WhiteHat Jr brings in Hrithik Roshan for new campaign

Roshan is a big influencer.

NEW DELHI: WhiteHat Jr has roped in Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan for its latest campaign, which urges students to book their free online coding class and sample the platform.

The brand has already put in place its media plan across markets and the campaign is visible on the television. However, it is not yet clear if Roshan has come onboard as a brand endorser or appearing only for the present campaign.

This is the second television campaign that WhiteHat Jr has initiated. The film showcases multiple investors and recruiters fighting to hire a young kid who has developed an app. The positioning of the brand is very clear – that it helps children learn more about technology from a very young age. 

The move clearly states WhiteHat Jr’s intention to scale up in the market and cut across the audiences. For the record, WhiteHat Jr was bought out by Byju's in August this year for $300 million in an all-cash deal. Byju's acquired the platform with the objective to drive its ever-widening reach in the ed-tech space in the country.

Roshan is one of the leading Bollywood endorsers and has been associated with multiple brands in past. He commands a large and loyal fan following which will give an edge to the Byju’s owned brand. He has nearly 33 million followers on Instagram, 29.9 million on Twitter and 17 million on Facebook. Roshan is a fitness freak and a progressive actor who has good films in his kitty. He is a big influencer.

Interestingly, the move might also help the audiences to think about Byju’s in a brighter light as the ed-tech brand has been in the midst of controversies during the past months. It was embroiled in two lawsuits – one against angel investor Aniruddha Malpani, and another against software engineer Pradeep Poonia.

WhiteHat Jr filed a $1.9 million case against Malpani alleging that he was defaming the company to promote his own start-up. The court has also sought Malpani’s written response in the matter by 14 January 2021. In a series of social media posts, Malpani had accused the ed-tech platform of hiring people with no coding skills. WhiteHat Jr got a major relief last month as HC passed an interim order restricting Malpani from posting, publishing or sharing any content derogatory or deprecatory of WhiteHat Jr or its content or management. It also asked the accused to take down selected social media posts.

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

A week prior to that, the Delhi high court 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 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 accessing the internal communication platform Slack without authorisation 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’s acquisition by Byju’s led to the fastest exit story 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 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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