In a startling revelation that casts a shadow over the prowess of the world’s most valuable edtech startup, it has come to light that nearly two out of every three customers at Byju’s Tuition Centres roughly 60 percent have demanded refunds in the last two years. This disconcerting trend underscores significant discontent among parents and students alike regarding the teaching methods employed, marking yet another hurdle in the journey of this edtech giant.
Unveiling the Refund Request Deluge
Between the time frame of November 9, 2021, and July 11, 2023, a staggering total of 43,625 refund requests flooded Byju’s Tuition Centres. This data, exclusively procured from internal sources by Moneycontrol, offers an alarming glimpse into the situation. Remarkably, Byju’s has managed to process 41,198 of these refund petitions, accounting for a substantial 95 percent of the total. A remarkable feat, but it raises pertinent questions about the educational content and service quality.
Company’s Response and the Discrepancy
Byju’s, however, vehemently denies these claims. A spokesperson for the company dismissed these statistics as “wildly inaccurate” and baseless. Nonetheless, the spokesperson did not offer any concrete counterdata to invalidate the accuracy of the provided information, creating a cloud of uncertainty around the situation.
Echoes of Discontent
The high frequency of refund requests serves as an unequivocal indicator of the prevailing dissatisfaction among students and parents concerning the caliber and structure of courses offered by Byju’s Tuition Centres. Once hailed as the harbinger of the company’s forthcoming growth, these centres have witnessed a significant shift in strategy, with Byju’s putting the brakes on expansion plans. The decision to abstain from launching new tuition centres this year marks a stark deviation from the original goal of opening over 300 additional centres.
Frustrated Parents Speak Up
In an attempt to gauge the prevailing sentiments, Moneycontrol engaged with parents of 15 students, all registered at Byju’s Tuition Centre in Saraswati Nagar, Jodhpur. A majority of these parents shared their experiences of disappointment and frustration. A myriad of concerns was discussed, encompassing issues ranging from insufficient CCTV camera surveillance, irregular classes, falsified attendance records, to lack of communication pertaining to cancellations and refunds.
Whispers in the Digital Realm
Within a WhatsApp group comprising 127 parents and a few former employees who were let go by the company, a series of messages painted a clear picture of dissatisfaction. Phrases like “Byju’s ko refund karna padega” (Byju’s will have to issue a refund) and “Hum sab ko refund chahiye aur ye sirf consumer court dila sakta hai” (We all want a refund, and only the consumer court can help us) echoed the collective frustration. The group discussions focused on devising strategies to bolster refund appeals, following several futile attempts.
The discontented parents were driven to share copies of their refund request letters and recounted their visits to the Saraswati Nagar Tuition Centre. Despite the effort, they were left without a satisfactory response. A parent, who chose to remain anonymous, lamented the irregular classes and poor quality of lectures. The tipping point was the unjust termination of a trusted class manager in July, who had faced false allegations. This incident further eroded trust in the institution.
An Unprecedented Standstill
With conviction, the parents collectively decided to halt their children’s attendance at the tuition centre and officially requested refunds. However, an unsettling development emerged as the staff allegedly continued to mark the students present daily, aiming to inflate occupancy numbers. The absence of responses to parents’ refund entreaties exacerbated the already escalating situation.
A Series of Troubles
The predicament of the Byju’s Tuition Centres adds to the mounting predicaments faced by India’s most prized startup. Even as the company pinned its hopes on hybrid learning to counteract the post-Covid slowdown, fresh troubles arose. Moneycontrol reported in July that the area business heads (ABHs) within the BTCs had raised concerns about withheld incentives and variable pay, leading to internal turmoil.
Byju’s sought to assuage the concerns of its employees and orchestrated an emergency town hall meeting with all BTC employees. A resolution was reached, promising incentives to be disbursed from August and variable pay to be received in the upcoming quarter. In a bid to stabilize the situation, the company reassured that no BTC employees would be laid off.
Byju’s, originally a pioneer in introducing offline tutoring in India’s edtech sector, envisioned it as a vital component post the Covid-19 pandemic. The company earmarked over $200 million for this venture, with aspirations to launch 500 tuition centres across 200 Indian cities in 2022. Furthermore, the company aimed to generate 10,000 new job opportunities through these centres. However, these ambitious dreams now face the harsh reality of dissatisfaction and challenges.
Byju’s Tuition Centres, touted as catalysts for exponential growth, now find themselves at a crossroads due to mounting refund requests and discontent. The company’s ambitions, once soaring high, are now weighed down by the intricacies of discontentment and setbacks. The path forward appears uncertain, prompting introspection and action to regain the trust of parents and students alike.