The thing about information, information that results from a hyped, successful outcome is that it sticks in your mind. Like a good story, it doesn’t age. In the world of hagiographic corporate history, the kind practised in India fairly often, a shred of information, repeated, again and again, becomes a fact. And as time goes by, that distant, misplaced fact gets passed around as legend. Needless to say, legends of successful exits make for good stories.
This is not that story.
On the contrary, this is a story, which sheds more light on the success saga. Sort of puts it under the lens. This is the story of the unravelling of one of the biggest, most celebrated deals in the Indian education technology space. A story, which yet again should make you sit up and think, that there’s a lot of froth in the Indian entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Because if you believe everything that’s being said or written about Byju’s acquisition of TutorVista and Edurite, you might almost believe that Byju’s has acquired a promising set of companies for a song. This bit of information is public—over a period of four years, from 2009 to 2013, Pearson Education, the UK-based publishing and education company, acquired TutorVista after shelling out a total of about $150 million. That’s about Rs 900 crore; a lot of money. Now depending on who you believe, in 2017, just four years in, Pearson has sold both TutorVista and Edurite to Byju’s for less than $3 million. That’s less than Rs 20 crore; a pittance.
If you are in Byju’s shoes, calling this deal a steal would be an understatement.
And that’s precisely what the company would have you to believe.
It has been said that “TutorVista gets millions of visitors every month on its website from across the globe (70% from the USA).” It has also been said that the coming together of Byju’s, TutorVista and Edurite will help Byju’s “expand international reach.”
We, of course, must not take these statements at face value. We must dig deeper.
To understand Byju’s acquisition of TutorVista and Edurite, a set of four questions must be asked. One, what has Byju’s actually bought for $3 million? Two, why? Three, what does the company hope to do with it? And four, how is that going to play out? To answer these questions and put together this story, The Ken reached out to a host of people; current and former employees of Pearson Education and several players in the education technology business in India and the US. Few wanted to speak on record but they had a lot to say in private.