BBC report questions Byju’s meteoric rise in India

As per the report, the BBC spoke to many parents, according to whom the edtech giant's promised services never materialised.
Byju's app
Byju's app
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With more than six million paying users, and a 85 per cent renewal rate, edtech unicorn Byju's has had a glorious run in India, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic began. However, behind this meteoric rise lies customer disputes related to refunds and deficiency of services, parents being pushed into debt burden, and unsatisfied employees who were bullied with aggressive targets, the BBC reported.

Founded by Byju Raveendran in 2011, the world's highest-valued edtech startup is funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and major private equity firms such as Tiger Global and General Atlantic. The ongoing pandemic, which began nearly two years ago, led to closure of schools and pushed children into online classes. The sudden shift made both children and parents anxious -- presenting Byju’s with an ideal market.

The BBC spoke to many parents, according to whom the edtech giant's promised services never materialised. This includes its one-on-one tutoring and mentor.

Moreover, the company's sales "tactics included incessant cold calls and sales pitches whose effect was to convince them that their child will be left behind if they don't buy a Byju's product". The disgruntled parents allege they were misled by sales agents, who would be "least bothered" for a refund, once a sale is done.

According to education experts, the hard sales tactics gave rise to parents' insecurities, and added to their debt burden, the report said.

Byju's denied the allegations and in a statement to BBC, it said "only if the student and parent sees value in our product and develop trust do they purchase it".

Further, the BBC probed former Byju former employees who complained of "pushy managers", and a high-pressure sales culture that emphasised aggressive targets, all which took a toll on their mental health.

Several employees also complained that "12-15 hour work days were a regular feature of their job, and staff who couldn't clock 120 minutes of 'talk-time' with potential customers were marked absent, resulting in loss of pay for that day".

Byju's, however, said that their "employee culture does not permit any misbehaviour or bad behaviour towards parents" and that "all rigorous checks and balances are in place to prevent misuse and abuse".

"All organisations have rigorous but fair sales targets and Byju's is no exception," the firm said. They added that mindful of employees' health and comfort, they offered a robust training programme.

Meanwhile, consumer courts in India have ordered Byju's to pay damages to customers in disputes related to refunds and deficiency of services in at least three different cases, the report said.

The online tutoring firm also has hundreds of complaints against it in online consumer and employee forums. But, Byju's noted that they had reached a settlement in these legal cases, and their grievance redressal rate was 98 per cent, the report said.

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