Why We Invested: Bhanzu
By Deepanshu Pattanayak and Karan Mohla
Mathematics is an important subject for K-12 students given its widespread application in almost every other school subject, higher education, entrance tests and in every course of life. The criticality of STEM education and proficiency across India, emerging markets as well as the developed world has been recognized. However, failure rates in mathematics among school students continue to remain high and globally with only a small percentage of students being truly proficient in the subject.
From an India market standpoint, there are approximately 300M K-12 students and an estimated 30-40% of the students develop a fear of mathematics early on. This only becomes worse with time with >60% of students in classes 7-10 reporting math anxiety. A recent national survey which evaluated students of grades 3, 5 and 8 across the country, found that ~40% in grade 8 were proficient in mathematics with only 10.5% displaying any advanced skills. If we look at it more closely and try understand the nuances, this fear and lack of math skills is an outcome of the way math is taught in schools and tuitions.
In our conversations with parents and teachers, what came across very clearly was that most students fail to grasp the fundamentals around how numbers work or even understand basic functions like addition or multiplication or fractions. However, at the same time, they keep getting quickly shunted to more complex concepts like algebra and trigonometry. School curriculums place a lot of stress on learning theorems and formulae and doing more problems but all of this is moot in the absence of a clearer understanding of the basic concepts. The problem is further exacerbated by the lack of good quality teachers leading to insufficient personalized attention to each student.
Enter Bhanzu – The Need of the Hour
The combination of the market opportunity and a math prodigy who has the business acumen and awareness well beyond his years, is irresistible. Neelakantha Bhanu is the embodiment of many things and his vision for changing the face of math teaching and curriculum is inspiring.
Bhanzu’s proprietary curriculum and pedagogy has been designed by the founder (Bhanu) himself. Bhanu is rated the world’s fastest human calculator along with winning multiple global accolades in math. He is a thought leader and has extensive experience advising and designing math curricula for students in association with the likes of NCERT, MHRD, Govt. of Telangana, NHDC and Pratham foundation. From the first time we met Bhanu, we have been impressed with his clarity of vision in terms of taking a product first approach and building a brand – both key elements in crafting a successful and sustainable edtech company. He has always been clear that his priority is to ensure students are able to enjoy the process of learning math and the progress will follow.
This is the problem that Bhanzu is trying to address and make learning math enjoyable again. While the K-12 math learning market is crowded with multiple digitally native and offline first competitors, we believe the needs of students are underserved today. Most of the competitors focus on following the school curriculum with minimal focus on improving the math abilities of the student. Bhanzu is trying to address this critical gap in the market with a fresh approach focused on strengthening the basics first before aligning the curriculum with necessary subjects from the school syllabus.
Their current core product is an online live class format teaching mathematics to K-12 students. These classes are one hour per session with a teacher to student ratio 1:4 to ensure every student gets personalized attention. Bhanzu’s program is aimed towards teaching students to do quick mental math and real life applications of math and then move the students towards solving the problems given in the school curriculum. Today it has 3 offerings, Math star (30 sessions), Math Champion (75 sessions) and Math wizard (150 sessions). A very large majority of parents choose to enroll their kids for the longer duration Math wizard session with an eye on giving the children sufficient time to become proficient at the basic concepts before tackling the school syllabus.
The Vision Ahead
Bhanzu is live in the Indian market and growing strongly month on month with best in class margins. In a short period of time, it has demonstrated product market fit with parents and students expressing deep satisfaction with the approach and this is also reflected in the high attendance rates of their classes.
The fundraise will enable Bhanzu to further strengthen the product, double down on GTM and hire best in class leaders to support their vision of building a digital first global math brand. We are excited to partner with Bhanu and team Bhanzu on their mission to eradicate math phobia and make math learning fun again.