James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems leads $31 million investment in India’s Doubtnut

Doubtnut, an Indian startup that helps students learn and master concepts from math and science using short videos, has raised $31 million in a new financing round, months after it rejected an acquisition offer from India’s largest edtech firm Byju’s.

The three-year-old Gurgaon-headquartered startup said SIG and James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems led the $31 million Series B funding round. Existing investors Sequoia Capital India, Omidyar Network India and Waterbridge Ventures also participated in the round, which brings the startup’s to-date raise to about $50 million to date.

The Doubtnut app allows students to take a picture of a problem, and uses machine learning and image recognition to deliver their answers through short-videos. These videos offer students step-by-step instructions to solve a problem.

The app supports multiple languages, and has amassed over 2.5 million daily active users who spend 600 million minutes a month on the app, the startup said. More than half of the users have come online for the first time in last 12 months, the startup said.

The startup said it has developed a bank of over 65 million questions in nine languages for students from sixth grade to high-school. Unlike several other popular edtech firms, Doubtnut said its app reaches students in smaller towns and cities. “85% of the current base comes from outside of the top 15 Indian cities, and 60% users study in state boards where typical medium of instruction is the local vernacular language,” the startup said.

TechCrunch reported last year that Byju’s was in talks to acquire Doubtnut for as much as $150 million. Byju’s later lowered its deal offer, after which the two firms ended their talks.

James Murdoch last month announced he was reuniting with Uday Shankar, an executive who helped him build the Murdoch family’s Star business in India, which was later sold to Disney. Shankar will work with Murdoch to “accelerate” Lupa’s efforts in India, Murdoch said last month. Lupa has backed nearly a dozen startups so far, including Indian news aggregator and social app DailyHunt.

“Doubtnut has been built with a vision to improve learning outcomes for all students, especially those outside the major Indian cities. We specialize in developing content in vernacular languages and use technology to create affordable solutions for people in this large target segment,” said Tanushree Nagori, co-founder and CEO of Doubtnut, adding,

“We are pleased to welcome onboard SIG and Lupa; SIG brings in strong experience of investing in ed-tech companies globally and Lupa Systems brings unparalleled experience of building world-class businesses and harnessing high-impact technologies,” she added.

The startup said it will deploy the fresh capital to add support for more language and broaden the scope of subjects it covers today. Doubtnut is also planning to introduce paid courses.

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Indian gaming platform Mobile Premier League valued at $945M in $95M fundraise

Mobile Premier League (MPL) has raised $95 million in a new financing round, just five months after it secured $90 million as the two-and-a-half-year-old Bangalore-based esports and gaming platform looks to grow in international markets.

The new $95 million round, a Series D, was led by Composite Capital and Moore Strategic Ventures and gave the Indian startup a post-money valuation of $945 million, it said. (MPL was valued at about $465 million in its previous financing round in September, TechCrunch had reported.) Base Partners, RTP Global, SIG, Go-Ventures, Telstra Ventures, Founders Circle and Play Ventures also participated in the round, which brings its total to-date raise to $225.5 million.

MPL, which counts Times Internet among its backers, operates a pure-play gaming platform that hosts a range of tournaments. The app, which has amassed more than 60 million users in India and 3.5 million users in Indonesia, also serves as a publishing platform for other gaming firms. MPL, which does not develop games of its own, hosts about 70 games across multiple sports on the app today.

“As we grow our presence and expand, this fresh round of funds will help us focus on our core value propositions — a robust platform with the best features for gamers and onboarding the best eSports titles. The esports community in India is thriving, and we believe this is the perfect time to take Indian-made games to the world as well as help Indian gamers get recognized for their talent,” said Sai Srinivas, co-founder and chief executive of MPL, in a statement.

The Bangalore-based startup also offers fantasy sports, a segment that has taken off in many parts of India in recent years. Because fantasy sports is only one part of the business, the coronavirus outbreak that shut most real-world matches has not impeded the startup’s growth in recent quarters.

“We’re competing with battle-hardened, decade old companies with much, much deeper pockets but it’s incredible what the young team has achieved over the past couple of years. When we were on the Play Store, a couple of years back, MPL was the fastest app to reach a 1M DAU ever in India!” tweeted Abhishek Madhavan, SVP of Marketing at MPL, last year.

“We signed Virat Kohli (pictured above), when we were a 3-month old company! When we got out of the Play Store, we were told growth will be very very hard to come by, every single marketing metric would fall.”

The startup, which bought stakes worth $500,000 from employees last week, said it will deploy the fresh capital to organize more esports tournaments in the country and accelerate its international expansion this year. The startup recently organized College Premier League, which saw participation of more than 13,000 gamers from over 100 colleges.

“We are excited to partner with the MPL team and support their continued growth. As an industry leader in the gaming market, we believe the company will continue to innovate and drive the evolution of eSports, both in India and internationally,” said Kanush Chaudhary, Managing Director, Composite Capital, in a statement.

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India’s insurance platform Turtlemint raises $30 million

Turtlemint, an Indian startup that is helping consumers identify and purchase the most appropriate insurance policies for them, has raised $30 million in a new financing round as it looks to reach more users in small cities and towns in the world’s second largest internet market.

The new round, the five-year-old Mumbai-headquartered startup’s Series D, was led by GGV Capital . American Family Ventures, MassMutual Ventures and SIG, and existing investors Blume Ventures, Sequoia Capital India, Nexus Venture Partners, Dream Incubator and Trifecta Capital also participated in the round, which brings Turtlemint’s total to-date raise to $55 million.

Only a fraction of India’s 1.3 billion people currently have access to insurance. Insurance products had reached less than 3% of the population as of 2017, according to rating agency ICRA. An average Indian makes about $2,100 a year, according to the World Bank. ICRA estimated that of those Indians who had purchased an insurance product, they were spending less than $50 on it in 2017.

A range of startups in India are trying to disrupt this market. Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimated the online insurance market in India — which in recent years has attracted several major giants including Amazon and Paytm — to be worth $3 billion in a report they recently sent to clients.

Another major reason why existing insurance firms are struggling to sell to consumers is because they are too reliant on on-ground advisors.

Turtlemint co-founders Anand Prabhudesai (left) and Dhirendra Mahyavanshi pose for a picture (Turtlemint)

Instead of bypassing these advisors, Turtlemint is embracing them. It works with over 100,000 such agents, equipping them with digital tools to offer wider and more relevant recommendations to consumers and speed-up the onboarding process, which has traditionally required a lot of paperwork.

These advisors, who continue to command over 90% of all insurance sales in the country, “play a critical role in bridging the gap in tier 2 and 3 towns and cities, where low physical presence of insurance companies greatly impacts seamless access to insurance products and information,” the startup said.

Turtlemint works with over 40 insurance companies in India and serves as a broker, charging these firms a commission for policies it sells. The startup said it has amassed more than 1.5 million customers.

“By developing products for the micro-entrepreneurs and the rising middle class, Turtlemint has an opportunity to have a positive impact on India’s economy,” said Hans Tung, Managing Partner at GGV Capital, in a statement. “Dhirendra, Anand, and their team built an incredible platform that enables over 100,000 mom-and-pop financial advisors to serve consumers’ best interests with digital tools, helping middle-class families in India get insured with the best products available.”

In an interview with TechCrunch, Turtlemint co-founder Anand Prabhudesai said the startup will deploy the fresh capital to grow its network of advisors and improve its technology stack to further improve the experience for consumers. The startup today also offers training to these advisors and has built tools to help them digitally reach potential customers.

“Continuous education is a very important aspect of being a successful financial entrepreneur. To this end, we have created an online education product with a wide range of courses on financial products, advice-based sales techniques and other soft skills. Our content is now available in seven regional languages and over 20,000 learners are active each month on our edtech platform. A lot of these are first-time advisors who are taking their first steps towards starting their advisory business. Our target is to create a million successful financial entrepreneurs over the next 3-5 years,” he said.

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