Three people with updates of the development stated that Byju’s-owned Aakash and SoftBank-backed Unacademy are in talks about merging, which would represent a significant shakeup involving two of India’s most valuable edtech companies.
If the deal goes through, it will be a mix of cash and stock, with the merged entity exploring an IPO (initial public offering) as opposed to Aakash alone seeking a public listing, as is now being contemplated by Byju’s, the sources added.
Although the discussions are still in the early stages and a transaction may fail to materialize, enough has took place for Byju’s founder Byju Raveendran and Unacademy founder Gaurav Munjal to have discussions during the past month.
A second cited person stated that common investors in both companies were keen to see a merger through as the combined entity may present a more compelling case for a potential PO, creating a liquidity event for them. One of the cited individual people stated that only conversations have started and these haven’t reached a term sheet stage yet. A term sheet outlines the terms and conditions of a potential investment and is nonbinding.
According to the sources, Byju may get a board seat while Munjal is expected to run the merged entity. The merger talks were strongly denied by Aakash and Byju’s. Unacademy declined to comment.
A Byju’s spokeswoman wrote to Moneycontrol through email and responded,”We strongly deny that Byju’s is considering a merger of Unacademy into Aakash Educational Services. As a parent company, Byju’s is committed to investing in the growth of Aakash Educational Services, which is growing at more than 50 percent year-on-year.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Aakash stated, “We have had absolutely no discussions with Unacademy or any other player to merge with Aakash Educational Services. Aakash is a market leader in our segment with an impeccable track record of delivery and results and we are focused on our organic growth and delivery to the lakhs of students that have trusted us.”
The two startups, both based in Bengaluru, compete against one another in the hypercompetitive edtech space, but they share a number of investors, including General Atlantic, Tiger Global, and Sequoia Capital. A merger involving elements from their portfolio would allow investors to give Byju’s and Unacademy a better chance of fending off competition since new funding is hard to come by but new rivals such Noida-based PhysicsWallah are gaining ground.
While Byju’s raised its last equity funding round in October 2022 at a flat $22 billion valuation, Unacademy last raised $440 million in August 2021, at a valuation of $3.4 billion. Unacademy has so far raised more than $870 million, and Byju’s has already raised more than $5 billion.
The potential merger could occur at the same time that Byju’s is in talks with bankers on highlighting Aakash on India’s bourses with a valuation aim of $3–4 billion. According to sources, Aakash had revenue of of around Rs 1,400 crore in FY22 (2021–2022) and is expected to cross Rs 2,500 crore this year. At a $3 billion valuation, will have a 10x revenue multiple.