India’s toxic startup mindset
Indian entrepreneurs and startups leave a horrible example for the youth and the rest of the world. They will go to great lengths to lie and cheat their customers and protect their image.
Misleading advertisements and then trying to shut up critics is detrimental to the start up world and the Make-in-India vision.
For a more detailed report on what happened with WhiteHat Jr, read this article by Ashish K. Mishra on The Morning Context.
China already has a global reputation for producing cheap products that don’t last long. Of course, China also produces high quality products but often under international brand names that fall under legal systems of reputed countries. India, on the other hand, has a very poor legal infrastructure and companies like WhiteHat Jr take full advantage of that by continuing to advertise falsely, censor honest reviews & feedback and file defamation cases against people who have enough proof to sabotage their reputation. (Follow Pradeep Poonia)
If things do not change rather quickly, India is also going to get a reputation for only making subpar products. India is already known for copy-cat products/services due to Ola & Oyo Rooms. However, SaaS startups in India are not fucking around as they are mostly B2B and businesses can’t be fooled the same way regular customers can be. Indian startups with a B2C models, on the other hand, cannot be blindly trusted because they will never fail to take advantage of the powerless, ordinary customer.
This is the reason why the common man in India doesn’t have much respect for the business community. They are well aware of the immoral and unethical tactics used by these businessmen. Because in a way, that’s probably the only way to make it big here!
Let’s look at Algorithmics, a Russian franchise that delivers a similar product to WhiteHat Jr with one key difference: the Russian startup is authentic and provides a quality product/service compared to WhiteHat Jr’s trash.
Although I failed to run this franchise in Mumbai (personal failure), one thing was clear, Algorithmics prime motivation was to deliver quality education to children unlike WhiteHat Jr’s obvious profit-making motive. It takes 2–3 months for an individual to be approved as a qualified teacher for Algorithmics. Even after qualifying, the candidate undergoes rigorous training before the teacher gets to step foot in class. Whereas for WhiteHat Jr, a screenshot of their recruitment email says it all:
The difference between Algorithmics and WhiteHat Jr probably stems from their differing fundamentals. Algorithmics aims to provide the best learning for students which forces them to build a strong product and a teacher training process to deliver that quality product. WhiteHat Jr’s core objective seems limited to hitting a sales target.
Not only are they duping the customers, they are pulling in individuals to work for them as teachers that are clearly not equipped to perform well. WhiteHat Jr teachers with integrity will soon begin to self-loathe for working for a company that leaves them no choice but to fool their customers. It’s so obvious that WhiteHat Jr has no moral values and they do not CARE about Indian parents or students.
Would you hire someone who barely speaks English to teach English to your child?
My main concern is that startups in India will continue to use the same playbook and aim to build unicorns without focusing on the main thing: a quality product.
The $300 million exit to Byju also makes so much sense as the buyer shares similar values and intentions. The goal of edtech companies should be to help children reach their potential and indirectly contribute towards upward mobility of Indians. But the products pushed by these two aren’t bringing much value for Indian students. Hopefully, the Disney stake might help Byju to improve their product and become more valuable to society, India to be specific. But if the only way for Indian companies to start improving on product/service quality is by getting international companies to become stakeholders, then we are doing it all wrong.
There is a lot of bureaucracy and lobbying in International markets as well and these lovable brands are not totally innocent. But the one thing that makes it kind of okay, is the fact that they continue to make the end customer happy. They do not CHEAT the customer via misleading advertisements and inferior products/services. And if they do, there are serious consequences. Unlike in India, where the maximum punishment is being left with a warning and that’s what precisely allows WhiteHat Jr to get away with malpractice.
Instead of them going around suing people for exposing the truth, they should fix their product, train their 11,000+ FEMALE employees and provide the customer with a kickass product. They have the capital, they have the resources — What is really stopping them? Lack of basic morals and a shitty attitude of only profiteering. Entrepreneurs in India are only motivated to create personal wealth; they could care less about overall prosperity of the country.
I recently binge watched interviews by Shradha Sharma and Indian entrepreneurs and it was getting tiring to hear her constantly commend Byju and the likes for scaling. There is nothing novel for Indian startups to scale, they are bound to show great numbers simply due to the fact of our enormous population. We shouldn’t be praising entrepreneurs for scaling within the country. VCs should rather look into the value provided but they are also short sighted as they want to see their ROI’s within 7 years regardless of whether that created true societal growth or not.
Also, Shradha Sharma should stop sucking up to entrepreneurs and start drilling them for the truth. She has created an amazing platform but it’s becoming cringeworthy to see her constantly pander to the likes of Byju Raveendran.
YourStory has already lost its integrity with its sponsored articles and unwanted boasting of random entrepreneurs. But I guess in order to pay your writers, editors and keep the company afloat, you need to publish fabricated narratives and scripted interviews.
Shradha did ask Byju about WhiteHat Jr’s “psychologically damaging ads” to which he tactfully responded that they made mistakes, took customer feedback and changed their marketing campaign emphasizing on the real message which is to spread the love for learning.
But you don’t needs ads to remind human beings their love for learning. It is inherent in our DNA to be curious and wanting to learn.
What’s wrong with Byju: the platform isn’t great as similar content is available for free. Their marketing campaign was deliberate to entice the middle class. The damage is already done as they made their money by luring parents in a debt trap. Byju, the founder, does a great job at talking big vision making it difficult to see through his bs.
🤮 — Whenever Shradha praises Byju for his authenticity.
The one thing that China is doing right is that they are not fooling their citizens. It might be due to communism and being a controlled state; they are doing a far better job in equipping its citizens with the right tools and knowledge unlike India, where entrepreneurs and leaders thrive on fooling ordinary citizens and taking undue advantage. The education system is appalling here and the edtech companies are not doing anything novel for the betterment of Indian citizens.
Despite the censorship and a totalitarian government, China is educating its citizens to outperform everyone else whereas we are just dumbing down the nation with toxic startups like WhiteHat Jr and Byju!