EdTech companies more like loan sharks: Karti Chidambaram raises Byju's issue in Lok Sabhatext_fields
Edtechs in India were running unregulated syllabi and behaving in a predatory manner towards the middle class and poor by selling them unrealistic and aspirational courses designed to benefit the company more than the children alleged Sivaganga Member of Parliament (MP) Karti Chidambaram from Tamil Nadu in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
He took particular aim at multinational startup Byju's, one of the most popular and highly valued companies in India, pointing out that their "predatory marketing practises" were focused on the poor and middle class who simply wished to supplement their children's education.
He added that the companies force parents to buy courses and auto-debit the amount from the accounts even when parents want to discontinue it. "These auto-debits are happening regularly month by month. In fact, they are becoming like loan sharks where they are force selling these courses," he said.
Chidambaram mentioned the cases of Pradeep Poonia, Aniruddha Malpani and Nidhi Bahuguna who had all tried bringing the darker side of these companies to light and were harassed by the same. Companies like Byju's sought to stamp out dissent and criticism the MLA claimed.
Poonia is particularly well-known for having a 20 crore defamation suit filed against him for having exposed the WhiteHat Jr mascot 'Wolf Gupta', supposedly a young boy who landed a job in Google after coding an app, as a fake character made to sell the company's image. The case was dismissed in May this year but the Delhi High Court forced Poonia to take down tweets that were considered defamatory and exposing what he termed as 'uneducated' staff and poor practises.
Raising the issue of regulation, Chidambaram said that to open a school, there were stringent check and balances to be followed but the same was not there for online education startups.
"If you put a complaint on social media, they bring it down. In fact, this company sponsors the Indian Cricket Team now...This company is worth 21 billion dollars. Our entire Indian educational budget is not worth that much," Chidambaram said.
He called on the Education Ministry to bring in more regulations for the online education sector to regulate predatory marketing practises and to monitor companies with unethical practises.
"Is their curriculum vetted? What is the caliber of their teaching staff? Do they indulge in predatory marketing practices? Are their marketing claims true? What is their complaints redressal mechanism? How easy is it to unsubscribe?" were some of the questions raised by the MLA on Twitter afterwards as he tagged companies such as Byju's and Unacademy.