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Delhi HC asks Aniruddha Malpani to remove posts critical of WhiteHat Jr

WhiteHat Jr had filed a $1.9 million defamation case against the angel investor

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NEW DELHI: Controversy’s favourite child WhiteHat Jr got major relief in its defamation lawsuit case against the angel investor Aniruddha Malpani, who in a series of social media posts had accused the ed-tech platform of hiring people with no coding skills, as the Delhi high court asked the accused to take down selected social media posts. The HC has also passed an interim order restricting him from posting, publishing or sharing any content derogatory or deprecatory of WhiteHat Jr or its content or management.

The court has also sought Malpani’s written response in the matter by 14 January 2021. 

WhiteHat Jr, an edtech platform that offers online coding classes to school-going students had filed a $1.9 million case against Malpani alleging that he was defaming the company to promote his own start-up.  

Malpani was earlier banned by LinkedIn for criticising WhiteHat Jr’s parent company Byju’s.

Earlier in the week, the Delhi HC had also asked software engineer Pradeep Poonia to restrict his criticism of the quality of teachers at WhiteHat Jr on social media platforms and pull down specific content, in another defamation case filed by the ed-tech company. In this $2.6 million lawsuit, WhiteHat Jr had alleged that Poonia was in violation of the Trade Marks Act of 199, The Copyright Act of 1957 and Code of Civil Procedure of 1908.

Poonia was also pulled up for sharing the name and numbers of lawyers who have filed the suit in the public domain, and hacking or unauthorisedly accessing the internal communication platform Slack and displaying communication between WhiteHat Jr’s employees on his YouTube channel. Poonia was also restrained from downloading any curriculum from WhiteHat Jr and circulating it to third parties. 

Founded in 2018 by Karan Bajaj, WhiteHat Jr has been beset with wrangles since it was bought out by Byju's in August this year for $300 million in an all-cash deal. Byju's acquired the platform with a clear objective to drive its ever-widening reach in the ed-tech space in the country. The acquisition led to the fastest exit story at this size in the Indian start-up ecosystem. At the time of signing the deal, WhiteHat Jr claimed it had achieved an annual revenue run rate of $150 million. It had over 5,000 teachers and was dedicating one instructor to each student. Byju's then decided to make significant investments into the start-up and help it expand beyond Indian shores. 

The tides of fortunes turned in WhiteHat Jr’s favour with the Covid2019 pandemic, as students were unable to attend school and many parents enrolled their children in the platform's coding program to help them learn more about technology.

Post-acquisition, WhiteHat Jr has aggressively worked towards gaining new users. It launched an ATL campaign that ran through IPL 13, creating a buzz for the brand. The film showcased multiple investors and recruiters fighting to hire a young kid who had developed an app. The positioning of the brand was very clear – that it helps children learn more about technology from a very young age. 

The campaign was supported with a strong digital and social media strategy. However, the brand had to face the ire of consumers on the digital front as it was continuously bombarding them with ads. On another occasion, it used the images of global leaders such as Sundar Pichai, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and others to attract users, by urging them to be the next bigwig in Silicon Valley. Some of its ads were also in question and in October this year, the Advertising Standards Council of India (Asci) asked WhiteHat Jr to pull down several ads for making misleading claims.

The ed-tech platform that teaches coding to children has definitely created a strong dent in the Indian start-up ecosystem and made inroads in the country – but not without more than its fair share of legal and PR hassles on the way. 

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