India’s biggest ed-tech company BYJU’s says it has made all payments due to Blackstone-backed Aakash Educational Services Ltd. (AESL), acquired by it in April last year for around $900 million. The company also says it has already received most of the $800-million funding, which was committed in the last fundraising round. “Our fundraising efforts are on track and the majority of the 800 mn has been already received. The balance is also expected soon. Our payments to Aakash are closed and the audited financial results are going to be announced in the next 10 days,” says a BYJU's spokesperson.
The row erupted after a media report last month said BYJU's had delayed the payments to Aakash till August. AESL is one of India’s foremost players in the brick-and-mortar test prep space and boasts of having upwards of 200 coaching centres across the country. By acquiring Aakash, BYJU’s wants to boost its offline presence across the country.
On reports about the online educational content company resorting to massive layoffs, BYJU’s says the decision was taken to reduce “redundancies". “To reduce redundancies across our organisation after multiple acquisitions, we had to let go of nearly one percent of our 50,000+ strong workforce,” says the BYJU’s spokesperson.
According to the company, retrenchment was a result of a strategic decision to improve business efficiencies throughout BYJU’s and its group companies. “BYJU’s remains a net hirer. With 50,000+ employees and growing, we take immense pride in our role as India’s largest job creator among startups. BYJU’s continues to hire across levels for various businesses, departments and functions,” says the spokesperson.
Fortune India had last week reported about layoffs of full-time and contractual employees across BYJU's group firms, though the company clarified that not more than 500 employees had been let go, and all of them were from its group firms Toppr and WhiteHat Jr. Among those laid off by the company, 300 were from Toppr and 180-200 were from WhiteHat Jr.
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. "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," the company adds.
The Byju Raveendran-led unicorn, which is valued at $22 billion currently and is India’s one of the most valuable startups, is in talks with 2U, a U.S.-listed ed-tech firm, for acquisition, says a report by a global news agency.
The firings by BYJU's group companies reflect a major downturn across the startup industry. The ed-tech 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.