India’s LEAD School raises $30 million to reach more students.
An Indian startup that is helping digitize and transform affordable private schools to better serve students from middle and low-income groups of families said on Monday it has raised $30 million in a new financing round as it looks to scale its efforts in the world’s second most populous nation.
GSV Ventures and WestBridge led the Series D financing round of the Indian startup, which has raised over $69 million to date.
LEAD School, founded by couple Sumeet Mehta and Smita Deorah in 2012, has developed an integrated system to help K-12 schools with the curriculum they teach, how they teach them, secure books and other resources from vendors, and better evaluate the learning outcome.
The startup began its journey by setting up its own schools in rural areas in India to identify the challenges that students and teachers faced. A key insight it found was that students struggled with english and needed years-worth of learning to be able to just fully understand any other subject, most of which were taught in english.
“We were always data centric. We measured our performance based on student data. How well our classes looked was not a criteria for success,” said Deorah in an interview with TechCrunch.
“Schools and educators have always known how to measure learning outcome. It’s not new and fairly researched. Whether that’s the core of what you are gunning for, or if it is the scale that you are going after is an organizational choice.”
And that bet is paying off. Even an average student in a LEAD School-powered institution today has over 75% mastery on all subjects and attains over 1.5-year of English learning, said Deorah. “This is not a small cohort data,” she added. (Even since the pandemic, the figure has only changed to 70%.)
Over the years, LEAD School has started to work with affordable private schools. Deorah said the startup’s original mission statement — to work with schools to empower students from low-income families — remains intact even as it scales and that its strategy to partner with schools has helped it serve more students.
Amid the global pandemic, which prompted New Delhi to shut schools last year, LEAD School’s offering has proven even more useful to schools. The startup, which today caters to over 2,000 schools and 800,000 students, grew by 3X last year, it said.
“LEAD School is rapidly emerging as a paradigm for transforming K-12 education. Based in India and partnered with affordable school owners (a segment that is larger than the entire US K-12 system), LEAD serves over 800,000 students today,” said Deborah Quazzo, Managing Partner at GSV Ventures, in a statement.
“LEAD has experienced tremendous growth because of its consistent delivery of high academic outcomes to students and high ‘return on education’ to teachers, school owners and parents. GSV is honored to be investing in an organization that is changing the life trajectory of so many students.”
The startup plans to deploy the fresh capital to strike more partnerships and reach 25,000 schools in the next five years.
India is home to over 250 million students. In recent years, scores of startups have started to explore ways to provide high-class and more affordable education to fractions of these students.
“Globally, GSV is known as a specialized EdTech fund that backs innovation oriented education companies. We hope to benefit from their deep insights and leverage their network to bring more innovation to our students in India. WestBridge has been a great partner and their continued support shows their faith in the difference we are making to our schools and students,” said LEAD School’s Mehta in a statement.