India's higher education startup Sunstone raises $35 million

·3 min read

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

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

There are thousands of management colleges and institutions in India, but other than those at the top of the charts, most are unable to attract enough students. Their curriculums are also typically outdated and they struggle in getting their students jobs.

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

"The colleges are operating at 40% occupancy. It's equivalent to perishable inventory for them, because of which they are unable to amass resources and hence the quality of education suffers," he said. "We partner with these institutions to offer upskilling and soft-skill courses as well as campus-life programs for students so that their quality of education improves."

As part of the partnerships, institutes continue to offer hundreds of hours of "foundational" classes to students. "Take MBA, for example. It's a 900 hours program, which covers key subjects like accounting, marketing and finance. The curriculum is outdated, so we plug our own 600 hours modules -- half of which is focused on soft-skills, and rest on industry-ready skills -- on top of this," he explained.

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

Part of the value proposition of the New Delhi-headquartered startup, which currently offers its services to undergraduate and postgraduate students at over 40 institutions across nearly three dozen Indian cities, is bringing parity in the quality of education and job opportunities across all the institutions with whom it partners.

"The Indian higher education system is at the brink of a long overdue transformation," said Ashish Munjal, Sunstone's co-founder and chief executive. "Sunstone is well positioned to enable this change and impact the lives of millions of students. Over the years, we have made significant strides in the direction but still have a long way to go as the market opportunity and problem we’re trying to solve for, is very large."

Sunstone, which says it has grown by 10x in the past two years, currently focuses on management colleges. It's also beginning to broaden to engineering and other tech verticals and that expansion is part of how it plans to deploy the fresh funds, the founders said.

"Over the last year, we have seen Sunstone grow and continue to upgrade the quality of education provided to every student. Seeing the ever increasing demand and its potential to be a major disruptor, we are excited to double down our investment to support its mission of transforming the higher education sector in India," said Sandeep Singhal, managing partner, WestBridge Capital, in a statement.