It’s been quite a busy time at Bangalore’s edtech giant Byju’s. This company is backed in part by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Tencent. The last valuation was at $22 billion in March. There have been a number of allegations against it in news media. Notably the money from the previous funding round has not been received. That Byju’s has delayed payment on a large-ticket acquisitionit made last years. The company’s auditors have yet to signoff its financial results for fiscal year March 2021. These allegations have been denied by Byju’s.
There were also reports of mass layoffs suggesting that almost 2,500 people were fired across the group companies. Byju’s only confirmed 500 layoffs, noting that this was just 1% of the company’s 50,000 employees .
The company’s billionaire founder Byju Rajeendran, is not fazed and continues to expand worldwide, with his sights set on its largest acquisition. Byju’s is reportedly considering a bid for Nasdaq-listed 2U. This would put the firm’s value at approximately $2 billion. That’s more than twice its current market, which stands at $944 million. 2U, a Maryland-based company, reported revenues of $946 million and a loss of $195 millions for 2021. It is expected to generate revenue of $1.1billion and lose between $240 and $260 million for the year 2022.
2U offers over 4,000 online courses, ranging from professional enhancement courses to online degree programs. In partnership with over 230 colleges, universities and companies, it has almost 44 million students. 2U acquired edX, an online open course provider, for $800 million in November 2013. It was founded by Harvard University’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
According to sources, Byju’s secured financing commitments from a U.S. Bank of $2.4 billion in order to close the deal. Byju’s parent, Think & Learn, has been on a massive takeover spree over the last 18 months. It spent nearly $2.6 billion to buy a number of companies around the world. Aakash Educational Services, an Indian test prep company, was acquired by Think & Learn in April 2021. Great Learning is a Singapore-based upskilling firm. GeoGebra is an Austrian math-learning app.
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Byju’s and other edtech companies had millions of students at the height of the Covid-19 epidemic. These students wanted to learn online or improve their career prospects. With the end of the Covid-19 pandemic and schools opening again, edtech companies are rethinking their hybrid model to accommodate online and offline learning.
Layoffs are becoming a common reality in the industry as it adjusts. According to Byju’s news reports, nearly 2,500 people were laid off at White Hat Jr’s coding subsidiary and Toppr’s test prep company. However, a spokesperson for Byju’s clarified that only 500 of the total 50,000 employees were laid off across all companies in the group.
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“To recalibrate our business priorities and accelerate our long-term growth, we are optimizing our teams across our group companies,” said the Byju’s spokesperson. “Byju’s continues to hire across levels for various businesses, departments and functions.”
Analysts in the industry say this was a time of reckoning and it is similar to what’s happening elsewhere. K. Ganesh, who has backed many startups in the retail, jewelry, and home healthcare sectors, said that businesses that experienced huge tailwinds from the pandemic (edtech and telemedicine) have seen a sharp drop in revenue.
“It’s an’return-to-reality’ sequence after a brief cocoon created by Covid-19,” states Ganesh Natarajan (chairman of digital consulting and investment firm 5F World). Only edtech companies that can demonstrate real value in a hybrid learning environment will succeed.
Byju’s, a market leader in the field, was quick to adopt the hybrid model. It opened Byju’s Tuition Centres in February, which combine online tuition and classroom learning. It already has 100 of these centers and plans to add a million students in grades 4-10. 10,000 teachers will be employed.
reported that Sumeru Ventures, Los Angeles-based, had “faked” the March $800m funding round. The money has yet to come in. The spokesperson for Byju stated that they are continuing to fundraise and that most of the $800million has already been received. This round will also see the balance. Raveendran has already invested $400 million.
News reports over the past week suggested that Byju’s delayed payment for its $900million acquisition of Aakash Educational Services, a test-prep firm. However, a spokesperson for Byju’s denied the claims and stated that payment was made this week and within the agreed timeline.
A second concern was that Byju’s had not released financial results for its previous fiscal year ending March 31, 2021. There was speculation that there were alleged differences between the company’s auditor Deloitte Haskins & Sells. A spokesperson for the company said that Deloitte had not signed our results and that they strongly denied this. “Our FY21 (fiscal 2021), results will be available by July 15, according to a company spokesperson.”
Byju’s parent company, Think & Learn, reported consolidated revenue in the fiscal year ending March 2020 of 24 billion rupees (325 million). This is an 82% increase on the previous year. However, it posted a wider net loss of 2.6 million rupees.
Analysts believe that the company will still report revenue of close to 100 billion rupees for its fiscal year ending March 31, 2022.
Raveendran was the co-founder of Think & Learn in 2011 with his wife Divya Gokulnath. shared a $3.5 million fortune together. She was part of Forbes’ “Asia’s Power Businesswomen” list in 2020.
Divya Gokulnath, cofounder of Byju’s, speaks at the RISE 2019 conference in Hong Kong.
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