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The BYJU’s sponsorship of the Qatar World Cup

3 mins read
The BYJU’s sponsorship of the Qatar World Cup

Sponsorship deals. They’re a great way for a company to boost its brand in exchange for a capital injection. BYJU’s is one of the biggest names in the edtech scene worldwide, let alone in India. The Qatar World Cup, on the other hand, while having delivered on the pitch some remarkably sumptuous football, will go down in history as a farcical event that should never have happened in the first place for reasons well documented by now.

In March 2022, when BYJU’s was announced as a sponsor of the Qatar World Cup, eyebrows were raised for a number of reasons. This was the first time an edtech company partnered with a football World Cup. Why, though, BYJU’s, with a well-established global presence, would want to sponsor a World Cup in the same year it revealed huge losses? More importantly, why would an Indian edtech company with an already-deteriorating reputation want to associate itself with an event that has taken lives of thousands of Indians?

Also Read – FIFA Men’s World Cup Qatar 2022 Sponsors

The answers begin to surface when one points to the fact that BYJU’s has a major investor in Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, since at least 2019, making BYJU’s a marketing vehicle for the Qatari state to augment its reputation in a country that has seen many of its citizens die preventable deaths for a World Cup to happen. The powers that be at BYJU’s, as it turns out, might not have had much of a say when it comes to sponsoring the 2022 World Cup, having to resort to pleasing one of their major financial backers in a time of decline.

When it comes to bringing together institutions with well-documented cases of employee exploitation, FIFA could not have married the Qatar World Cup to a more fitting party than BYJU’s, whose unattainable sales targets has resulted in a toxic, abusive workplace culture that has seen employees resigning on the back of suffering incessant vocal assaults from their managers and having to target underprivileged families, forcing them into buying BYJU’s programmes using scare tactics, and whose marketing strategy reinforces the rotten-to-core grades-driven educational framework of India, a country where, according to the National Crime Record Bureau’s (NCRB) 2020 report, roughly 34 students commit suicide under academic duress. The rate of suicide, the NCRB confirmed in its 2021 report, increased by 4.5% last year. 

The horrifying Grim Reaper that is India’s educational system is an unavoidable problem for another day and another medium, as we ought to return to the institution at hand. As mentioned earlier, BYJU’s sponsorship of the 2022 World Cup doesn’t contrast well with the losses the company has been incurring. The company recorded a loss of ₹4,588 crore and revenue of ₹2,428 crore in its Financial Year 2020–21 report, which was delayed by 18 months after its auditor, Deloitte, raised concerns over the company’s accounts. While BYJU’s has used the dropping revenues as an explanation for aiming to lay off around 2,500 employees (around 5% of its workforce) over six months so as to become profitable by March 2023, it has also committed money to host a number of big-name celebrities and sportspeople as brand ambassadors, with a certain Leo Messi being the latest addition to the roster that already boasts the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Neeraj Chopra and PV Sindhu among others.

The BYJU’s-Qatar WC partnership resulted in a 148-second-long video, a bleak attempt at tugging the heartstrings of the Indian football fans, encouraging them to “dream” about India one day making the World Cup. Not only does the ad fail to impress, with the average Indian fan more than aware about the reasons India is not going to earn a FIFA World Cup Finals spot anytime soon, it also reflects poorly with the Qatar World Cup being the backdrop because of the reasons mentioned above.

As for the Messi ambassadorship, that resulted in another, much shorter clip, which ends in Messi saying “Namaste, India” while wearing a BYJU’s shirt. Is that enough to wash away the company’s malpractices? Does that justify bringing Messi on-board after a year of huge losses that is resulting in layoff of thousands? I’ll let you decide.   

Sponsorship deals. They’re a great way for a company to boost its brand. The toxic workplace environment problem is not one specific to BYJU’s or even the industry it operates in, nor is the human rights abuses documented in Qatar in the lead up to the 2022 World Cup an issue exclusive to the peninsular Arab country. However, just like Qatar brought scrutiny upon itself the moment it decided to make the world take notice with its successful World Cup bid, it is only fair to also throw some light upon BYJU’s as well — a fitting supporter of the Qatar World Cup that may or may not have been sponsoring the tournament deliberately, but rightfully deserves a moment in the limelight for all the good work it has been up to over the last decade.

Anshuman Joshi is a senior writer at SportsKhabri with special focus towards all things football. His other interests include languages, world history and some good fiction.

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