Indian higher education startup Sunstone raises $35 million - TechCrunch

Sunstone, a higher education startup that partners with academic institutions to help upskill its students for employability, has raised $35 million in a new round of funding as it looks to expand into more Indian cities.

Sunstone’s founders said Friday that WestBridge Capital led the startup’s Series C funding round. Alteria Capital also participated in the funding, which brings its raise to date to about $68 million.

There are thousands of management colleges and institutions in India, but except for those at the top of the rankings, most are unable to attract enough students. Their curricula are also usually outdated and they struggle to find jobs for their students.

Founded in 2019, Sunstone addresses these challenges by offering students a wide range of additional courses and helping them find jobs, its co-founder Piyush Nangru said in an interview with TechCrunch.

“Colleges are operating at 40% occupancy. This is equivalent to non-perishable inventory for them due to which they cannot accumulate resources and hence the quality of education suffers,” he said. “We are partnering with these institutions to offer upskilling and soft skills courses as well as campus life programs for students so that their quality of education is enhanced.”

As part of the partnerships, the institutes continue to offer hundreds of hours of ‘core’ classes to students. “Take the MBA for example. It is a 900-hour program that covers key topics such as accounting, marketing and finance. The curriculum is outdated, so we include our own 600-hour modules – half of which focus on soft skills and rest on industry-ready skills – on top of that,” he explained.

Piyush Nangru (left) and Ashish Munjal co-founded Sunstone in 2019.

Part of the value proposition of the New Delhi-based startup, which currently offers its services to undergraduates and PhD students at over 40 institutions in nearly three dozen Indian cities, is to ensure equality in the quality of education and job opportunities across all institutions with whom he partners with.

“India’s higher education system is on the cusp of a long overdue transformation,” said Ashish Munjal, co-founder and CEO of Sunstone. “Sunstone is well positioned to enable this change and impact the lives of millions of students. We’ve made significant strides in this direction over the years, but we still have a long way to go, as the market opportunity and the problem we’re trying to solve are very large.”

Sunstone, which says it has grown 10-fold in the past two years, is currently focusing on management colleges. It is also starting to expand into engineering and other technology verticals, and that expansion is part of how it plans to deploy the fresh funds, the founders said.

“Over the past year, we have seen Sunstone grow and continue to build on the quality of education provided to each student. Seeing its ever-growing demand and its potential to be a major disruptor, we are excited to double our investment to support its mission to transform India’s higher education sector,” Sandeep Singhal, managing partner, WestBridge Capital, said in a statement.

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