Indian edtech PhysicsWallah goes unicorn with $100M Series A funding
An Indian edtech startup that has made deep inroads in small Indian towns with its low-cost learning offerings is the latest to join the South Asian nation’s fast-growing unicorn club.
PW, or PhysicsWallah, has raised $100 million in its Series A funding, the profitable startup announced on Tuesday. Westbridge and GSV Ventures funded the startup’s first institutional round, which values the two-year-old company at $1.1 billion (post-money).
Unlike its biggest rivals – Byju’s and Unacademy – which charge fees of up to tens of thousands of dollars for a course, PW charges students as little as $4 and, according to a person familiar with the matter, has raised tens thousands of paying subscribers.
“The company has been profitable since inception with positive cash flow and reserves,” Alakh Pandey, founder and chief executive of PW, said in a statement. “Our revenue grew 9x in 2021-2022 compared to 2020-2021. Our current run rate for fiscal year 2023 is $65 million,” he added.
“Since its inception, we have focused on delivering high quality education with affordability at the forefront, ensuring that learners from all walks of life can pursue their higher education and boost their career trajectory without no hassle,” he added.
The startup’s success comes at a time when several established edtech players are struggling and have downsized in recent weeks.
PW represents a broader shift in the Indian startup ecosystem. Urban India – or “India1” as venture capitalist Sajith Pai calls it – seems to have been largely exhausted with few opportunities left. So it’s no surprise that PW has been one of the hottest deals that many VCs have been looking for for several quarters.
PW, which offers online and offline courses, has gained great popularity on YouTube, where it has amassed nearly 7 million subscribers. His teachers – including Pandey – have a large and loyal fan base on Google’s platform where they post free videos to show their admiration for PW and sometimes playfully mock other edtech platforms, which , according to them, are in the business for “the money”.
“With the help of PW’s comprehensive, interactive and engaging educational content in the form of lectures, videos and grades, over 10,000 students passed competitive exams like NEET and JEE in 2020 and 2021. The platform is proudly boasts that at least one student in six medical schools and one in ten engineering colleges in India are PW alumni,” said PW.
The startup, which employs more than 1,900 people, including 500 teachers and more than 200 associate professors who answer questions from students, is working to launch educational content in nine vernacular languages, including Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu , Gujarati, Odia, Malayalam and Kannada. It also plans to deploy the new funds to open more physical learning centers.
“While many pundits say flowering is on its way for Indian edtech, we at GSV Ventures believe the flowers are just beginning to bloom as amazing entrepreneurs democratize learning and the provision of skills for 90% of India still untouched by the edtech revolution,” Deborah Quazzo, managing partner of GSV Ventures, said in a statement.
“One such company is PW (PhysicsWallah), which we are proud to co-lead in its first round of investment with WestBridge. Led by renowned YouTube STEM educator, Alakh Pandey and CTO PrateekMaheshwari, the company is disrupting the test preparation market (now JEE and NEET) providing the highest quality, low-cost solutions with extraordinary learning outcomes for students over 6mm and growing.GSV Ventures’ mission is that ALL people have equal access to the future and PW fulfills this mission AT SCALE.”