Image: Republic World
India's biggest ed-tech platform Byju's is mired in a controversy after several complaints surfaced alleging that the company has been resorting to malpractices to gain profit. Many parents came forward accusing Byju's of indulging in unethical measures to lure parents into buying its courses for their children. Based on the complaint, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has summoned Byju's CEO Byju Raveendran and asked him to appear for questioning on December 23.
Priyank Kanoongo, chief of the NCPCR, appeared on the debate with Republic's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for an interview wherein he revealed how deep-rooted the problem is.
#ByjusScandal | In recent times, we came across articles on claims against Byju's. We interacted with executives of the company, who confirmed that they were given numbers of 500+ parents everyday: Priyank Kanoongo, Chairperson NCPCR— Republic (@republic) December 20, 2022
Tune in - https://t.co/5KOZBGfjLZ pic.twitter.com/P2oExRuFfL
When asked how serious is this case, Kanoongo said, "First of all, this matter is not new. When we first received complaints in December 2021, it was a bunch of 40-50 cases on its own. At the time, we wrote to the Ministry of Education, we wrote to the RBI, and all the agencies took action over it," he said.
"The Ministry of Education issued a very detailed advisory wherein it mentioned the relevant provisions and notified all ed-tech companies what are the issues they should avoid. The SFIO wrote to the RBI and Ministry of Corporate Affairs and we assumed that if the government has directed the companies, they would follow the instructions," Kanoongo added. He, however, said that the NCPCR came across multiple reports where similar issues of fraud were being reported and then they contacted an insider in Byju's who revealed how the platform works.
#ByjusScandal | In India, there is a Constitution, there are laws. I understand that you are running a business, but is it okay to cheat the parents and children for that?: Priyank Kanoongo, Chairperson NCPCR— Republic (@republic) December 20, 2022
Watch The Debate - https://t.co/5KOZBGfjLZ pic.twitter.com/DO35PCe4yt
"We talked to Byju's employees and they told us that one sales executive was given phone numbers of 200 children and they have to talk to all of them. There incentives are decided based on their sales," the NCPCR chief revealed. He further said that Byju's used to screen the students through a psychometric test and lie to their parents about how poor their kids are performing academically so as to lure them for tuitions. "Most importantly, those who are first-generation learners, those who are from lower-income group, those who want societal eqality through education are being trapped," he said.
Over Byju's statement that it is a 'profit-based organisation' and that all such organisations have a sales target, Kanoongo said that the NCPCR understands that it is a business and the company is worried about shareholders, but this does not justify its 'lies' to the customers.
Schooling Byju's on how to carry out a business honestly, Kanoongo levelled a serious allegation saying that company is selling fear by scaring the parents that they have ruined their children's future. "They are creating an atmosphere and they are carrying out their business by scaring the children," he futher said. He also questioned as to if the company is indeed innocent as it claims to be, why hasn't it stepped forward and answered before the date of the summons.