Founded in 2018 by Karan Bajaj, WhiteHat Jr is a unicorn EdTech start-up based in Mumbai that aims at imparting coding lessons to young minds of 6 to 18, through one-on-one video classes with 7000 instructors on board.
Not too long ago, White Hat Jr. was acquired by Byju’s, which is the poster boy of India’s EdTech startups, in an all-cash deal of $300 million.
According to them, their students made mobile apps worth billions and have become a favourite of the coders and problem solvers at Silicon Valley.
White Hat Jr. and its Truth
No matter how many people WhiteHatJr. has impressed since it was founded; it has become a target for online trollers for about several months now for bombarding users with advertisements across TV and digital platforms, who aren’t even parents, which are their target segment for ads. The ads are over the top, unrealistic and far fetched.
WhiteHatJr. ads have also been criticised for using pictures of Bill Gates and Sundar Pichai for promotional purposes.
The platform advertises it’s courses on their website with the words “Your kids are 40 classes away from Silicon Valley”.
Is Silicon valley really 40 classes away?
OR It is 40 classes away to be eligible to apply for their so-called “Silicon Valley Program?”
Does the real silicon valley, California have any program like the “Silicon Valley Program” for kids?
No, there is no program with the name. And the name is being used by WhiteHat Jr. to lure in the parents who have heard the name silicon valley before and have the money OR can take a loan for a bank to afford their courses.
Misleading advertisements, Sale strategy and Lawsuits
Chintu from the Advertisement
Yes, this is the infamous platform that is promoted through the advertisement of a boy named Chintu who is shown to have developed his own app after he learned coding from WhiteHat Jr. which is why investors are fighting outside his home to invest in it.
This is Chintu with his parents as per WhiteHatJr.’s Advertisement. Image source: www.digitalready.co
The idea has not been appreciated by many, and while people called out to it, some resorted to making funny memes and jokes. While some others took to social media platforms with their concern.
Wait, if you think that’s too much, we haven’t even started yet.
An imaginary character – Wolf Gupta
WhiteHatJr. Introduces Wolf Gupta, a 12-year-old kid who apparently is working as an Artificial Intelligence Researcher at Google. Apparently, WhiteHatJr. has changed the age of the kid in different posts of different social networking sites. As if that’s not bizarre enough, WhiteHatJr. has changed the salary of the kid in multiple Social Media posts as well.
A Twitter user exposing WhiteHatJr. and the fictitious Wolf Gupta Image Source: www.twitter.com
WhiteHat Jr’s ‘Wolf Gupta’ advertising is not misleading – it is fundamentally dishonest and deceptive. The magnitude of the deception of this ‘growth-hacking’ has affected many.
Page 5 of the legal notice by Karan Bajaj has this:
advertisements concerning an imaginary child who the Plaintiffs christened “Wolf Gupta”
Presented above is the document where WhiteHatJr. admitted to the fact that Wolf Gupta is an imaginary character during the Delhi High Court hearing of the defamation case launched by Karan Bajaj against Pradeep Poonia ( we will talk about him in the next point).
This is very misleading to the audience who believed that a kid named Wolf Gupta does exist and hence enrolled their kids in the platform, not knowing that it is a marketing gimmick.
Lawsuit Against Pradeep Poonia and Aniruddha Malpani
Pradeep Poonia, an IIT alumnus and a software engineer with Cisco emerged as a whistleblower and vocal critic of the company through social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube.
The initial posts on Twitter by Pradeep Poonia were about alleged fake claims made by the company about a child codenamed “Wolf Gupta”.
Pradeep Poonia has openly criticised the startup for its misleading and exaggerated marketing strategies. Bajaj, in his counteract, filed a lawsuit seeking $2.7 million for damages. However, he has been accused of accessing the company’s private communication app, spreading the contact number of the teachers and associating the marketing strategies with that of ‘child sexual abuse’.
According to Pradeep Poonia, all he did was point bugs but the team of WhiteHat Jr. never got back to him with the fix of the bugs that he discovered. WhiteHat Jr. when responded, came up with police cases and false women assault charges.
A picture from the Archive of the article posted by Pradeep Poonia that was removed from LinkedIn in which Panzy Sharan talks about giving Pradeep Poonia a legal notice for defaming and harassing her.
But the noteworthy question that arises from Bajaj’s counteract is, why file a case of defamation instead of a case of theft and hacking under the IT section or any other criminal offence?
The most obvious answer could be to discourage any kind of negative feedback on the experience at/with WhiteHat jr. Ordinary people do not have ample resources and cannot afford to go against big business houses. Paving the way for news headlines through such a lawsuit can be an implication that WhiteHat Jr. is trying to scare the ordinary away from commenting negatively on the company to protect and build a superficially positive image in contrast to reality.
Aniruddh Malpani, an angel investor, has also been hit with a lawsuit of defamation by WhiteHat jr. suing INR 14 Cr ($1.9 Mn) for allegedly criticising edtech Unicron BYJU’S, seeking a permanent injunction restraining defamation, infringement of trademarks, unfair competition, managers and more.
The legal notice highlighted that Malpani was in violation of the Trade Marks Act of 1999 and the Code of Civil Procedure of 1908.
The Delhi high court, on Tuesday (November 24), passed an interim order against Malpani from posting or publishing or sharing any derogatory content or deprecatory against WhiteHat Jr on its content or management.
Image source: www.twitter.com
Aniruddha Malpani questioning the Government as why it is allowing Byjus to generate incorrect invoices.Image source: www.twitter.com
Removing comments and posts of customers and Real Industry engineers
Parents, students and professionals have tirelessly tried sharing videos on youtube mentioning issues regarding WhiteHatJr but they failed.
We have observed 2 sharp methods WhiteHatJr uses to remove content from the web that doesn’t support their favour “Selling fake dreams to parents”
- File a Defamation and get it removed
- Files a Copyright and gets it removed if the person has shared any content which has WhiteHatJr. logo.
The only way we have seen the video get reinitiate on the platform when he/she gets featured by a big publishing company.
Youtube is one of the leading platforms in the video industry also-ran in favour of WhiteHatJr. and removed the videos that weren’t favouring WhiteHatJr in copyright strike.
The company took steps, and all of Mr Poonia’s Youtube videos were taken down. He said his two Reddit accounts have been suspended permanently, one Twitter account, two Youtube accounts, 16 videos removed from Youtube, and one Quora account temporarily suspended.
The reason for deletion and suspension was found and clear, WhiteHatJr. filed a copyright claim against the video as it showed the reality which wasn’t in the favour of WhiteHatJr.
WhiteHatJr. is misusing the power of copyright and removing any content on the internet which criticizes it.
The Advertising Standard Council of India has received several complaints against the advertisements put up by BYJU’s and WhiteHat Jr. These have been called dubious and unsustainable by several consumers, and ASCI asked WhiteHat Jr. to remove them.
WhiteHat Jr. had no choice, and they were forced to withdraw these ads. However, it is not uncommon for people to fall prey to such duping, and these startups earn a lot from fooling people.
WhiteHatJr. was in the spotlight again recently because of a Review posted by Dileep Patchigolla, an IIT Alumni on Quora (a question and answer website).
According to Dileep Patchigolla, “The way WhiteHatJr advertises is in very poor taste, and such corporates don’t do any good for you kid. So it is better to stay away from such garbage.”
This comes after a quora user posted a question, “My family wants to enroll my 5-year-old nephew in WhiteHat Jr. coding for children classes. Is it worth it?” and Dileep Patchigolla answered the same.
Image source: www.quora.com
WhiteHatJR even copyrighted a 12-year-old kid from Pune, who posted a roast of one of WhiteHatJr.’s advertisements on his YouTube channel, ‘Just Jihan’, which was taken down by the video-sharing platform the same day, on account of copyright violations as well. But he was further backed up by Pradeep Poonia when Jihan’s father brought this issue into light by tweeting about it and got Pradeep Poonia’s attention.
Jihan’s father tweeted about the strike on Twitter, and Pradeep Poonia responded to the same. Image source:www.twitter.com
On November 13, Poonia took a major step and highlighted the alleged questionable practices at WhiteHatJr. by sharing screenshots and videos of the communication in the company’s Slack channels.
Leaking Personal Data of Students
If that was not enough, according to the latest report by the Quint, WhiteHat Jr. reportedly exposed personal data of over 2.8 lakh students and teachers due to multiple vulnerabilities that existed in its servers until the middle of November. The platform said that it had fixed the flaws after a security researcher informed about it. It is, however, unclear whether the affected data was compromised until the loopholes were not patched.
Based on US students enrolled in the coding course, WhiteHat Jr. may attract United states COPPA fines.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is a federal law that protects the privacy of children under 13. COPPA’s foundational principle is one that most people can agree on: Parents – not kids, companies, platforms, or content creators – should be in control when it comes to information collected from children online.
The FTC enforces the law through the COPPA Rule. In general, COPPA requires operators of commercial websites and online services that are directed to children (more about that in a minute) to provide notice and obtain verifiable parental consent before they collect personal information from kids under 13.
Why did #whiteHatJR CEO come to the interview, he can remain silent and continue doing the business?
WhiteHarJr CEO, or it’s staff never mentioned that in public but an internal slack chat revealed by Pradeep Poonia shown the company was doing mass reporting on all popular social media sites by the help of employee accounts and third party accounts to mass report and remove the posts that presented any negative view or mem about #whiteHatJR.
Karan Baja has no option but to break his silence and start attempting to clear out the air for him and his company because people are supporting Pradeep Poonia and regularly making in support of Pradeep poonia.
Moreover, the capability of WhiteHatJr to remove videos and posts has drastically reduced taking into account the fact that more and more people, in general, started sharing their opinion about WhiteHatJR and its poor product on the internet, the removing the posts option was going out of hand.
Even Video hosting sites like youtube and social media platforms including LinkedIn was now very much aware of the game (mass reporting) that was happening. As the issue went in reputable media, got an issue featured by Wion and formed, youtube reinitiated Pradeep poonia account.
During the interview with Faye D’Souza, White Hat Jr. CEO Karan Bajaj spit out a lot of lies including the one where he states that he doesn’t know Airplex Pvt Ltd at all, even though everyone is aware that all the accounts have been suspended with the same name.
According to Karan Bajaj, WhiteHatJR didn’t have a good marketing team as they are a new startup yet any negative tweets were mass reported immediately to be removed.
A video by Pradeep Poonia in the past shows that employees from WhiteHatJR were encouraged to mass report any negative tweet.
If they had a mass reporting team to remove comments then how is it possible that they didn’t have a team to look at the kind of ads being published?
Faye D’Souza further questioned Karan Bajaj regarding the criticism that the teachers of White Hat Jr. are facing; as people are calling them Inexperienced and under-qualified for the job that they are allotted to (teaching coding to students).
Ms D’Souza asked Mr Bajaj about his comment on the same.
CEO Karan Bajaj, despite knowing everything, didn’t mention a word about the inexperienced teachers and deviated the question by saying that “ There are 70% instructors from a technical background and 30% people from maths background” even though that has nothing to do with the question asked on the first hand. This is how Mr Bajaj Hid the quality of the teachers at White Hat Jr.
There is still a chance of manipulation. It is very much possible to flood the comment section with positive things about whiteHatJR, and we recommend you to read the comment that was nearest to the time it was published and see posts on Linkedin related to #whiteHatJR where real people have shared their thoughts unlike sites like Trustpilot whose review can be easily manipulated and fake review can be purchased easily.
Parents always want to give their best for their children, and WhiteHat Jr. is playing on these fears and affections to earn profits in millions and make a name for itself. We have to alert the public about such possible frauds so that they know where they are spending. It is, after all, hard-earned money, and care needs to be taken before spending it.
Pradeep poonia encouraging people to support the truth and stand by it.Image source: www.linkedin.com
The ministry of education has accepted in Parliament that some edtech companies have resorted to airing “inappropriate advertisements” and “misleading the customers”.
The Education Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ said that the education ministry “has also directed the state governments to educate the stakeholders about the practicality and feasibility of such courses”.