Edtech founders' meeting amidst industry turmoil

Investor and entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala has proposed a joint meet to discuss a few core issues affecting the whole sector

Ronnie Screwvala (photo: RonnieScrewvala/X)
Ronnie Screwvala (photo: RonnieScrewvala/X)

NH Business Bureau

Serial entrepreneur and investor Ronnie Screwvala has convened a crucial meeting in Delhi this week, gathering edtech founders to delve into core issues affecting India's burgeoning edtech sector, sources said.

Screwvala, renowned as the founder of higher learning startup UpGrad, has emerged as a vocal critic of edtech giant Byju's amidst its recent challenges.

In an email circulated to numerous stakeholders within the edtech ecosystem, Screwvala proposed a collaborative dialogue to address fundamental concerns pivotal to the sector's growth trajectory:

'Mayank (Kumar) [managing director of UpGrad] and I propose a joint meet of all of us to really discuss a few core issues for the whole sector. Many of us work in different subsets but the underlying theme is this sector and the high-impact work everyone is doing has to be positioned as a very credible one,' Screwvala said in the email, first reported by Moneycontrol.

While highlighting that the gathering would be an informal dialogue, Screwvala stressed the importance of collective discourse, acknowledging the nascent state of the sector as an industry. He also underscored the significance of leveraging the upcoming edtech conference on 14 February.

Amidst the turmoil evident within the edtech landscape, Screwvala's recent social media activity showcased support for the decision of major shareholders at Byju's to convene an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to reshape the company's management and board.

'Finally, someone smelt the coffee! Hope it's not a whiff and then whimper but they will stay the course and get this done — for the whole ecosystem! For India as an investment destination! For just credibility overall of an otherwise sunrise and sunshine sector,” Screwvala said in his X post of 1 February.

A media maven and seasoned entrepreneur, Screwvala's proactive engagement underscores the evolving dynamics within India's edtech domain.

With plummeting investments overall and the recent challenges faced by Byju's, the sector finds itself at a critical juncture, prompting stakeholders to converge for strategic deliberations. Screwvala's pivotal role in navigating these discussions underscores his enduring influence and commitment to shaping the trajectory of India's edtech landscape.

Bloomberg, citing sources, recently reported how two homes owned by the 43-year-old Byju Raveendran’s family in Bengaluru as well as his under-construction villa in the city have been offered as collateral to borrow $12 million (over Rs 100 crore) to pay salaries to employees.

'The startup used the funds to pay salaries to 15,000 employees in Byju’s parent firm, Think & Learn Pvt Ltd,' the report added.

According to the report, once again citing sources, Raveendran—once worth almost $5 billion (over Rs 4,100 crore)—has raised debts of about $400 million at a personal level now, pledging all his shares in the parent company.

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