[TechSparks 2020] Byju Raveendran says will ensure messaging about company is right; real message is "love for learning"
Byju Raveendran, Founder and CEO of edtech unicorn, while speaking at YourStory's flagship event TechSparks 2020, acknowledged a question related to coding arm WhiteHat Jr's marketing campaign — that suggested children should start coding at a young age, saying the startup was taking customer feedback seriously.
In conversation with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma, Byju emphasised that the company was reviewing its marketing campaigns and its communication, and had already pulled most of WhiteHat Jr's ads off the air.
WhiteHat Jr, which BYJU's acquired for $300 million, has been receiving flak on social media, along with a spate of bad reviews after its advertisements promised young students high salaries if they learned coding. There were also advertisements that portrayed a seven-year-old app developer speaking at a TED conference, and an apparently unsubstantiated testimonial from a child who claimed to have built the world's first eye testing app.
The Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) has asked the coding startup to pull down its advertisements for making "dubious and unsubstantiated claims", a Forbes India report stated on Tuesday.
Concerned parents have said on Twitter that this kind of messaging puts unnecessary pressure on young children, is psychologically damaging, and forces them to "run a high-salary rat race" from the age of five or six, instead of being able to enjoy their childhood.
Addressing these concerns, Byju said that most of the contentious WhiteHat Jr marketing campaigns were LIVE even before BYJU's acquired the coding startup — but he added that he was making sure his team was rectifying any and all errors.
"When you’re doing something new and there’s no playbook, you can only do it by making multiple mistakes. We’re very self-critical, and we're here to build a product that will last for decades. We will improve our communication and make sure our messaging is right," Byju said at his TechSparks 2020 session.
He pointed to BYJU's marketing campaigns over the last five years and said that, at least in his own startup, the message he has tried to cultivate is "love for learning".
"We’ve reduced the pressure off kids by making sure that they love learning — we don’t talk about rank holders or toppers because I strongly believe that everybody can improve — all of them won’t become toppers, but children are all still unique. Our messaging has always been love for learning," he said, reiterating, "We’ve taken the feedback seriously and we’re refining and correcting."
Byju Raveendran, Founder and CEO, BYJU'S
Personally, Byju said he truly believes in the power of constructive criticism, especially when someone is paving a new path, because it instills a sense of direction.
"I firmly believe that if you're not willing to listen to anyone and you think you're already doing the best — the game is over. For us, the idea is to not keep winning, the idea is to survive for decades. We have the right intent and we will continue to improve."
Byju brought to light the fact that for a startup as small as his, which has gained exponential traction over the last six to seven months and added 20,000 jobs, the fast pace of growth means mistakes and slip ups will happen.
"The last six months have been life-changing for us — and we'll keep improving and doing better," he said.
TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.