Byju Ravindran’s Empire: Rise, Fall, and Uncertain Future

From Triumph to Turmoil: Byju's Journey Amidst COVID-19 Challenges

New Delhi: Byju’s reduced the size of its operations outside Bengaluru due to growing losses and rental defaults. According to NDTV Profit, the corporation has instructed 14,000 workers to work from home.

Byju’s headquarters are in Bengaluru’s IBC Knowledge Park, and only that location is open. The site employs more than 1,000 people. But suddenly, every other office in the nation is empty. It has been months since the leases on offices in different locations were renewed. At the same time, about 300 tuition centers operated by Byju’s are still open. These centers cater to 6-10 students and will remain operational.

Byju’s is mired in debt and disputes over a $12 billion loan. Once valued at more than $20 billion, the company’s value has plummeted by nearly 90 percent in the past year.

Moreover, major investors have lost faith in CEO Byju Ravindran. Last month, these investors voted to oust Ravindran as CEO. However, Ravindran and his family rejected the move, arguing that only a few shareholders had passed the ouster resolution. The company was also informed that the decisions at the extraordinary general meeting were invalid.

As crises continue to mount, Ravindran has lost the support of key investors. Deloitte, the company’s auditor, parted ways amid legal battles with US lenders and corporate governance issues. Ravindran had sent a letter to employees expressing regret that he could not pay the February salary, citing that funds were blocked by investors.

From Shipping to Teaching

Ravindran, the son of Rabindran and Shobhanavalli, hails from the village of Vankulamtuwayal in Kannur Azhikote. The son of a teacher couple, he excelled in studies from an early age. He studied in a government school in Azhikote in the Malayalam medium. As a child, Ravindran often skipped classes and studied at home, employing shortcuts.

After completing his Plus Two, he obtained a B.Tech from Kannur Engineering College. He then worked as a service engineer in a multinational shipping company. Ravindran was also skilled at teaching from a young age, with many of his friends crediting his classes for their good marks. However, he did not initially pursue teaching as a career.

The turning point came in 2003 when Ravindran helped his friends prepare for the CAT exam during a vacation. His friends passed with high marks, prompting them to insist that Ravindran make teaching his profession. Two years later, he started a coaching class for those preparing for the CAT exam, which received an overwhelming response.

Realizing that teaching was his calling, Ravindran quit his job and started Byju’s classes, coaching students for competitive exams. His classes were a massive success, prompting him to expand throughout Kerala. As auditoriums became full, he shifted to stadiums, with his unique teaching style resonating with students.

Divya Gokulnath, a native of Bengaluru, is Ravindran’s partner in life and business. She was a student in one of the first batches of Byju’s classes. Despite securing admission for postgraduate studies at prestigious universities abroad, she joined Byju’s after Ravindran asked, “Why don’t you teach?”

The Birth of the ByJu’s App

Byju’s benefited from India’s economic liberalization and the rise of mobile technology. Launching the right model at the right time proved key to their innovation. While Byju’s classes filled stadiums, they could engage a maximum of only 25,000 people at a time. In their search for a way to reach lakhs of students, the ByJu app was born.

Divya Gokulnath explains, “During 2009-2010, we started delivering the same content to the whole of India through satellite technology. In 2011, a company called ByJu’s was formed. Our idea was to find ways to teach in a manner that children would enjoy. So we started with recorded video classes.”

Ravindran has received numerous awards, including the 2019 Manorama News Newsmaker Award and the 2020 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Akshay Kumar

Akshay Kumar is a dedicated and accomplished Business Reporter at IndiaFocus. With a passion for financial markets and corporate developments, Akshay brings experience and insight to his reporting. His extensive… More »

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