EP #52: Building a learner-centric digital transformation strategy like the world’s most valuable edtech company, BYJU’S

EP #52: Building a learner-centric digital transformation strategy like the world’s most valuable edtech company, BYJU’S

About this Podcast


‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ In the wake of the pandemic, two things that have become the new normal are ‘Work from Home’ and ‘Online learning’. Edtech companies have been some of the biggest beneficiaries amidst the prevailing situation. With students confined to their homes, digital education has evolved as the only way to continue learning.

BYJU’S is the world’s most valuable Edtech company and the creator of India’s most loved school learning app, BYJU’s – The Learning App, launched in 2015. The app, which has over 70 million registered students offers highly adaptive and effective learning programs for students from classes 1-12 and those preparing for competitive exams like JEE, NEET, and IAS.

To understand more about the evolution of Edtech in the wake of the pandemic and how BYJU’S has managed to meet the changing behavioral patterns and needs of students and/or parents during the pandemic, we caught up with Yatish Chandra, Product Manager at BYJU’s. 

Yatin highlights the following:

  • The genesis and growth of BYJU’S as the leader in India’s Edtech space and how BYJU’s has aligned to the new normal in response to evolving student behavior
  • Key KPIs that are tracked to measure user engagement and retention in the Edtech space
  • The use of AI engines to drive greater platform stickiness and revenue growth
  • Innovative product strategies undertaken across channels and platforms
  • Interesting trends to look forward to in the Edtech and product development space

Tune in to gain insights on how the Edtech space is combating change in the education space by offering greater convenience to students through digital transformation. 


Episode Transcripts

Mayuri(Host): Hi guys, welcome to another insightful episode of MarTechno Beat, a specially curated podcast powered by Netcore MarTech where we talked to Leading product Champions and growth practitioners in marketing technology and gain some very interesting insights through their thoughts and their stories around all things. I am your host Mayuri and joining me today is a super special guest Yatish who’s a product manager at BYJU’s. Welcome, Yatish. Thank you so much for being a part of this podcast with me today. Glad to have you join me.

Yatish (Guest): It’s a pleasure to be here. First of all, thank you for making me part of this podcast. 

Mayuri: Thank you so much. So let’s get in, you know to set the context for our listeners. Let me just start by asking you. You know, how has been your experience in an organization like BYJU’s which is an incredibly fast-growing organization. It has seen massive growth over the last several years. So if we could hear a little bit about your experience, that would be a great way to start this podcast.

Yatish: Sure. So I joined BYJU’s about eight-nine months ago. It’s been not a year yet. But as you said it’s a very fast-paced environment that we work in. So the experience or the learning that I’ve had in the last eight-nine months has been massive just because of the way that we work and the desire that we have to improve every day not just that the way we work but the product that we want to improve and so on and so forth. So to get used to this environment, in the beginning, was a bit of it was a bit of a rough patch over there, but all credit to my manager. He helped me get molded into this environment perfectly now. And yeah, it’s been really good now, and we are striving to do better and better.

Mayuri: Awesome. Thank you for that introduction, you know just to you know, take the elephant out of the room, the pandemic,? So in the wake of the pandemic probably the two things that have really become The New Normal are work from home and online learning and companies have been absolutely some of the biggest gainers amongst the situation, students are confined to their homes, digital education has evolved so, you know in terms of the product at BYJU’s and at BYJU’s in general, how are you guys aligning to this new normal even from a product standpoint to actually meet this changing student Behaviour or even parent behavior in response to the pandemic.

Yatish: So exactly as you mentioned,  so the pandemic hit all of us suddenly and then everything disrupted, the normal way of living, everything got disrupted and one of the main things that got this disrupted there was the education sector as well. Students could no longer study the way they used to study before, schools got shut down. So that brought about a whole new dimension to how education was before and now. Yeah. So after this happened the scheduled way in which the students used to learn, stopped abruptly and it’s always been the case with other humans that we evolve and adapt to whatever situations that come up and tackle it with one or the other solution. So similarly e-learning was already part of the ecosystem before as well but after this happened it became as relevant as it can ever be to date. So once that happened, the challenges that we face towards that yes now the user started coming on to the app started learning like the more main motivation of the or the objective of our particular app was that the users can come And learn at the pace that they want to and whenever they want, So that was an unscheduled way as in schools are there and then this is like an after school whatever they want to learn and study. That’s the aspect that we were giving with the learning app. Now the challenge was scheduled part of it has stopped. Now, how do we get users like our students are sitting at home, schools have stopped? How do we get them to learn in a way such that they don’t miss out on the curriculum way of learning that they had? That was the first challenge that came up and that’s when we had we launched something like the free live classes on the BYJU’s, The Learning of wherein we could instill the scheduled way of learning wherein users can come they can book their class and then at that particular scheduled piece of time, they can come and attend the classes. So this gave that scheduled manner of learning as well as We also put together a part where once you learn something you always have the distinct to revise it,  revising learn something new other than that. So that is where our learning app came into being. So till this point when the schools were about to reopen we made are absolutely free for classes or great 4 to 12 this live classes as well. So yes, the opportunity or you can say the situation led us to evolve ourselves according to the customer’s need, so that’s how we made changes accordingly on our app as well.

Mayuri: Absolutely, like they say necessity is the mother of all invention. That’s great.  So that actually, you know makes me think so while you said, you kind of were driven to create this you should you learning feature in the app and bring that you being a part of the entire product development piece and you know when are striving towards creating value for your power users which are primarily students. You would also have certain KPIs and metrics in mind and this would be very different because the Ed Tech space is such you know, super evolving space. So In your experience when you are designing features in your product and you’re coming up with something like, you know, the schedule learning part, what are some key KPIs that you always keep in mind in terms of impacting your user engagement and retention if you put through some light on those.

Yatish: So the north metric for all the learning apps that we have right now is the effect of the average time spent by the user on the app, that is what is the main thing that we want to look at because that is a direct loading indication of how much the user is loving the app and how much the user likes to spend on the app. That’s the first thing is the first aspect of it that we used to look at before the schedule part came in wherein we also used to look at the journeys, so we have user Journeys on our diversion. Where our users can take a particular like start a journey and then according to their particular performance in that particular Journey, We give the contents accordingly. It’s like a guided area for users. So just to look at how many Journeys the user has taken the test the user has taken and so on and so forth. This used to give us an idea of what the engagement of for user is with the app itself. Now when these what do you call schedule live classes came into being, So the main thing that we used to look at was the number of users. Obviously, we want to see the traction that this particular feature is getting so we looked at the number of users who are booking the particular app. What is the attendance rate of the users who booked a club and now coming To the engagement part of it what actually matters to us was how many percent of the users watch the video completely. So we call that as what time what is the what you call segmentation of that particular video into certain percentages and see how many percent users actually go on to completely want to do because that is what actually gives us the idea that yes, people are starting to watch a video and how many percent of them are engaged enough to actually go on and go on to complete the video and that is what gives them. So and since we used to put out a variety of contents over there now we used to look at these watch time metrics for each and every topic that we used to put out that used to give us an idea of what kind of teaching or what kind of thing that we were putting out was actually working in was like. So that was one of the major engagement pieces that we used to look at. The second piece, which was almost the retention, again coming to that part with respect to living classes. The main things that we were looking at that point of time when we had scheduled live classes for months together, we used to put out one by one like topics each day for a different subject. So we used to look at if a user has attended one particular class how many percent are coming back and attending the second line class which is scheduled. So every day when we had live classes we wanted users to come back to the app and watch the videos and learn from it every day from live classes. So this was the thing that we very were looking at but on the whole, what we look at is the D 1 to D 15 retention rates because after that particular point of time is when our payable and the subscription part comes in, so we want to user to be very highly engaged between this D1 to D 15  and want him or her to come back to the app and engage with the app but again for the subscribed users, we have to look at it in a different way altogether. So for subscribing users, they are our customers who have bought the subscription and so on and so forth. So we want to keep them engaged throughout that period of subscription which we can look at like month-on-month retention. How many users are coming back and using the app, What are they learning all these things we have to look at when we look at this on a long-term this goes on to the lifetime value of the customer. That is what we want to extend in a very way and once we do that, once uses is coming back every time in doing that that will help increase that renewal rate of so it is all tied together in a way.

Mayuri:  That totally makes sense, the entire D 1 to D 15 retention rate. In fact such a crucial aspect for most app-heavy Brands today. I mean you see users such as me just as an example downloading several apps but how many of us till the 15th day and 28 days and actually, you know keep coming back. So very interesting points. An extension to you know, the way you would want to engage with your users, I’m sure you would be using a variety of methods in terms of you know communication that goes out to them or push notifications or several, you know campaigns, But how do you also you know seen the use of ML and AI being something that has driven you to create, you know more product stickiness because we all know the use of machine learning has been creating a major Paradigm Shift, you know the markets forecast. The use of artificial intelligence in the education sector to reach Great Heights. So what are some of your views and how have you seen the adoption of AI and ML to drive, know Revenue growth and user engagement team in BYJU’s and Ed Tech space in general.

Yatish: So to tackle that you know, I mean given that the users who use our app are so varied, there is so much stuff diversity in our country and users who Go to the best schools in India also user app people who go to a very remote place School in a very remote place, They also use our up for all these kinds of users the content that we put out on the first thing that they do cannot be the same. It has to be varied to the particular user’s profile you can say. So it becomes very important that we put out content or the recommendation that we give out to users is such that it is it gives out the value of our app or the value of what our app is going to give them that is what we strive to do is make learning fun for the user and make sure that they learn the basics right. That is the major motto of our offer app. And that is what we want to do and the recommendation system gives us that opportunity to provide that value to the user in the best way possible because every user won’t be having the same interest in looking at the same thing. So that’s one part of it. And the other part that I would want to stress out here is that on our app, it’s not just that one or two features that we have. There are a variety of features that are part of being a and again when a user is starting to use a certain part of the app, the user is just going to look at it and if we don’t have like recommendation system, which gives them that these are also the features based on the way, they have traveled through the app till now, there are certain features which makes more sense for them to use which will give them even more value to the app. All these things are only possible with respect to having great models prediction models / ML models. So this I feel is a very important part to actually get users to in the first place to get attracted to the app and find the value proposition of the app and once the user finds the value proposition and we know that the content that we put out now is so good and so rich, users will definitely stick onto the app and that DAU by MAU ratio that we look at that definitely increases and as a result of which when the user finds value in the app, and that is when user fees that, yes,  this is giving me some value proposition because of which I need to invest in this and that is how the revenue growth comes into picture. So these are my thoughts which are on the recommendation engines.

Mayuri: Sure. Absolutely, you know personalizing and Hyper personalizing content is probably you know, what really differentiates your app and you know a brand from any other player in the market. So you can very apt in terms of the technology advancements and you know when you talk about, you know using recommendations to kind of attract and vow your users or maybe you know, the first time engagement with your user, would you know give us some ideas of any Innovative product strategies that you guys have tried, you know that you really would be interesting for our users to hear that really worked for some of your, you know, the students and some of your parents, any Innovative product strategies that you would want to share.

Yatish:  Obviously, personalization always works. To give you an example like I send a message out which is addressed to the general public versus when I address it to you particularly. The chances of you interacting with that particular message when I have addressed it to you is much much higher than when I have addressed it to a common purpose. So that is the ideology with which we do the personalization as well. If I think in case of the push notifications that we sent to users. So the push notifications we used to have in the beginning, it was very you what you could say generally stick and it was not that user-specific. Once you bring in those user-specific content as it enriches the whole push notification in itself, and then when you put in emojis, and all these kinds of personalization stuff with respect to that, that gives belongingness that the user feels with respect to that particular notification that we sent and then making them contextual. Suppose a user started a journey. The user started a journey, he went to do x  percentage of it, and then for some of the other reason they just went off the app, but contextually hitting them saying that they have completed this part of it, the next taking it to the next level at this particular point is what we try to do contextually at the right part of the time because what important is that we should share the content with the user when it’s most useful to them or when it is more most contextual to them. When we tried this out with respect to our Push notifications, we actually saw some really great percentages over there and again coming to the parents, they are also a very important part of this. Personalization when I talk about, we do something called progress reports that we send out to users. Now when we make this like what we do from here is we know what the user has done on the app,  what the student has learned, what he hasn’t, the tests that they have attempted so on and so forth and we combined all the insights that we get from this particular Journey that they have taken on the app. Based on this we put in a very simplistic report out to the parents / the students. Just to say that, see this is what your child has done and that is that whole report that we put out is very Personalized.   Like, give out comments to each user which is kind of different to them based on each scenario into the difference to each particular user wherein we give out the areas which are the focus areas for the user to focus on such that those areas become a strength. We show what the user is already strong in the based on which what recommendations that they can do in the future and so on and so far. So this has given us really good feedback from the parents because they appreciate when we are proactively sending them something such that we tell them that this is what value addition has happened to your child’s progress because of BYJU’s. So these are the different methods that we try and keep on doing such that it’s always whenever you do personalization it’s always a delight element for the customer access and that’s what we strive to do.

Mayuri: Absolutely. I mean you couldn’t have worded it better. You know that delight is what everybody is looking out for these days, you know. Yeah, so I think you know, we’ve pretty much heard, you know, so many interesting, you know, thoughts from you and this brings me actually to my last question. Like I said, you being witness to some very interesting and Innovative enhancements and developments in terms of the product in the Ed Tech space specifically. What is that one thing that you know in this entire SAS and Ed Tech space that really makes you excited even today and you know curious and ready to get to work on a daily basis? What is it that gives you going at Yatish?

Yatish: I’d like to take this in this way like what excites me about SAS product space is that the Innovation that we see each other every day. There is something or the other that is coming out each and every day with the sole purpose of solving the users’ pain point. It can be a user customer who is an individual user or even a company. For example, when I take marketing automation tools than as BYJU’s when we are looking at solving the problem of users or how they learn how they should learn and so on and so forth marketing automation, which is as a B2B product, what they are trying to solve this that that whole process wherein we have to focus on how to get users to use this, how to do this that is a completely different thing that will be solved by a SAS product in itself and what week we as a company want to do we can focus on that. So Growth space that is there with respect to all these SAS products that are coming up wages is growing in a very rapid Pace first thing second thing because of their rapid growth and the use cases that they are solving the customers are growing in a better way and even the companies that are using these products are also growing in a really great way. So it is making what you call the pathway much clearer for everyone to do what they want to do without any problems. So as I said another piece that I wanted to mention was about the churn rate like when retention and also for when we talk about like  I would just like to take an example of how these SAS products help us as a company. So when we look at customers we have to do so much data analysis and so on and so forth to actually find which customers are doing how and well. When an automation tool comes in pase, which can do all this work for me the AI or the ml part of it, and then categorize users into different buckets as to who is going to churn who are not going to church. From our point of view, it becomes much simpler to target those users who are about to churn and make sure that we offer value proposition to them such that they don’t leave the product and go away. So that we can target all the users not just the most engaged users and that is a beautiful part of how things now are working in.

Mayuri: Absolutely. That’s great Yatish. On this very positive note, you know, this brings me to the end of our podcast. So it has been truly insightful, you know, your experiences your insights some great thoughts that we heard from you Yatish. I’m sure that our listeners will look forward to even more of such tips and tricks from the near future. So thank you so much on behalf of Netcore, on behalf of all our listeners, you know, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today. We really learned, I specifically learned a lot from this conversation.

Yatish: Thank you so much. It’s my pleasure to be here and share whatever and it’s a learning process. Everyone keeps learning and hopefully, that leads us to better and more.

Mayuri: Absolutely. Thank you Yatish

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