In late July, when Karan Bajaj addressed a WhiteHat Jr town hall, employees didn’t realise it would be his final one. A successor chief executive office (CEO), Trupti Mukker, had been announced, but there was no indication that Bajaj was already on his way out of the coding-for-kids startup he had built from scratch.

“There was talk within the company, but his announcement to leave was a shock to all of us,” says an employee from the sales rank-and-file at WhiteHat Jr. Bajaj has since taken to professional social network LinkedIn to talk about his imminent departure to start a new “career in public service”.

Makkar inherits a fractured legacy from Bajaj. The startup has been dogged by allegations of mis-selling through its over-the-top, aggressive sales tactics. It has also been slammed slammed The Ken Rage against the machine: behind Byju’s swift silencing of dissent Read more for silencing online critics by taking down their posts from social media. On the other hand, WhiteHat Jr’s revenues zoomed during the pandemic, and its growing international footprint ultimately attracted the attention of edtech major Byju’s. In 2020, the decacorn scooped up WhiteHat Jr at an impressive valuation of US$300 million.

WhiteHat Jr has since emerged as the tip of Byju’s international expansion spear. Rechristened to Byju’s FutureSchool for its overseas operations, the business is growing rapidly. According to information sourced by The Ken, its total revenue is up 42% from the last quarter, with 10-20% growth in core India and US markets. A quick search on LinkedIn also reveals that the Brazilian market is next in focus, with Byju’s FutureSchool making a number of hires in the region.

Byju’s acquisition of WhiteHat Jr is much more than a bold bet gone right—it’s almost a lifeline. Three years ago, a different product was meant to lead Byju’s international expansion—the Disney-Byju’s Early Learn App. The app is an entry point to a whole new age group for Byju’s—from pre-kindergarten to grade 3—and is built around popular Disney characters from movies like Frozen, Toy Story, and Brave. 

The app was the culmination of a few agendas. Byju’s wanted to “Disney-fy” education for a younger age group, says a source familiar with the development of the app. They wished not to be identified as they are not authorised to speak with the media. The idea, says the source, was to create a YouTube-like loop of Disney videos, with interactive games and quizzes thrown into the mix. Since YouTube doesn’t chart out a specific learning trajectory, the app would track learning levels.

AUTHOR

Olina Banerji

Based in Delhi, Olina writes about mega-trends in urban mobility, education, skilling and the environment, with a focus on how institutions and innovations can help cities grow sustainably. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and has worked previously with India Today and global non-profit Ashoka.

View Full Profile

Read this story. Subscribe Now

This story is available across both editions. Subscribe to the one that’s most relevant for you. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.