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Reliance Jio’s telecom rival, Airtel buys a strategic stake in edtech startup Lattu Media

Airtel has operations in 18 countries across Asia and Africa. At the end of March 2020, it had over 423 million customers.

Airtel Digital Limited, the digital arm of  India’s second-largest telecom provider Bharti Airtel, has acquired a 10% stake in kids learning startup Lattu Kids, owned by Lattu Media Pvt. Ltd.

Airtel is a subsidiary of Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises, which spans across telecommunications, retail, insurance, real estate, digital television, and solar energy. Founded 25 years ago by billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal, Airtel is the biggest competitor to Jio Infocomm, the telecom venture of Reliance Ltd.

The New Delhi headquartered company, in a regulatory filing on Wednesday, said it has acquired a strategic stake in Lattu Kids as part of the Airtel Startup Accelerator Program. The investment makes Lattu Kids the fourth company to join Airtel’s accelerator initiative. Launched in October 2019, the accelerator has so far picked up stakes in recruitment tech platform Vahan, fitness startup Spectacom, and conversation AI-startup Voicezen.

The initiative aims to support early-stage tech startups in the country and allow them to leverage Airtel’s ecosystem encompassing its data, distribution, networks, and payments.

Startup

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Started in 2017, Mumbai-based Lattu Kids uses animated videos and games to improve English vocabulary, English reading, and Maths skills for children under the age of 10. The company claims to have a reach in around 500 towns.

Vivek Bhutyani, co-founder and CEO of Lattu Kids said, “Our Vision with Lattu Kids is to impact learning outcomes for young children in Nursery to Grade 2 and lead this category in India by using digital content, gamification, and technology. With Airtel, we have found an equally passionate partner and our synergies in this space will allow us to scale Lattu to millions of kids.”

Lattu Kids will enable Airtel to bring premium digital learning content over its network for millions of kids, the company stated. Airtel has been expanding its digital content platform in a bid to increase its average revenue per user.

The telecom company has operations in 18 countries across Asia and Africa. At the end of March 2020, it had over 423 million customers across its operations.

“The investment will enable Airtel to add edtech to its premium digital content portfolio and give distribution scale to quality learning material from Lattu Kids,” the statement said. “Airtel already has over 160 million monthly active users across its digital platforms – Airtel Thanks app, Airtel Xstream app, and Wynk Music.”

This comes at a time when Airtel’s rival Reliance Jio is capitalizing its digital asset through Jio Platforms. Reliance Jio is also heavily invested in the USD 500 million-plus Indian edtech market with its acquisition in 2018 of an edtech startup, Embibe. It is looking at increasing its exposure in this booming segment with high profile backers like social media giant Facebook and PE firm General Atlantic. Both these companies have invested in two Indian edtech giants, Byju’s and Unacademy.

Over the past three months, online education in India has gotten a sudden lift due to the lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most of the edtech startups in India have seen robust growth, with the industry slated to become USD 2 billion-plus in size by 2021.

Adarsh Nair, chief product officer at Bharti Airtel, said online education is a critical need now more than ever for millions of young children who do not have access to regular classrooms. He added that Lattu Kids can make a positive impact in this space.