upGrad is India’s newest unicorn after IIFL infuses $25M at a $1.2B valuation

upGrad becomes India's 21st unicorn, after BYJU's and Unacademy, the $1.2 billion firm is the country's third edtech unicorn.

Main Highlights

This year, higher education firm upGrad became India’s 21st unicorn. After BYJU’s and Unacademy, it is also the third domestic edtech unicorn. The Mumbai-based firm has raised $185 million in a continuous round headed by Temasek ($120 million), IFC ($40 million), and India Infoline Finance ($25 million).

The upGrad founders, Ronnie Screwvala, Mayank Kumar, and Phalgun Kompalli, still hold more than 70% of the firm. IIFL is the most recent addition to upGrad’s cap table. In addition, it led a $50 million round in BYJU’s earlier in June.

“We are pleased with the investor interest ever since we opened up for a fundraiser, and had our maiden raise from Temasek, followed by IFC and IIFL in the last 60 days,” said Founder-Chairman Ronnie Screwvala. “We will announce further updates on M&As, and unlock value as they unfold. The valuation is at $1.2 billion, but as I keep saying, we are not a fan of valuations.” “We are really focused on our route to become one of the top three to five businesses in global edtech and serving a one-billion workforce between the ages of 18 and 60,” he added.

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How is upGrad helping users?

upGrad is an online higher education platform that offers rigorous industry-relevant programs created and delivered in partnership with world-class academics and industry. UpGrad is providing an immersive learning experience – anytime and everywhere – by combining the latest technology, pedagogy, and services.

upGrad was founded in 2015 on the belief that in an ever-changing business, professionals must constantly upskill themselves in order to remain relevant. Since then, the firm has always prioritized creating an excellent online learning experience by partnering with the proper institutions and industry partners. The learners were then gradually surrounded by a robust support structure, which upGrad slowly developed.

Starting with their initial program in Entrepreneurship, upGrad has developed some of India’s largest online programs to assist thousands of professionals in the fields of data technology and management in achieving their career objectives.

Earlier last month, upGrad liquidated ESOPs worth Rs 220 crore (about $29.5 million) for 37 of its founding workers. Prior to that, in January, it issued ESOPs to 600 employees (of a total staff of 2,500) who had completed a year with the firm “as thanks for their dedication.”

According to Screwvala, “the definition of best places to work is changing dramatically. The new benchmark will have companies where you have the most learning and growth opportunities. ESOP is still a less understood and appreciated currency that allows team members to take a much longer-term view on their current place of work.” It was neither verified nor disputed by the corporation. 

Unicorn Status of upGrad

The unicorn status of upGrad comes at a time when India’s edtech sector is flooded with capital, with market leaders commanding a “disproportionate premium,” according to investors. In addition, there is clear consolidation underway.

upGrad has also increased its M&A activity. It bought Impartus, a supplier of video-enabled learning solutions, in May. It also acquired professional training company KnowledgeHut last week in order to expand into international markets. (This comes on the heels of its acquisitions of The GATE Academy in November and Rekrut India in December 2020.) 

The business has set aside $250 million for inorganic expansion. Its upskilling platform now provides over 100 professional courses from worldwide institutions and has affected over one million enrolled learners from 50 nations.

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