Indian edtech PhysicsWallah becomes unicorn with $100 million Series A funding

An Indian edtech startup that has made deep inroads in smaller Indian cities and 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 said Tuesday. Westbridge and GSV Ventures financed the startup's maiden institutional round, which values the two-year-old firm at $1.1 billion (post-money).

Unlike its bigger rivals -- Byju's and Unacademy -- that levy a fee as high as tens of thousands of dollars for a course, PW charges students as low as $4 and according to a person familiar with the matter, has amassed tens of thousands of paying subscribers.

"The company has been profitable since inception with positive cash flows and reserves,” said Alakh Pandey, founder and chief executive of PW, in a statement. “Our revenue grew ninefold in the year 2021-2022 vis-a-vis 2020-2021. Our current run rate for FY 2023 is at $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 continue their higher education and boost their career trajectory without any hassles," he added.

The startup's success comes at a time when several established edtech players are struggling and have cut their workforces in recent weeks.

PW represent a broader shift in the Indian startup ecosystem. The urban India – or “India1,” as venture capitalist Sajith Pai categorizes it, appears to have largely been tapped out with only few opportunities left. So it should come as little surprise that PW was one of the hottest deals that many VCs have been chasing for several quarters.

PW, which runs both online and offline classes, has gained wide popularity on YouTube, where it has amassed nearly 7 million subscribers. Its teachers -- including Pandey -- have a large and loyal fanbase on Google's platform where they publish free videos to show their admiration for PW and also sometimes amusingly mock other edtech platforms, who they allege 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 notes, 10,000+ students have cracked competitive exams like NEET and JEE in 2020 and 2021. The platform proudly boasts that at least one student in six medical and one in 10 engineering colleges in India are PW alumni," PW said.

The startup, which employs over 1,900 individuals including 500 teachers and over 200 associate professors who answer student queries, 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 fresh funds to open more physical learning centres.

“While many pundits say that the bloom is off the rose for Indian edtech, we at GSV Ventures believe the flowers are just beginning to bloom as extraordinary entrepreneurs are democratizing learning and skills delivery for the 90% of India still untouched by the edtech revolution," said Deborah Quazzo, managing partner at GSV Ventures, in a statement.

"One such company is PW (PhysicsWallah), which we are proud to be co-leading its first round of investment with WestBridge. Led by renowned YouTube STEM educator, Alakh Pandey and tech executive Prateek Maheshwari, the company is disrupting the test preparation market (today JEE and NEET) delivering low-cost solutions of the highest quality with extraordinary learning outcomes for over 6 million students and growing. GSV Ventures’ mission is for ALL people to have equal access to the future and PW is delivering on that mission AT SCALE.”