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India needs to rally behind its edtech startups, beginning with Byju’s

Which side finally has its way in the Byju's dispute is much less important than the founder-investor confrontation quietly changing the discourse about the company’s ability to make a difference in the country’s education arena and in showcasing the nation’s startup prowess 

March 15, 2024 / 02:19 PM IST

New-age companies like Byju’s can significantly move the needle in ensuring that students can consistently gain access to standardised quality education on a seamless basis.

It is still unclear who finally wins the battle for control of edtech startup Byju’s - the company's founder Byju Raveendran or the marquee investors who want him out of the firm.

Seen from a broader perspective, though, which side eventually has its way in the ongoing tug-of-war is much less important than Byju’s remaining on solid ground. Since the only thing that should really matter is that the founder-investor confrontation does not come in the way of the startup’s ability to make a significant difference in India’s education arena and in showcasing the nation’s startup prowess.

Adding Value

If there was such a thing as systemically important startups in India, Byju’s would find a prominent place in such an arrangement. Not just for the immense value that it adds to the country’s education sector by enhancing education accessibility but also for the sheer weight it adds to the startup arena when it comes to showcasing how far India has travelled in the startup domain. At one point, Byju’s was India’s most valued startup enjoying a $22 billion valuation. As of 2023, India had more than 100,000 registered startups.

As the world’s most populous country with its stated commitment to the ‘development for all’ principle, India needs promising edtech startups like Byju’s to remain in a good place. The reasons for that are simple.

Indian Edtech Startups

New-age companies like Byju’s can significantly move the needle in ensuring that students, irrespective of where they stay, can consistently gain access to standardised quality education on a seamless basis, and, moreover, get the opportunity to learn at their own pace. By extension, edtech companies can also play a prominent part in helping to fast-track the realisation of multiple targets associated with the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 that deals with ensuring “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

On their own, conventional educational service providers would always find it difficult to ensure that India can attain the SDG4 targets at a rapid clip. Incidentally, the National Education Policy 2020, too, had talked of the big role that technology can play in the education arena.

Startups such as Byju’s doing well can also majorly contribute to advancing the Viksit Bharat (developed India) agenda and, in creating new, and better-quality jobs for the nation’s ever-growing workforce. Being home to multiple startups that can continuously raise the bar globally on the innovation front can enable India to leverage these innovations to hasten the pace of its growth and development and provide a better quality of life to the country’s 1.4 billion plus citizens. Although India has made significant progress in the Global Innovation Index (GII) in the last 10 years, the country’s 2023 ranking which stood at 40 was much lower than many of its Asian peers.

Force to Reckon With

Despite its present troubles, which, in turn, may have taken a toll on the brand, Byju’s, even today, remains a formidable force to reckon with in the Indian edtech space. Nothing better exemplifies this than the fact that it is often one of the names that first come to mind while discussing the positives and negatives associated not just with the country’s edtech arena but also the larger startup ecosystem.

For all the value that Byju’s brings to the table, it, thus, becomes imperative that the founder-investor standoff – possibly the biggest challenge that the company faces – does not slow down this startup’s growth and, also, prove a roadblock in the realisation of the larger expectation that stakeholders have from the edtech arena about enhancing education accessibility for students. A long-drawn face-off between Raveendran and a section of the investor fraternity which leads to a situation that adversely impacts Byju’s ability to realise its full potential is the last thing that one would want.

Byju’s does not deserve to go into free fall.

Sumali Moitra is a current affairs commentator. Follow author on X: @sumalimoitra. Views are personal, and do not represent the stand of this publication.

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Sumali Moitra is a current affairs commentator. Twitter: @sumalimoitra. Views are personal.
first published: Mar 15, 2024 12:20 pm

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