Examining Boards, throughout India, have tried to mask the fall in educational standards; more students were declared passed in Board examinations of 2022 than in earlier years despite most examinees not attending classes for a single day.
Byju Raveendran is the famous founder of Edutech start-up Byju’s. He was not in Azhikode, a small village in Southern India. Both his parents were teachers of physics and mathematics.
Raveendran was once a teacher who turned into an entrepreneur. He graduated as an engineer. From the very beginning he had an interest in the teaching field. He started teaching Maths to friends and side by side did a job in a shipping company for a couple of years.
He use to help students prepare for entrance exams like the Common Admission Test (CAT). In 2003, he appeared for CAT himself and scored 100%, despite not studying enough for the exam. Two years later, he helped some others crack CAT and then decided to take up teaching as a full-time job. Raveendran went from teaching a few friends to teaching hundreds of students in large auditoriums and taking classes through satellite communication. He set up Think & Learn in 2011, to offer online lessons, before launching his main app in 2015. In 2018, Byju Raveendran won the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Startup category).
Raveendran’s start-up Byju’s runs on a freemium model and trains students for Indian examinations like IIT-JEE, NEET, CAT, and IAS, as well as international ones such as GRE and GMAT. In July 2019 Byju’s acquired Indian cricket team jersey rights.
Today, Byju’s has grown into the world’s most successful edutech start-ups with 33 million users and 2.2 million paid subscribers. According to data available as on July 2019, its valuation has quadrupled in the past year. That also makes it one of the top five most-valuable internet companies in the country. The present value of this unicorn company is $3.6 billion.
The Byju’s app has become a business case at Harvard Business School. It has received several awards, including the Business Standard Annual Award for Corporate Excellence (2018). Also strengthening the brand’s position in the professional and higher education segment, BYJU’S acquired Singapore-headquartered Great Learning and test-prep platform Toppr in July 2021. Similarly, with the aim to broaden its footprint in the US, BYJU’S acquired the digital reading platform Epic which caters to kids aged 12 and under.
But now after classrooms reopened, concerns about Byju’s finances stung at the firm’s prestige. Investors questioned why Raveendran delayed hiring a chief financial officer for years and acquired more than a dozen companies across the world at break-neck speed. Scores of employees have either left or been fired. Board members have resigned. And many teaching centres are nearly empty.
Critics say he acted recklessly by withholding information about finances and failing to rigorously audit accounts. In India’s startup world, many see Byju’s as the highest-profile example of what happens when a business scales one of the fastest-growing economies during a boom — but fails to plan for a bust.
Raveendran and a spokesperson for Byju’s declined to comment.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, lenders agreed to work toward restructuring the $1.2 billion loan by Aug. 3. Most investors have slashed the firm’s valuation to less than $10 billion. But despite Byju’s rocky few months, many remain bullish, pointing to the firm’s strong assets, including 150 million customers.