Congress MP Karti Chidambaram has written to the government’s serious fraud probe agency seeking an investigation into the finances of edtech unicorn Byju’s. The request comes in the backdrop of the company’s expansion plans and alleged layoffs.
In a letter to the director of Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), seen by Fortune India, Chidambaram has raised concerns over three instances related to Byju’s, including two funding rounds and delay in furnishing financial statements for the financial year 2020-21, citing media reports.
SFIO is a statutory corporate fraud investigating agency under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
In the first instance, Chidambaram talks about missing filings related to ₹2,500 crore that the company had claimed to raise from Sumeru Ventures and BlackRock in a fundraise announced in March earlier this year.
“A report pointed out that Byju’s filings with the Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs indicate that 16,301 Series F preference shares were allotted to Vitruvian Partners on March 29, 2022 for ₹571 crore. There has been no such filing in the case of Sumeru Ventures or BlackRock since the company’s announcement on March 17. This raises a question of the missing ₹2,500 crore in the company’s funding. One of the investors, Sumeru Ventures founded in 2018, made three sizeable investments, all between February to April 2022, including one in Byju’s, after lying dormant for three years,” Chidambaram writes.
“In October 2021, Oxshott Capital Partners is said to have made an investment of ₹1,200 crore in Byju’s. Nine months on and Byju’s has confirmed that it has not yet received this funding from the investor. Oxshott Capital Partners has till date only made one investment — in Byju’s,” the Congress MP further writes.
Byju’s had raised $800 million in a funding round in March 2022, led by Viturvian Partners, Sumeru Ventures and BlackRock at an estimated valuation of $22 billion, becoming the most valued unicorn of the country. Byju Raveendran, the founder and CEO of the eponymous company, had invested $400 million during the round in his personal capacity.
After reports of delay in receiving the funds to the tune of $250 million promised by Sumeru Ventures and Oxshott Capital, Byju’s clarified in July that the hold-up is on account of “macroeconomic reasons”, and the funding will be closed by August-end. The company divulged that it has received $400 million from its founder and $150 million from other investors.
Referring to another media report, Chidambaram points out that Byju’s has not gotten its financial statements for financial year 2020-21 audited, which will in turn take more time to file the cost audit report to the corporate affairs ministry. The ministry had extended the deadline to file financial statements for FY21 to October 31, 2021, he adds.
“At a time when Byju’s proposes to expand its business and acquire Nasdaq-listed company 2U at valuation of $2.4 billion, while parallel firing employees to cut costs, it becomes pertinent to review the company’s guidelines,” Chidambaram writes to SFIO director.
Byju’s claims that the extent of recent layoffs at the company has been exaggerated, with less than 500 employees being laid off at group companies Whitehat Jr and Toppr.