It took Byju’s 10 years to become India’s most valuable startup, expanding its empire of online learning apps to many markets, including the U.S. The firm, founded by a teacher, largely avoided controversies even as its sales operations are anything but ideal (though not extreme by Indian standards). Now merely a few quarters — or who knows in this market, a few years? — away from becoming a public company, Byju’s is finding it increasingly difficult to hold its narrative straight.
The company has missed its own deadlines to file its audited financial for the year ending March 2021 by nearly 18 months. The startup — backed by scores of high-profile investors including Blackrock, Tiger Global, UBS, Prosus Ventures, Sequoia India and Lightspeed Venture Partners — said in early July that it will file the results within 10 days.
It’s so rare for a late-stage startup to miss the deadline — let alone by so many months — that Byju’s lapse has attracted the attention of India’s Ministry of Corporate Affairs. Even a lawmaker has chimed in: In July, Karti Chidambaram called for an investigation into the finances of the firm for not submitting its statements.
But as Ashish Mishra, editor of The Morning Context, an Indian news outlet that has outlined many lapses by Byju’s in recent months, reminded this week: Filing of the delayed financial results is just one of the issues with which Byju’s is grappling.
Byju’s announced in March that it had raised $800 million in a round led by its founder Byju Raveendran. Little known venture firms Sumeru Ventures and Oxshott were to provide $250 million in that round, a commitment that they have yet to honor. Byju’s said in July that it’s on track to receive the funding by the end of August.
The company, which has spent $2.5 billion acquiring smaller firms in the past two years, last year agreed to pay nearly $1 billion to acquire Blackstone-backed Aakash Educational Services, a 34-year-old chain of physical coaching centres. Byju’s has yet to pay Blackstone about $180 million for the deal, missing its own August deadline.
Byju’s was also reportedly looking to raise about $1 billion in loan from Morgan Stanley to finance the acquisition of U.S.-based edtech 2U. That deal is also stuck. The firm was also prepping to go public via the SPAC route this year, but has delayed the plans as the market downturn continues, according to three people familiar with the matter.
In the meantime, Byju’s has been in the market for over three months to raise a new round, but so far has had no luck, according to a source familiar with the matter. The source added that secondary shares of Byju’s are beginning to go on sale at a valuation lower than $22 billion.
Byju’s said it has no official comments to offer.