He maintains that adopting an honest approach with parents has helped the edtech grow sustainably with a healthy runway of several years despite the ongoing funding winter
Since founding BrightChamps in 2020, Ravi Bhushan, the edtech's founder-CEO, has subscribed to a low cash burn customer acquisition strategy. This rests on making only demonstrably true claims during its sales pitches to parents.
Well aware that for the success of its products—not academic, but the delivery of next-gen skills learning—parents should understand the long-term value this learning brings into their kids' life. Without that understanding, he tells Outlook Business that BrightChamps would end up pumping in money to acquire more customers, thereby increasing its customer acquisition cost (CAC) to make up for all those who leave.
How has BrightChamps mapped the utilisation of its $100 million investment war chest?
We are actively looking to acquire companies that offer next-gen life skills worldwide, but particularly in Southeast Asia, since that is our biggest market. We are open to acquisitions both in the online and offline space.
While our business has concentrated on live, one-on-one classes, we are open to acquisitions that help us widen the scope of our delivery to make our learning accessible at multiple price points. This includes companies focused on product-led or group learning methods of delivery instead of 1:1 or live learning.
Will you continue to focus on inorganic growth and expansion after the recent acquisition of Singapore-based Schola?
Schola's acquisition was not about inorganic growth but about adding the communications vertical, which we had always planned. Vietnam is already an important geography for our coding vertical, so Schola checked two of our three primary business considerations regarding acquisitions.
But most importantly, there was amazing synergy from the purpose perspective. Apart from the business goals, BrightChamps leadership comprises former founders and CEOs, including MySmartPrice.com's founder Sitakanta Ray, Edoflip's founder Prateek Hakay and nxtGenSkills' founder Meena Gagvani. Hence, we need to acquire only those companies that are as obsessed with learning outcomes as we are.
What are your learnings from other edtechs like Byju's that made several acquisitions which did not work out?
Contrary to widely adopted sales practices, we actively tell parents that their kids will not become tech billionaires by learning from us—as evidenced by all our marketing and promotional material. Instead, we focus on explaining to them why tech knowledge and skills are necessary, irrespective of their future pursuit.
We believe that when you treat parents with respect, they respect and trust you. This is why we have had a negligible rate of refunds or drop-outs from our programmes.
This strategy has paid off for us, helping us grow sustainably and giving us a comfortable and healthy runway of several years despite the start-up ecosystem being in what is ostensibly a funding winter.
What broader domestic opportunities is BrightChamps trying to tap into?
As a general strategy, we will keep working on ways to increase accessibility at multiple price points for all our geographies, including India.
In India, we see great opportunities for all our verticals, like coding and skills, especially financial literacy and robotics. This is because we have the largest educated middle class globally.
Fifty per cent of Indians are below 25 years, and over 65 per cent are less than 35 years of age. We make up almost 18 per cent of the world's population, yet, only 27 per cent of young Indian adults meet the minimum level of financial literacy defined by the Reserve Bank of India. This audience understands the importance of both being money smart and the life-changing impact that giving essential, actionable knowledge to kids from an early age can have.
We are seeing great success for our financial literacy program in India and will continue to widen the scope of its offering to more cities. We are also looking to partner with schools pan India to bring this knowledge to students as part of our strategy to experiment with different delivery formats.
What about the robotics vertical?
Though three months old, early experiments in the robotics vertical have shown curiosity and appetite for learning about new and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.
It also helps that 'play' is central to RoboChamps’ pedagogy. We give students access to the teacher's device in the demo class so they can control and experience the robots they will be working on after they receive their robotics kits. This is unlike most robotics programmes where the demo class is mostly theoretical. So, we are confident we will see great success for this vertical in the coming year.
BrightChamps claims to deliver 3,00,000 classes monthly across various verticals for K to 12. With students now opting for offline education, how will it maintain its 90 per cent completion and 80 per cent renewal rates?
Since we never positioned ourselves as an alternative to traditional education, we have not been affected across all major metrics and continue to grow steadily. We are aggressively upgrading our curricula across verticals to crack more language-locked markets and make our learning more accessible.
Our rapid success in terms of growth rate, completion, renewals, customer satisfaction score and net promoter score in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, where many others have failed, has been largely because making our curriculum available in local languages in addition to English was a top priority. We are also making our curricula more inclusive by adapting it to children with special learning needs.
Over the past couple of years, the growth at many edtech start-ups came against the backdrop of unsustainable costs as they overhired and expanded operations whilst the drying of funding. How did BrightChamps deal with this situation?
We have never overspent and our CAC has always been controlled—often lower than 40 to 50 per cent compared to industry standards. We have also hired conservatively. Our policy has always been to hire with a long-term view, not trend-based growth.
We also invest a lot in training our teams, especially the sales, marketing and teacher teams, into our way of doing education, which involves no mis-selling or false promises. Hence, we did not lay off people for any growth-related reasons in our lifetime.
In fact, we have hired and are still hiring across verticals and teams. We are looking at growing to become a team of 4,000 in this financial year, from our current headcount of 3,000, which includes teacher partners.
What is BrightChamps’ workforce hiring plan to get the right educationists on board and retain them in this talent-hungry sector?
Each vertical has its own minimum hiring criteria for qualifications based on subject-matter expertise.
For example, close to 40 per cent of our financial literacy faculty comprises CAs, CFAs and other professional degrees in finance. Our communications faculty has TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) teaching certificates with native-level or equivalent English-speaking proficiency. Our coding faculty has a degree in computer science as a minimum criterion and our robotics faculty has a minimum of one, but more likely a combination of degrees in robotics, automation, telecommunications, electronics engineering, mechatronics engineering, computer sciences and mechanical engineering. On a group level, we largely maintain a two-language criterion for teachers.
Has BrightChamps opted for a hybrid model with an entry into the offline learning space?
We are open to all models of delivery, including offline. It was never something we were closed to or something that we have just now started to think about.
We are only a two-year-old company and the first order of business was to introduce verticals like coding and skills, especially financial literacy and robotics, and get deeply entrenched within the geographies we had prioritised.
Now that we have achieved this, we are going to work on deepening our presence in the current geographies for efficiency in operations and scale, enter newer geographies and experiment with other delivery models and contemplate other verticals.
Offline learning is still not a top priority within our global growth strategy. But it is definitely something we will be considering more deeply in the coming weeks.