Byju Raveendran, founder and CEO of edtech major BYJU'S, spilled the beans about how he met football star Lionel “Leo” Messi ten years ago at an elevator of a hotel in Kolkata.
“This happened 10 years ago when Argentina came to Kolkata and I was staying at the same hotel. I was going up and down for two days and that’s when I caught up with Messi when he was also in the same elevator,” said Raveendran at India Today Conclave 2023.
He also revealed that when he met Messi for the sponsorship deal, he mentioned about the meeting in the elevator which happened a few years ago.
The edtech startup was caught up in controversy as it announced signing up Messi as the global brand ambassador of its social impact arm, Education For All after doing massive layoffs in the company.
Defending the collaboration with Messi, Raveendran’s wife Divya Gokulnath said such deals don’t get signed overnight. “We wanted to create global awareness about the brand and so we signed the deal with Messi. When we signed the deal, 25 per cent of our students were from outside India and this would help them get global recognition.”
“I consider that sport is a way to do all round development of the youth and the decision was in line with the idea that sport and education go together,” Gokulnath added.
Meanwhile, Raveendran said that the layoffs are nowhere connected with the deal as it was signed months back. “You can’t sign Messi in just one week for a partnership and it is very different from other collaborations as it promotes Education for all.”
He added that after striking a partnership with Messi, the company has doubled the number of NGOs and it was totally unfortunate that it clashed with the sudden layoffs. BYJU’S laid off 2,500 employees last year.
“We had to let go of 2,500 employees in those three months but nobody talks about the hiring of 25,000 employees we hired in the last 12 months. In February 2023, we hired 2,000 new people and we are the largest startup employer of the country by a margin,” Raveendran added.
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