Amid reports of massive layoffs of full-time and contractual employees, edtech major Byju's has said not more than 500 employees have been let go, and all of them are from its group firms Toppr and WhiteHat Jr.

Layoffs have taken place only across Toppr and WhiteHat Jr, not Byju's, says a source familiar with the development, adding the total number of employees who have been let go is 500 — 300 at Toppr and 180-200 at WhiteHat Jr.

An official spokesperson of the company, however, says the edtech startup is "optimising" teams to ensure long-term growth. The company has integrated Toppr, while absorbing 80% of its workforce, which means 20% of employees have been let go. "Byju’s has completed the integration of Toppr and has absorbed almost 80% of its talented workforce into the Byju’s ecosystem. As the next step, we are optimising teams to recalibrate business priorities and accelerate our long-term growth," says the spokesperson.

Interestingly, the Byju Raveendran-led unicorn, which is valued at $22 billion currently and is India’s one of the most valuable startups, has resorted to layoffs while it continues to focus on global expansion. Lately, the company is in talks with 2U, a U.S.-listed edtech firm, for acquisition, says a report by a global news agency.

On reports of the company delaying due payments to Akash Educational Services Ltd (AESL), a company it acquired for about $990 million in April 2021, the source says the payments are on "track" and are being paid in "tranches" as per the deal.

Byju's acquired the after-school learning platform Toppr for about $150 million in July 2021. Online coding startup Whitehat Jr was acquired for $300 million in an all-cash deal in August 2020.

The firings by Byju's group companies reflect a major downturn across the startup industry. The edtech industry, particularly, has been the worst hit, with offline schools, colleges and educational institutes now fully open.

Apart from Byju's, startups like Udaan, CARS24, Vedantu, Ola, Unacademy, among others, have also resorted to job cuts amid weak funding prospects, rising costs and poor growth projections in near future. As per an estimate, more than 4,000-4,500 employees have been fired by startups since the beginning of the year 2022.

The recent layoffs in top startups in India seem to point toward a negative trend in the industry. This week, business-to-business e-commerce major Udaan laid off about 180 employees, around 4% of its total workforce of 4,000. The Bengaluru-headquartered company says the layoffs are a part of its renewed focus on making its business model “stronger, efficient, agile and customer-centric”.

Edtech unicorn Vedantu in May 2022 laid off 424 employees, around 7% of its total workforce, on slower growth prospects in the coming quarters. Used car marketplace CARS24 fired over 600 employees in May, in what the company called "business as usual". The fired employees were around 6% of its total workforce of 9,000 employees. Before that, 220 employees in ed-tech major Byju's-owned WhiteHat Jr resigned as they were asked to join the office after two years of working from home. Ed-tech startup Unacademy also laid off 600 employees, less than 10% of its workforce.

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