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Messi’s reaction when told how Byju Raveendran stalked him in lift for 2 days

Byju’s founder Byju Raveendran addressed the Messi controversy while speaking at the India Today Conclave 2023.

March 21, 2023 / 06:39 PM IST
Byju Raveendran, Byju’s founder and CEO.

Byju Raveendran, Byju’s founder and CEO.

Byju Raveendran has addressed the controversy that erupted after his edtech startup signed star footballer Lionel Messi as its global brand ambassador last year. The Messi deal was announced just days after Byju’s laid off 2,500 employees, leading to scathing criticism on social media where people questioned how the company could afford to sign on one of the world’s highest-paid athletes but had to fire employees to cut costs.

Speaking at India Today Conclave 2023, Byju’s founder Byju Raveendran blamed bad timing for the controversy. He also spoke about the time when Byju’s was sill to taste success and he himself had to jump through hoops to catch a glimpse of the footballer.

“The deal was signed many months ago. In one week, you can't sign Messi for a partnership,” Raveendran explained when asked about the ill-timed deal. “Unlike a business partnership, it's a very different level of partnership where (he) mainly promotes our education for all,” he said, reiterating the argument he had also made last year.

“After signing him up, we have actually doubled the number of NGOs and the in-bound interest which we got from NGOs. Unfortunately, it clashed with… we had to let go of some of our team members,” said the founder of Byju’s. “Everyone talks about the 2,500 people we had to lay off during those three months, but no one talks about the 25,000 we hired during the last 12 months,” he added.

In February this year alone, Byju’s hired 2,000 people, Raveendran said, pointing out that it is the largest startup employer in the country by a margin.

Raveendran had also addressed the controversy in November last year, saying that the Messi deal had been six months in the making. “It is foolish for people to think that we will pay money for Messi after letting people go,” he had said. This time again, he blamed redundancies and role duplications that came with acquiring other businesses for the workforce reduction.

As the conversation at Saturday’s India Today Conclave turned to the star footballer, Raveendran also recalled the time when he spent two days going up and down an elevator, just to catch a glimpse of La Pulga.

The year of 2011 when Lionel Messi and team Argentina visited Kolkata for a friendly FIFA match and Byju’s was still in its early days.

“There was no way I would have been able to meet Messi 10 years back when we were just starting the company,” Byju Raveendran told panellists at the conclave. “So when Argentina came to Kolkata, I stayed in the same hotel and constantly went up and down the elevator for two days and finally caught him in the elevator.”

He revealed this titbit to Messi more than a decade later, after signing him as global brand ambassador. “I recently met him during the sponsorship deal and mentioned this to him. He was literally taken aback.”

Sanya Jain
first published: Mar 21, 2023 01:25 pm