India's edtech unicorn upGrad raises $210m after making three acquisitions in a month

India’s largest online higher education platform, upGrad, has raised $210 million in a fresh funding round, just a week after making its third acquisition in a month, becoming an outlier in an otherwise slow edtech market in India.

The edtech unicorn’s latest funding round was led by US testing and assessment provider ETS Global and Bodhi Tree, an investment vehicle set up by media veterans Uday Shankar and James Murdoch.

Singapore’s Kaizen Management Advisors; the family offices of Bharti Airtel, Narotam Sekhsaria (Ambuja Cements) and Artisan Investments (Lakshmi Mittal); along with existing investors Temasek, IFC and IIFL also participated in the round.

upGrad’s multi-million fundraise comes at a time edtech startups in India, which were once the darlings of investors in India and overseas raising hordes of money in pandemic-hit 2020-21, are losing their glimmer. According to data from DealStreetAsia’s DATA VANTAGE, edtech startups in India raised $290.4 million in Q2, which is 80% lower than the $1.4 billion amassed in the preceding quarter. Faced with a funding crunch and difficulty sustaining, some have had to lay off employees and even shut down operations.

upGrad, however, said it is on track to record annual gross revenues of $400-500 million during FY23, of which about 45% will be realised from its own-branded online courses and programmes. In FY2021, upGrad had revenues of $40.8 million and reported losses of $28.5 million.

In its fifth acquisition this year, upGrad said it had acquired test-preparation startup Exampur last week. Earlier in July, it acquired B2B edtech startup Harappa Education for $38 million and recruitment and staffing company WOLVES India for an undisclosed sum.

With the latest funding, upGrad aims to strengthen its team to 7,600 employees from the present 4,800 in the next three months.

upGrad, which focuses on upskilling, was launched in 2015 and crossed 1 million learners by 2020. In 2021, the company became a unicorn and touched 2 million registered learners.

“There is a massive re-skilling revolution taking place around the world, and over the last five years, our 4,800 colleagues have worked hard and smart to be at the epicentre of taking advantage of this, not just in India but around the world,” upGrad co-founders Ronnie Screwvala and Mayank Kumar said in a joint statement.

upGrad’s founders — Screwvala, Kumar and Phalgun Kompalli — also invested $12.5 million in this round to maintain their ownership of over 50% in upGrad, the company said.

While the company did not disclose its valuation, a Bloomberg report in June mentioned that upGrad had doubled its valuation to $2.25 billion after raising $225 million in a round that included billionaire Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and ETS Global.

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