Byju's controversies: The troubles hurting India's biggest edtech company

How did Edtech firm fall from the grace that it once enjoyed with the valuation peaking at $22 billion. Explained

Byju's

There are currently three members in the board of Byju’s, Byju Raveendran, his wife and co-founder Divya Gokulnath and his brother Riju Raveendran (File Photo: Bloomberg)

Aman Sahu New Delhi
Byju’s,? once India’s most successful edtech startup, is in financial crisis. Its US entity has filed for bankruptcy proceedings.?The shareholders with around 30% stakes in the company want changes in the management structure for which they might approach the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).? Byju’s is struggling to pay the salaries of its employees and using layoffs as a method to cut its costs.

However, according to a PTI report, Byju's received a commitment of $ 300 million from its investors.
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But how did Byju’s fall from the grace that it once enjoyed with the valuation peaking at $22 billion. Explained:
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What is the problem with Byju's?

Byju’s valuation has dropped to nearly 10% of its all-time high of $22 billion.

The company is also facing a standoff from its investors who want changes in the managerial structure and even Byju Raveendran, the company’s founder, removed from the post of chief executive officer (CEO).?

In November 2023, a court in Delaware,US, upheld the lender’s right to acquire Byju’s US unit Alpha Inc after it failed making interest payments several times. Recently Alpha Inc has filed for bankruptcy proceedings saying that it is unable to pay the loans.

Directorate of Enforcement (ED),India’s financial crime unit, has issued a notice to Byju’s parent firm Think & Learn and Byju over alleged foreign exchange violations of Rs 9,362.35 crore.






What is the reason for the fall of Byju’s?

The problems started in 2022 when regular classes started after being disrupted during the pandemic. Byju’s had expanded rapidly during Covid-19.?

Byju's mass layoffs

Byju's laid off 1,000 employees from its engineering unit, or 15% of its total strength, in February 2023.?

In February 2024, after the salaries till the month of January were paid to the employees, Raveendran wrote a letter to the company’s employees after paying their salaries explaining that the company is in a tough financial situation.

“I have been moving mountains for months to make payroll, and this time, the struggle was even bigger to ensure that you receive what you rightfully deserve,” said Raveendran in the letter.

Who are the biggest investors in Byju's?

As per Tracxn, the edtech firm had raised total funding of $5.08 billion till May 12, 2023.

In 2013, Byju’s got its first investor in Series A funding by Ranjan Pai and Mohandas Pai.

Later, It raised fundings from Sequoia Capital, Innoven Capital, Sofina Group, Times Internet and the International Finance Corporation.

In 2017 when Byju’s raised funding from Verlininvest, it signed Shah Rukh Khan as its brand ambassador.

Investments and acquisitions by Byju’s

According to its website it has acquired the following entities:

July 2021: Great Learning Pvt. Ltd.

July 2021: Epic!?

April 2021: Aakash Educational Services Ltd.

July 2020: WhiteHat Jr.

January 2019: Osmo

July 2017: TutorVista, Edurite from Pearson

Whitehat Jr contributed majorly to the losses of Byju’s. It was also reported that the company is considering the shutting down
operations of Whitehat Jr but Byju’s later denied the claims.

Aakash Educational Services Ltd turned out to be a good value investment for Byju’s as it reported 82% rise in its profit in March 2022.

Who owns Byju’s?

As per a report by ET, Byju Raveendran and his family own about 26% of stake in the company. Apart from that Prosus, Peak XV Partners and General Atlantic hold 9.10%, 7% and 6% stakes respectively.

Who are the board members of Byju’s?

There are currently three members in the board of Byju’s, Byju Raveendran, his wife and co-founder Divya Gokulnath and his brother Riju Raveendran.?

“In June 2023, the representatives of its key investors Prosus, Peak XV Partners, and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative resigned from the board due to differences with the founders”, as reported by CNBC-TV18.

Byju's, the edtech giant's founder and chief executive officer (CEO), Byju Raveendran

Who is Byju Raveendran?

Byju Raveendran is the group CEO of the company, however, recently some of the investors have called for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to replace him to which the company has said that the investors do not have a right to vote in the matters to elect the CEO or any other change in the management.
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In October 2023, Arjun Mohan, a former student of Raveendran, was appointed as Byju’s India CEO and replaced Mrinal Mohit who was also one of the founding members of the company.

Byju Raveendran established Think & Learn in 2011 that offered online lessons and Byju’s app was launched in 2015.
He is the son of a teacher and belongs to Azhikode village in Kannur district of Kerala.?

What is the Edtech industry?

Edtech is Education plus technology that essentially means usage of technology to facilitate learning. India is one of the largest markets for the edtech industry because of its large population.?

The Edtech industry boosted in India during Covid outbreak when physical classes came to halt and online education took up its place.

It was also the time when Byju’s business flourished along with other edtech firms.

Competitors of BYJU’s in Indian edtech industry

Unacademy: It majorly focuses on various competitive exams. It was founded by Gaurav Munjal, Hemesh Singh and Roman Saini in 2015.?

Vedantu: It is a major competitor to Byju’s as the user groups for both the companies are same i.e. Class 4 to Class 12.

Byju’s and Indian cricket team

In 2019, Byju’s had replaced Oppo as the lead sponsor for the Indian Cricket Team.?
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BCCI too has alleged Byju’s of default in payments and filed a case in National Company’s Law tribunal.?
The matter is yet to be decided.

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First Published: Feb 12 2024 | 5:38 PM IST

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