Start-ups tangled in lawsuits is very disturbing: Founder of Whitehat Jr

Topics Startups | EdTech | Delhi High Court

Karan Bajaj founder of edtech start-up Whitehat Jr
The Delhi High Court on Monday granted an ad-interim injunction to edtech start-up WhiteHat Jr and its founder Karan Bajaj against techie Pradeep Poonia, restraining him from commenting on the quality of teachers at the Byju’s-owned company and unauthorisedly accessing and publishing its internal communications and videos. He has also been restrained from using the name WhiteHat Sr for his YouTube channel. WhiteHat Jr, which is now owned by edtech Decacorn Byju’s, had filed a Rs 20-crore lawsuit against Poonia alleging infringement of trademarks, invasion of privacy, and defamation. Poonia in a series of tweets had alleged that the company made false claims through misleading advertisements and has questioned the company’s work ethic. After the Delhi HC order, he tweeted “Delhi HC refused to grant a sweeping injunction against me as WhiteHat Jr wanted in their Rs 20 crore suit. They keep trying to silence dissent and have failed.” The next hearing of the case is scheduled on January 6. Shortly after the hearing, WhiteHat Jr founder and CEO Karan Bajaj, in an interaction with Samreen Ahmad & Bibhu Ranjan Mishra says all their objectives were met through the suit and issues like these distract the company from its core goals. Edited excerpts: 

What is your reaction to today’s court order?

The narrative that’s being spun around in popular media is that we are a company that is trying to silence dissent and criticism, which is far from the truth. The moment we were criticised for our marketing campaign, we changed it quickly. If we come across legitimate fact-based criticism, we rise and fix those mistakes. But here, there was illegal hacking into our systems, cherry-picking conversations out of context to create a fake narrative. We were also protesting against the defamation and our teachers being called ‘housewives’ who had no training, which is misogynist. We met the objectives we set out to achieve through our suit as the court addressed all these issues. 

Do you see this issue as a distraction to the management from the core issues you are trying to address?

Yes, a hundred thousand per cent (true). Start-ups should just focus on building. It is very hard to build a company from the ground and scale it. Start-ups getting embroiled in these issues is very distracting. Right now, we need start-ups to create jobs and value. During the past nine months we have created over 18,000 jobs. Through such issues, parents, students, teachers all get affected which is really destructive work.

What kind of background do your teachers have?

About 50-70 per cent are hardcore coders, teaching advance plus. For early grades, we are looking for a hardcore mathematics and logic background because a lot of coding is built on logic constructs. That’s the profiles we go after. And 50 per cent of our students are from outside India, whom our Indian teachers teach.

So is it Indian teachers teaching the world?

That is the beauty and power of technology. We have a large bulk of students from the US, the UK, and Australia. We have highly qualified educated women who could not be a part of the workforce because they had to manage their families, but can now teach kids from all over the world. 

There were also allegations that refunds to parents who were not satisfied with the course were not made...

We categorically deny that. If someone asks for a refund, our team asks them what we could have done better. We don’t even try to convince them to not take a refund. 

What are your business plans going forward? 

Our courses have been well-received abroad so we want to keep taking them to more countries such as Latin America. With Byju’s coming in, we are launching maths live courses so that kids fall in love with the subject early. In India, we want to go deeper in the domestic market. 

What has it been like to be part of the Byju’s group?

It’s pleasant in many ways as it confirms the boundary-less view of the world that we always had -- that Indian teachers can teach worldwide. On the flipside, it brings a lot of attention which is a lot for a company that is just trying to do what it does best.


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