How parents' love for their daughter is changing online extracurricular learning

Husband-wife duo Bhavik Rathod and Tripti Ahuja co-founded edtech platform DIY to provide global and interactive extracurricular learning opportunities for kids

Published: Sep 23, 2021 11:48:00 AM IST
Updated: Sep 23, 2021 12:19:49 PM IST

DIY Co-founders Bhavik Rathod and Tripti Ahuja with daughter Trisha
Image: Nishant Ratnakar for Forbes India


Just when children across the globe were trying to adapt to online learning in early 2020, parents started worrying about the impact of social isolation on a child’s all-round development. So was the case for Bhavik Rathod and Tripti Ahuja, parents of a five-year-old girl in Bengaluru. “Part of the journey of growing up is exploring new things on a day-to-day basis, especially in the first few years, which was hardly possible with the limits brought in by the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Ahuja.

As a means to look for better extracurricular learning opportunities for their daughter, Ahuja and Rathod started exploring the options available. “We realised that there were not many opportunities available online for children to learn outside of their particular school curriculum. We saw that this was a huge whitespace. Especially in India, the focus on academics is so high that nobody really looks at anything that is construed as extracurricular,” says Ahuja, 37.

The couple started speaking to parents to understand the need for platforms offering extracurricular and co-curricular activities. “We ran surveys across the US, Canada, Dubai, Singapore, and India, and realised that parents were eagerly looking for options for exposure for their kids,” says Rathod, 39.

Just then, what started as a means to look for extracurricular learning opportunities for their daughter translated into a startup idea. “Our research showed a massive untapped opportunity. Parents around the world are looking for more structured online learning courses outside of the curriculum,” explains Rathod. “We decided to create a platform that will offer life-skills pedagogy and a project-based learning platform built in India for the world.”

This led to the birth of Kyt Academy, an edtech consumer subscription business, offering extracurricular courses for children between five and 16 years of age, by combining live classes with video-based revision material designed by curriculum experts.

By June 2020, the Bengaluru-based couple created a bank of courses by tying up with experts from dance, music, chess, musical instruments, yoga, public speaking and creative writing, and by September, they launched their website.

The startup caught the eye of investors as well. Its first funding for $2 million [₹14.5 crore] was in November 2020, which was led by Sequoia Capital India’s Surge, a bi-annual rapid scale-up programme for startups across Southeast Asia and India. The duo then raised $5 million [₹36.5 crore] in a Series A funding round in January this year, led by Alpha Wave Incubation by Falcon Edge Capital, with participation from Sequoia Capital India’s Surge, January Capital, Titan Capital, and other angel investors.

In May 2021, Kyt acquired San Francisco-based edtech startup DIY—founded by Zach Klein, who has also co-founded and designed the video streaming platform Vimeo—and rebranded itself as ‘DIY- A Learning Community’. Rathod says DIY fit their ethos well, as their aim was always to “promote the do-it-yourself ability of a child”. He adds that post the acquisition, the platform, which had a “over a thousand users when DIY was acquired”, saw a “rapid 6x monthly growth in user base”.

Today, DIY offers more than 30 courses like learning chess, drawing, language reading and science lessons, among others. The platform has over 3,500 projects, across more than 150 life skills like critical thinking, communication skills, decision-making and social skills.

DIY is present in more than 148 countries, including the US, UK, UAE, Singapore, Canada and Australia, and has plans to expand further. According to Rathod, the mission is to become the world’s largest online community of kids learning together. “Engagement, participation and learning by doing are the basis of designing our projects. The first part of our courses is watching the video, the second is performing the activity and the third is kids sharing their creation on DIY with their fellow learners, allowing them to interact with peers around the world and earn experience points [to incentivise and encourage kids to do better] for the skills they pick up,” explains Rathod.

DIY has partnered with various educators and artists, including chess Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi, vocalists Kamakshi and Vishala, yoga instructor Sabrina Merchant and Filipino hip-hop artist Ruel Varindani to create courses with an age-appropriate approach.

The founders call DIY a social media platform for kids to share their learning. “The next generation is going to be present online. We are trying to build a community that helps kids learn how to interact with their peers across countries safely,” says Ahuja. “So while our focus is on helping them learn new skills, it is also making children understand how to have a responsible online presence.” The startup uses feedback from parents and children to design new courses or make changes to existing ones. “At the end of the day, it is what kids want to learn that matters... blindly designing courses would not help,” she adds.

“Nine out of 10 parents want their kids to learn new skills and 85 percent are willing to pay for after-school learning, creating an over $55 billion [₹4,018,61 crore] opportunity globally,” says Navroz D Udwadia, co-founder of investment fund Falcon Edge Capital. He explains that schools are limited in their options, platforms like YouTube are not preferred by parents, and many other available solutions neither make learning social or engaging, nor are they truly global in their outlook. “DIY is addressing just that, building a large library of courses and projects for kids to find their passions while teaching them new skills.”

DIY employs 50 people and plans to expand the workforce. Rahul Venuraj, 41, head of curriculum and pedagogy, believes that Rathod and Ahuja have created a “very open, welcoming and transparent environment for ideation, execution and placing bold bets”. “With over 20 years of work experience, I have not witnessed this kind of intellectual stimulation at any of the organisations I worked at before.

The founders have created an ethos of keeping the child at the centre of our universe, driving every pedagogical decision based on that.”

Ahuja, a consumer marketing expert, and Rathod, an engineer, had never thought of launching a venture together. “If two years ago you would have asked us about working together, we would have been really unsure,” Ahuja smiles, “But as our platform’s idea was taking shape, we realised that being from diverse backgrounds can help us explore creative ideas and different points of views better.”
 
Rathod, the founding leader for Uber India and former head of Uber Eats, India and South Asia, agrees. “Beside the fact that we are husband-wife and understand each other really well, we also know what both of us will bring to the table, and where we can drive the most value. Tripti has built a career in marketing, branding, and consumer insights, while I stay focussed more on the finance, product and technology side of the business, which is where my experience has largely been working with Uber,” Rathod says.

Confident in Rathod and Ahuja’s approach to the business, Udwadia says DIY has the potential to make a difference to children in their formative years and allow them to connect with kids globally. “A consumer subscription business from India for the world is a model attempted by very few before Bhavik and Tripti built this platform,” he says. “We believe this startup can deliver and create a large-scale impact.”

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