“There is no royal road to anything. One thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.”– Josiah Gilbert Holland
We often hear that an extraordinary vision, a new concept, and a unique idea are three of the most important things in modern times to have a successful entrepreneurial life and ‘BYJU’s- The Learning app’ is a name almost everyone is aware of. But not many know about the man behind it, Byju Raveendran, who built one of the most successful companies of India out of sheer serendipity. Yes! He had a job in hand and the future seemed bright but when one is destined to be on a different path, he reaches there regardless of the twists and turns in the way. His attitude of never giving up and having patience throughout a long journey has made him an appropriate inspiration for people across the globe. His success is such that he is now identified by his work more than his name.
The budding days
Born in Azhikode, Kerala, Byju did his schooling from a Malayalam-medium school where his parents used to teach. He had a keen interest in sports about which his family was also supportive and he used to play up to six sports at the school level. Moreover, studies were always a priority for him and his parents just like any normal Indian family. He was a good student and contrary to the masses, he loved Mathematics. Whenever he couldn’t catch up with his classes due to sporting events, he used to study on his own. This wasn’t easy so he started developing his own ways of remembering formulas, creating sequences, and solving questions. This made him cover up the syllabus quickly and efficiently. He was a smart student who believed in learning things in a different way which can lead to an easy understanding and a better recall during the examinations.
“Nurture your mind with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes.”– Benjamin Disraeli
An unexpected happening
With the continued support of his parents, his cognitive abilities, and the ideals he grew up with, he successfully became an engineer and soon got a job in an IT firm that required him to travel abroad for a major chunk of the year. Living a settled life with a good balance of work and vacations, Byju had never imagined what was in store for him. In 2003, when he was in Bangalore for a holiday, he visited his friends who were preparing for the CAT exam and helped them study by teaching them some unique ways in which they could approach the questions. His friends did well in the exam but more amusing was the fact that Byju himself gave the exam, just for fun, without any planned preparations, and scored 100 percentile. Everyone was amazed and appreciated Byju for the feat but he, personally, wasn’t too impressed as he thought it was just a fluke, therefore he decided to appear in the exam again the next time just to check whether he genuinely did well on the previous occasion. In the 2nd attempt, he again scored 100 percentile.
“The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.”– Oliver Wendell Holmes
The road ahead
After the CAT incident, he went back to his job but somewhere on the back of his mind, he had a thought to ponder upon. His friends kept on insisting him to coach students preparing for competitive exams as his methods and applications were different from what was already there on the table. Byju thought about it and after some musing, he decided that it was time to begin his journey as a teacher. He took some time off his job and began teaching students on the terrace of his friend’s house that marked his first classroom. Beginning with MBA, he kept on adding other courses to the list and eventually left his job to focus more on this journey. He decided to allow a seven day free trial to students and charged them only when they were satisfied with the quality of teaching. Soon, as the students began to increase in number, he rented a classroom space to accommodate them but it didn’t last for long as the number of students was increasing at an unexpected rate. He started giving classes in an auditorium and his entrepreneurial journey was bang on target with success kissing his feet and grabbing his hands. In no time, the number of students under him increased to 20000 across the country and he used to travel to more than 7 cities within a week to deliver his teachings. Now, it was getting difficult for him to handle the hectic schedule so he decided to record his lectures and distribute it to places where he couldn’t manage to reach and soon more than 25 cities had access to his classes. Byju was thrilled with the success but was there more to this story?
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”– Will Rogers
Think and learn
Even when everything is going fine, there is always a scope of improvement otherwise, the saturation point would be near. As an entrepreneur, there was a need to grow and tap all the opportunities available. It was in 2010 when Byju was presented with the idea to provide his classes online so that millions of students could avail and access his quality teaching. It was some graduates of the IIM who proposed this idea to him intending to create the best educational content for students across the country. The internet, in India, at that time was not a very accessible commodity but Byju went ahead with it and formed ‘Think and Learn Pvt. Ltd.’.
A big leap
The startup company created an application called ‘BYJU’s- The Learning App’ and as soon as the app was launched in 2015, it was accepted by students and parents alike. Within three months of launching, the app had more than 5.5 million downloads and over 2.5 lakh paid subscribers. However, there were always teething troubles that were to be overcome with regular monitoring and improvements. The inspiring fact is that Byju remained patient, stuck to his positive conscience and kept working hard even when competitors were busy tearing apart his model of teaching through technology. His application became the go-to choice for everyone, be it a distance learner or a regular coaching student, all loved the idea of innovative learning and soon the app became a raging subject throughout the country.
In 2016, his startup became the first in Asia to attract investments from Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s organisation- The Chan-Zukerberg initiative. His company roped in Shahrukh Khan as its brand ambassador and in 2019 it became the official sponsor of the Indian Cricket Team’s jersey.
Another international achievement for the company was that it was included as a case study at Harvard University in 2017.
“The difference between a successful person and others is not lack of strength not a lack of knowledge but rather a lack of will.”– Vince Lombardi
Byju Raveendran’s life has revolved around studies; it’s just that his positions changed, from being an impeccable student to an amazing teacher. A sports enthusiast, a learner, and a teacher who blended technology with education, Byju has brought up an educational reform in a country that is pushing towards Digital India as a policy measure. His way of living and teaching is truly inspirational for all those who aspire to become successful.