etc. We also see a significant improvement in end tutor economics as a result of using Classplus — this results in sector leading monetization and retention trends. It is therefore our privilege to double down on Classplus with our investment in this round.”
The young firm plans to deploy the fresh funds to go deeper in smaller Indian cities and towns and broaden its product offerings to further enrich a teacher and creator’s needs. Classplus is also expanding to some international markets including Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.
“Going forward, we’ll also be investing in new acquisitions and partnerships that will enable us to continue delivering best-in-class experience to the educators and helping them create an impact in the education system by building bigger and stronger businesses,” Rustagi added.