Earlier this week,joined India’s unicorn club, raising $100m in Series A funding from WestBridge Capital and GSV Ventures. PW is India’s 101st unicorn.
What sets the Noida-based startup apart from its peers is its profitability, especially at a time when other startups in the edtech sector seem to be struggling. Edtech unicorns in India including, and have laid off employees, slowed expansion plans and are trying to burn as little cash as possible to grow their track, as funding dries up.
Meanwhile, PW plans to expand, open more learning centers and introduce more course offerings. It is gearing up to launch educational content in nine languages including Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Odia, Malayalam and Kannada, in line with its goal to connect with over 250 million students by 2025.
He has set up over 20 offline coaching classrooms, ‘Pathshalas’, across India with over 10,000 students enrolled for the 2022-2023 session.
From a YouTube channel to a unicorn
PW started as a YouTube channel in 2016 with an investment of around Rs 30,000.
Founder and CEO Alakh Pandey used a camera phone, tripod, whiteboard and some books, and started teaching physics to students in grades 11 and 12 for JEE/NEET exams.
Alakh, who comes from a modest background, has been teaching students at coaching institutes since 2014 – and he really enjoyed it.
“I enjoy the moment when I see the student smile, get confused, get the answer wrong…only to tell them why they got the answer wrong. That excitement in the students motivates me,” he says.
He adds that he brings drama into the classroom.
“I couldn’t become an actor, so I became an actor through education. I can teach the concepts, I can show all my acting talent through teaching. So I also feel this pleasure. it’s more like a fairy tale.”
He began by lecturing on physics and chemistry (except inorganic) topics that students could access without paying a fee. Within a year, the channel had 10,000 subscribers.
In May 2018, when he crossed 50,000 subscribers on YouTube, he told his students he would launch his own platform where they could learn physics, chemistry and math and take tests, assignments and exams. other exam preparation materials.
However, he was not able to do it himself. He launched a website, through which he would share study materials, including notes and assignments. He also continued to teach on YouTube, until the pandemic hit in 2020.
It was then that his students inquired about his plans to launch his own platform. “When COVID-19 arrived, students couldn’t take offline coaching, so they had no support,” Alakh said. Your story.
They had no choice but to join online centers that charged high fees.
That’s when “fortunately, Prateek Maheshwari, the technician and our co-founder, came on the scene,” he says.
Prateek, through his other startup PenPencil, already had experience building custom training software for coaching institutes.
The duo first met in 2018 and have remained connected over their plans to launch a platform. It was finally in May 2020 that they launched the PW application, which offers students a complete curriculum for competitions.
Until then, the Alakh took care of the content itself. “I was a college dropout and had to prove myself,” he says.
When PW first launched the app, it crashed. The team worked on it. The app crashed again during the first and second courses; more than 50,000 students had entered a live class on the platform.
“Prateek and the PenPencil team had never felt that the traffic was so big,” Alakh recalls.
Alakh has invested around Rs 15 lakh, earned in advertising revenue from his YouTube channel, for app development according to a previous interaction.
The team developed the technology within 10-15 days, and the application was ready to go.
Build what students want
In June 2020, the duo registered the company as PhysicsWallah Private Limited.
“Prateek is the guy behind the exponential growth. He shaped the business. I’m a teacher and I’m a very conservative guy,” says Alakh. “Our investors say, ‘Prateek is the hunter and you are the farmer’. ”
The two worked together to meet student demands. After the live lessons, they worked on a testing engine, then added teachers and other features, including reviews and a doubt engine.
“Our students [are] tell us what to do; we are just following their orders,” says Alakh. This is how they launched the offline centers as well.
PW currently has 5.2 million downloads on the Play Store with a 4.7 rating and 6.9 million subscribers on YouTube.
“The company has been profitable since inception with positive cash flow and reserves,” says Alakh.
PW revenues increased ninefold in FY22. The company’s FY23 run rate is $65 million.