Aniruddha Malpani recently got a rude shock after he came to know that LinkedIn has permanently banned his account. His shock is partially justified given that LinkedIn reportedly didn’t even bother to inform Malpani before taking this extreme action. A celebrated angel investor and a popular figure in India’s startup investment world, Malpani boasted over 180,000 followers on LinkedIn platform. But today none of them can either access Malpani’s LinkedIn account or can read his posts since his identity has been completely obliterated from the professional social networking site.
Malpani’s unceremonious departure from LinkedIn is actually uncannily connected with Byju’s. This fact may pop up a curious question as to how is the world’s most valued edutech startup related to this entire fiasco. Well, Malpani happened to be a prolific writer on LinkedIn as he covered wide range of topics including issues related to startups and investment. In recent past many of his posts were found to be highly critical about Byju’s. These critical posts, reflecting on Byju’s alleged malpractices, reportedly fetched lot of interest and were widely commented by his followers.
Malpani’s detailed response
To know about what really prompted Malpani to start an online crusade against one of the most high profile startups of this country, we contacted the Mumbai based angel investor. Malpani told Techpluto that he become fiercest critic of Byju’s as the company was prioritizing profit over student’s future and was using unethical practices to push their sales.
“When I learned that Byju’s was mis-selling its app to lower middle class parents by using pressure tactics, and blaming and shaming parents into buying, I spoke up vocally against these malpractices. They were prioritizing profit over students’ future, even though they had raised tons of money,” Malpani said.
He claimed that Byju’s products were actually proving to be counterproductive for India’s education sector since it encouraged students to cram for exams.
The Mumbai based angel investor further opened about the edtech major’s highly toxic work culture, claiming that they were “hiring and firing young graduates who failed to meet their sales targets.” This specific claim finds resonance with a controversial event that took place only few months back. This event pertains to an online video showing Byju’s manager abusing a sales executive for failing to reach the sales target. This video had gone viral on Twitter and LinkedIn. Sensing trouble to its reputation, Byju’s responded to this controversy by terminating the job of sales manager, who was reportedly part of the company’s Jammu & Kashmir network.
Malapani isn’t happy with Byju’s competitors either, arguing that “they have been pushed by their investors to copy the sales practices of the market leader (i.e. Byju’s) in a desperate attempt to catch up or be acquired by it. He further accused that the “competitors hire ex-Byju’s sales executives and the toxicity spreads even further.” Byju’s mainly competes with well-funded startups like Vedantu and Toppr.
Commenting about LinkedIn’s arbitrary action Malapani said “LinkedIn’s behavior has been remarkably opaque and unresponsive in this entire fiasco. They do not bother to reply and their action has been clearly motivated by their high-handed attitude.”
When asked whether he is planning to take a legal action Malapani said “Yes, the next step will be going to court to seek justice” if LinkedIn doesn’t budge though he added “this hope is disappearing very quickly because they are being remarkably stubborn and uncaring.”
Malapani touted that Byju’s must have pressurized LinkedIn to take such an unsavory action. Even some industry experts claim that LinkedIn’s action may have been motivated due to its commercial interest with Byju’s. LinkedIn’s action, by the way, has triggered an outpouring of sympathy and support for Malapani on social networking websites. Since past few days, scores of people have expressed their solidarity with Malapani through their tweets and posts on LinkedIn.
The angel investor asserted that his online movement was inspired by his growing concern about students’ future, arguing that “eLearning is becoming mainstream and is important to fix their malpractices that is highly focused on profit and sales.”
Malapani is essentially referring to the ill effects of growing commercialization of the education sector. This debate has intensified over the years due to growing prominence of private sector in the education sector.
Meanwhile, Techpluto’s mail to Byju’s did not elicit any response at the time of filing the story. We’ll update this story as and when we get response from the company.
As for LinkedIn’s response is concerned then it has told a popular news portal Entrackr that it has clear terms of service and professional community policies that every member has to adhere. The Microsoft owned platform refused to comment further on the issue.
Malapani claims no conflict of interest with Byju’s
Malapani is adamant that he does not have any conflict of interest with the Bengaluru based edutech major. Although Malapani has invested in an edutech firm called Bibox, the startup cannot be termed as a direct competitor of Byju’s since its services are completely different.
Bibox, which is also based in Bengaluru, offers educational robotic kits for school students. To the best of our knowledge and as per our information, Byju’s currently does not offer any similar service or product like this. Bibox on its official website claims that its products and services are meant for encouraging & developing creative and scientific thinking among young students.