From parents wanting the best education for their children to next-generation tech-savvy professionals striving to build their careers, an edtech company, #Bjyu's quickly became a beacon of hope for Indians seeking a brighter future.
Founded in 2011, the Bengaluru-based start-up launched its learning app in 2015. It soon snowballed into a multibillion-dollar behemoth - and India's leading edtech businesses - with members of the country's burgeoning middle class seeking jobs and financial security in one of the world's biggest tech hubs.
Byju's employees say its success is built on an abusive and exploitative work environment and unscrupulous sales practices that involve profiling, pursuing and pressuring potential customers from poorer backgrounds to buy its courses.
In the past, there have been allegations of false advertising and misleading claims against Byju's. For example, in 2018, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) received complaints that Byju's was making misleading claims about the effectiveness of their learning app. The #ASCI found that Byju's had violated advertising guidelines by claiming that their app had a 100% success rate and could guarantee top scores on competitive exams.
There have also been allegations that Byju's is exploiting students for profit by pressuring them to purchase expensive courses and signing them up for automatic renewals without their consent. In 2020, a report by Forbes alleged that Byju's was using deceptive advertising to target vulnerable families in India and that the company had a high churn rate, indicating that many students were not satisfied with their courses.
Regarding client criticism, Byju's said its operations were "centered around customer respect and satisfaction," and its staff does not "pursue customers who are either uninterested in or unable to pay for our products."
Each state in India has its own rules to regulate wages, work hours, leave, holidays, terms of service, and other work conditions for employees. Fourteen of Byju's workers are based in Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka, where regulations, employees must not work more than nine hours a day and 48 hours a week. Beyond that limit, they are entitled to overtime pay by law.
Byju's worker contracts, seen by Context, do not specify the number of hours an employee has to work in a day or a week. The Byju's spokesperson said every manager was encouraged and allowed to make their teams work at least a five-day week. "In cases when an employee has to work on an extra day, it is always voluntarily and with extra compensation paid for the extra effort," said the company representative.
However, employees said they are regularly expected to work beyond 12 hours a day—sometimes seven days a week—without any additional pay. They also must accept the extra hours and shifts for fear of losing their jobs.
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report published in May found that many government-endorsed edtech apps, including in India, put children's privacy at risk by harnessing their data.
Several Byju's employees told Context the company had access to information such as the kind of phone model being used, a child's name, age, and grade, among other things, to target potential leads and fine-tune pitches. "We know almost everything before we call you," Byju's salesman said on condition of anonymity to protect his job.
-Anchit Gupta, Professional Ethics Trainee with Prism Philosophy - 5 days program 2023