WhiteHat Jr founder Karan Bajaj has decided to move on from his role almost a year after being acquired by edtech unicorn BYJU’S. Byju Raveendran, the chief executive officer of BYJU’S announced the departure of Bajaj in an internal mail sent to the team today (August 4, 2021).
In the email sent to employees, Raveendran said that Bajaj “exceeded all” mutually outlined goals one year after the acquisition. Bajaj will be replaced by Trupti Mukker, who currently heads Customer Experience and Delivery.
Inc42 reviewed a copy of the email with the subject line ‘Cherishing a Great Legacy, Continuing a Great Trajectory’ sent by Raveendran.
“Having more than exceeded all our mutually outlined goals for the 1st year, Karan is now ready, as we had mutually decided at the time of acquisition, to progress to the next chapter of his life…While I wish he would’ve stayed longer, Karan is a force of nature and accustomed to making unconventional choices, as you all know, and I wish him only the best for what will surely be an exciting path ahead,’ Raveendran wrote.
Raveendran also pointed out that WhiteHat Jr and BYJU’S Future School, the global edtech product from BYJU’s, will operate independently under Mukker, who will continue to help with global expansion plans.
“With Karan’s departure, Trupti Mukker, whom you know well as the Head of Customer Experience and Delivery, will lead the organization, ably supported by the extremely strong leadership team that Karan and I have set in place. In a short span of 7 months, Trupti has been a great asset to the organization, delivering unmatched student and teacher experience as witnessed in our record NPS scores and will bring her 20+ years of progressive, global leadership experience to continue expanding and scaling the organization,” Raveendran wrote in his email to employees.
BYJU’S had acquired coding edtech startup Whitehat Jr for around $300 Mn back In August 2020, which was considered as the biggest M&A transaction in the edtech space in India. At the time of acquisition, Whitehat Jr claimed to have an annualized revenue of $150 Mn. The acquisition of WhiteHat Jr received wide attention, especially since the startup was in operation for only 18 months prior to the $300 Mn acquisition.
Founded in 2018 by former Discovery Networks CEO, Karan Bajaj, WhiteHat Jr is a live online one-to-one coding platform that teaches the principles of coding—sequence, structure, logic, commands and algorithmic thinking – to young kids, who don’t usually get this training in the formal education system.
Prior to the acquisition, WHitehat Jr had raised $11 Mn from investors like Nexus Venture Partners, Omidyar Network India and Owl Ventures. Owl Ventures is also an investor in BYJU’S.
Karan Bajaj’s exit also comes after his tumultuous tenure post the BYJU’S acquisition where the company was accused of censoring critics on social media. Critics including an ex-software engineer Pradeep Ponia, and angel investor Aniruddha Malpani had taken to social media to critique WhiteHat Jr’s ads which made misleading claims and statements.
Both Poonia and Malplani were then slapped with a combined $4.5 Mn defamation suit by Whitehat Jr founder Bajaj. However, after a few months of hearing, Bajaj reportedly dropped the lawsuit against Poonia. The defamation suit against angel investor Malpani is still pending.
Prior to the defamation suit filed against critics, WhiteHat Jr also received notices from the advertising regulatory body in India. In October, the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI), the advertising self-regulatory body, instructed the startup to pull down at least five of its advertisements that were in violation of the advertising code for making dubious and unsubstantiated claims.
Apart from this, Inc42 reported that WhiteHat Jr had been accused by another ‘coding for kids’ platform Tekie, of impersonating a kid to attend its class. During the course of the defamation hearing, several netizens took to social media sites to voice their concerns. However, Whitehat Jr eventually toned down its online and TV ads after the backlash.