An Exclusive Interview with Gaurav Munjal
Rw: First of all Gaurav Munjal, please accept our gratitude for allowing us to have an exclusive interview with other Salman Khan of India (Khan Academy) or should we call you the Rival of Mark Zuckerberg for diverting Indian Youth from Facebook to Unacademy?
Gaurav Munjal: I would be happy to be called “Gaurav Munjal of Unacademy”. We’re on a mission to revolutionize education and impact millions of lives, like WhatsApp, Google or Facebook. Our vision is to build the world’s largest educational repository by empowering great educators and making it accessible to everyone. This is about the Future of Education!
Rw: Thank you so much, Gaurav Sir for giving us the opportunity to interview you. You seriously don’t need any introduction as Lakhs of students have been benefited by Unacademy and they all know who built it. Still, for the new brigade of knowledge seekers, we want you to give a brief introduction of yours.
Gaurav Munjal: I’m an entrepreneur, co-founder & CEO of Unacademy. I graduated from NMIMS in Computer Science and worked with Media.net (Directi) as a software developer for one year. In 2013, I started Flat.to/Flatchat which was later sold to CommonFloor. I consider myself a product guy with a flair for marketing and hustling.
Rw: So Sir, What should we call you? A Tech Evangelist, An Entrepreneur or India’s best Educator? And how was your experience in meeting PM Modi and what was your message to Team India of NITI Aayog?
Gaurav Munjal: I see myself as an entrepreneur in the education technology segment, building a platform that is invaluable to millions of students and teachers. By harnessing the latest technologies, we are helping educators and students across the nation connect with each other and share knowledge faster and with a larger reach that has ever been attempted before.
It was an amazing experience to meet the Prime Minister of India. A once in a lifetime experience. Only a few people know what it has taken for me to get to this stage! It was a proud moment for the entire Unacademy family.
Modi has been a visionary with digital India initiatives for e-governance, online education, e-healthcare, smart cities, and rural services too. The current government is transforming India with projects like Make in India and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan that have positively affected the lives of the average Indian. He’s also brought India to the center stage at the global level, be it in policy changes or progressive thinking. I was honored to have received the invite to share my recommendations with him on education.
Our message to NITI Aayog revolved around the concept of the Future of Education and how India should prepare for it. Driverless cars are here. Skills are getting outdated quickly. Preventing mass unskilled workforces is going to be a key challenge to the government. We proposed solutions involving artificial intelligence and automation for good. We also shared that it was critical to start training teachers to teach online so they are ready when the curriculum is digitized. We should use technology to enable anyone to teach – such as, our Educate app has brought on board over 1,500 educators from all over the country. A growing majority of them are women, and our recommendation was to empower more and more women educators with training & incentives to teach. We also shared our thoughts on local language educational content and a structured approach to making education easier and more accessible for the differently abled. These recommendations were received well by our group and the government. It was exciting to be actively contributing to change along the highest level of government.
Rw: I guess you too love typing & searching your name in Google or Bing. And guess what? The most important question associated with your name is Gaurav Munjal Net Worth! So as per Indian Youth’s Right To Information, we wish if you’d like to share some hint or exact net worth of yours? [Sir, We know you take Rs 15 lac as salary and got more than 50 lacs + ESOP from CommonFloor].
GM: I would just say that I’m comfortable and yes, all founders at Unacademy draw a basic salary. We are a private company so we do
not disclose further details. 🙂 🙂
Anyhow, RTIwala’s Team gathered some information. And according to it every co-founder gets an annual salary of ₹ 15,000,00 and Mr. Munjal got more than ₹ 50,000,00 (+ESOP worth many lacs) when the Flat.to/Flatchat got acquired by the Common Floor.
Rw: Sir, please describe your journey so far, from selling CDs in your school days to bringing Bhavin Turakhia to Unacademy Board, who used be your First Boss at Directi. Plus have you got the idea of starting Unacadey from CodeChief? How Media.net will help Unacademy in monetization and which is gonna be a direct threat to all Mighty Google.
GM: It’s true 🙂 I did sell pirated computer games to my friends. I was the typical geek in school, always on my computer or at the cyber cafe, spending hours teaching myself how to create websites. I made my first website when I was still in school and it is now the official magazine website for Xavier’s, Jaipur.
I did participate in a lot of competitions and hackathons while I was studying engineering. CodeChef was a very good experience but it was not where the idea behind Unacademy sparked. I was in my third year of engineering when I made the first video explaining some concepts in Computer Science to my friends. That was when I realized that online education can really change lives and that we need to let normal people – those who are really good at explaining and teaching though they might not be professional teachers. We let them with an app that allows them to create a lesson, record it in a few minutes and share it online so others can benefit from their knowledge too.
On Media.net, that division was sold and has no connection with Unacademy. I would encourage all of you to read about the Media.net sale by Bhavin – it was the third largest ad-tech deals in history. It was founded in 2010 and was sold to Chinese investors for $900 million!
Rw: Will you or the Unacademy board members ever consider getting acquired & merged by Alphabet Inc as Unacademy App and website diverting a big chunk of revenue from Youtube?
GM: That is a wonderful question. Unacademy is not just my startup but also a vision. I have a great team, who are passionate about what we do and why it matters. So it would not be easy to let it go because I believe in building out this online platform and getting great educators on board to share their knowledge on it for the sake of students.
Yes, I think it has the potential to become as popular as Google or YouTube and we are working very hard to make this happen! We are now a platinum YouTube partner and are soon becoming one of the largest education channels on YouTube India. It’s now just a matter of time, wait and watch!
Rw: What are the main reasons for converting a Not-For-Profit Venture to For-Profit? Then how is Unacademy going to differentiate it with BYJU and Udemy and other mushrooming online tutors of Youtube?
GM: We have never claimed to be a charitable organization. We began this journey with a clear purpose of building the world’s largest knowledge repository for multilingual education. We are empowering educators who are in all parts of the country – small towns and villages to the metros. And we are also bringing a new stream of knowledge through video education to students who are in far-flung areas without access to coaching classes and preparation hubs. The differentiation is in that we are a platform, not a content provider. We’re harnessing the power of technology to bring people together and change millions of lives. That’s what Unacademy’s all about.
Rw: How much amount of money Unacademy has been received by as the Contribution from its viewers. And how your Team going to use $ 5.5+ million raised by Unacademy from Nexus VP and Individual Angel Investors.
GM: The contributions are funneled directly to educators, we do not keep it. We have raised multiple rounds of investments from investors and have used it to scale up our operations, expand our office space and for hiring.
Rw: What’s next 5-year plans of Gaurav Munjal and the Unacademy? When the youth of Pakistan will be able to watch and prepare for The Central Superior Services Exam conducted by Federal Public Service Commission of Pakistan ( just like CSE by UPSC of India).
GM: I don’t make 2, 3 and 5-year plans. We’re growing very fast and adding new categories every month; we’ve got 2,000 educators and over 50,000 lessons already. So I’m sure that in a very short time you will see Unacademy spreading all over the world!
Rw: Why don’t you bring more Educators from Cooking, Makeup, and Storytelling, you should also consider inviting Elderly Women and Prominent Senior Citizens to share their life experience as we’re going to do on our Rw Vimeo Channel by December (after getting first-round seed funding).
GM: Diversification is our top priority. We recently held a hackathon event called TeachAThon where we invited new educators and got a lot of very interesting topics – from upskilling to guitar lessons to fashion and even yoga. A majority of educators on Unacademy are women and we’re always keen on bringing in more great educators.
Rw: Who’s role model of Gaurav Munjal and what’s your life’s motto?
GM: I admire Shah Rukh Khan, the late Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. My motto is: “We are here to create a dent in the universe, otherwise, why even be here?”
Rw: You’ve also had a cameo role in TVF’s Pitchers, will you act again if asked for?
GM: Why not! It was a fun experience and I thoroughly enjoy working with them. In fact, we’re planning to do something really cool for Teacher’s Day this year.
Rw: How Gaurav Munjal would like to be remembered?
GM: I’d like to be remembered as a tech entrepreneur who made a difference to millions of people and changed the way education is accessed in India. What drives me is creating a thriving business from scratch, assembling a team of passionate people and using technology to improve lives. I hope to be seen as someone who really made a lasting impact.
Rw: How you perceive the Citizen’s Right To Information?
GM: RTI is a powerful tool that has impacted many lives in India. We as a society are better off because of such acts that promote transparency. We need to ensure that it isn’t diluted or weakened with amendments and that whistleblowers are protected throughout. India is heading towards a data-rich future and the RTI will empower the common man while bringing in sweeping changes to governance.
Rw: Your views on RTIwala and any valuable suggestion.
GM: RTIWala is doing an amazing job – keep it up. The suggestion I’d give is to explore important topics such as the privacy debate and since your strength is law, find ways to simplify it for the common man – that would be very useful and will have a larger impact.
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