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Edtech startup Unacademy has raised $50 million in a Series D from Hong Kong based hedge fund Steadview Capital, along with Sequoia India, Nexus Venture Partners and Blume Ventures, to finance its expansion plans.

The Bangalore-based startup is founded by Gaurav Munjal and Roman Saini who also participated in the round, along with angel investors Aakrit Vaish, CEO, Haptik and Sujeet Kumar, cofounder, Udaan.

“We are seeing unprecedented growth and engagement from learners in smaller towns and cities, and are also very humbled to see that top-quality educators are choosing Unacademy as their primary platform to reach out to students,” Gaurav Munjal, co founder and CEO Unacademy said. “By leveraging technology and high-quality educators, we aim to move closer to our mission of democratising education at all levels, starting with test prep,” he added.

Unacademy CEO Munjal said that the company will use the fund to further scale its reach by employing more educators, adding multiple exam categories, improve its product and build a vigorous tech team.

Unacademy began its journey as a YouTube channel, and has since expanded to its own app. It provides some courses for free and others through a recently launched subscription business. The subscription service called Unacademy Plus Subscription, has 50,000 subscribers, and 400 teachers, across 20 exam categories including India’s toughest exams, the UPSC, IIT-JEE and CAT.

It maintains an archive of all the classes, providing benefits to the students to refer them at any time. It’s subscription plan also offers personalised live learning experience, including doubt-clearing sessions with the educators, interactive classes and live test series, a move targeted at monetizing its captive student base and growing revenues for qualified and talented teachers.

In India, Unacademy competes with unicorn Byju’s, the largest edtech startup in the world, valuated at $4 billion. Byju’s has more than 2.4 million paid subscribers and over 30 million users. It’s user base comprise of students from kindergarten upto year 12. It also offers courses for those preparing for competitive exams. Globally, Coursera, Khan Academy and Udemy are direct rivals.

In recent months, Unacademy has promoted its product aggressively in the market. Last year, it tied up with a web-production house The Viral Fever to fund a show called “Kota Factory”, which was based on the life of students preparing to get into top engineering colleges. It also offers low subscription plans to lure students to switch to its subscription platform.

“(Unacademy) is solving for a big consumer need by enabling millions of students and test prep takers to get access to the best educators in the country,” said Ravi Mehta, Managing Director, Steadview Capital.

As per a report issued by KPMG in collaboration with Google, the paid user base for online education platforms is expected to reach 9.6 million by 2021. About 200 million students prepare for exams in India each year, and they widely look for online learning platforms to compete better.

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