Ronnie Screwvala-led edtech unicorn upGrad which has been mainly focusing on upskilling working professionals is now scaling up its operations to focus on learners in India’s hinterlands or Bharat.
As part of that strategy, upGrad is acquiring Exampur – one of India’s largest test-prep providers for government jobs. The deal is valued at about Rs 125 crore, according to the sources. Exampur looks to close revenue of Rs 70 crore this fiscal. The foray into test preparation puts upGrad into direct competition with players such as SoftBank-backed Unacademy and Adda247.
Co-founded in 2018 by Vivek Kumar and Vardan Gandhi, the Noida-based learning platform has a user base of over 10 million students. It offers over 200 test-prep courses for govt. jobs where most of the content is delivered through its more than 27 YouTube channels.
These courses include ones for the UPSC, SSC, defence, banking, teaching, and other State-level Government job preparations.
“We have largely been (focusing) on upskilling working professionals which is more a Tier-1 phenomenon as most of the private sector jobs are in this market,” said Mayank Kumar, co-founder and managing director of upGrad, in an interview. “This is one of our first initiatives where we are venturing into grassroots levels and building something meaningful in non-metro and rural markets.”
upGrad is planning to expand its operations in rural India with various programmes including upskilling the talent present there for job opportunities in the private sector.
Cumulatively, Exampur has a growing subscriber base of over 12 million with an average viewership of 2.5 million students and leads the Hindi-speaking markets across New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar. 90 per cent of paid users of Exampur are from tier II, III and IV markets. upGrad is addressing a huge gap as Kumar said that there are about 85 million people in these markets who apply for about 850,000- 1 million government jobs every year.
“Typically, these learners wait for 3-4 years and constantly apply to crack the examination,” said Kumar of upGrad. “They do it for jobs not just at UPSC or IAS level but for (vacancies) ranging from Railways to joining a particular municipality.”
Exampur offers value adds like online test series, free quizzes, and live scholarship tests to help aspirants assess their professional competencies and accordingly, streamline their learning process. It has one of the largest study material repositories and e-books portfolio for candidates who can easily access them anytime at their own convenience.
Gaurav Kumar, President – Corporate Development, upGrad, said a 6-month course which is offered by Exampur in a pure online format is typically priced at Rs 1,000 compared to Rs 10,000 costing in the offline market and where students have to visit a physical centre.
“These exams are highly competitive. The number of applicants are very high (compared) to the vacancies available,” said Kumar. “Considering quality of higher education remains patchy in tier-3 and tier-4 areas, it is very important for the learners to get an external academic support.”
Exampur founders Vivek Kumar and Vardan Gandhi said that it is undeniable that the number of educated candidates in India is growing exponentially yet they are unemployed. It is also being supported by the pandemic-related disruptions, geopolitical situations, and rising inflation that are negatively hitting the employment elasticity within the country. “Hence, we want our learners to walk that extra mile to understand the key to cracking such competitive exams and this is where we have created a hybrid learning model through our digital presence,” said Kumar and Gandhi. “We look forward to making Exampur a household name and with upGrad, we see it reaching there really fast.”
Exampur has about 600 people and it would operate as an independent brand.
“We are mainly present in the Northern part of the country,” said Gandhi of Exampur. “We now aim to cover the South and Northeast part of the country including Telangana and Assam.”
upGrad is on an acquisition spree at a time when the company recently almost doubled its valuation to $2.25 billion after raising $225 million in fresh funding from investors such as James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems LLC and family offices of Lakshmi Mittal of steelmaker ArcelorMittal SA and Sunil Bharti Mittal of telecom operator Bharti Airtel, according to the sources. They said the other investors include US testing and assessment provider Educational Testing Service and existing investors, including Temasek Holdings Pte.
This month upGrad acquired online learning institution Harappa Education for Rs 300 crore (about $38 million). The other acquisitions this year include Wolves India, Insofe and Work Better.