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Karan Bajaj is an Indian entrepreneur, who educates people on the art of meditation, has invited others to live away from the noise of the world in his recent book. Bajaj has also founded the coding platform WhiteHat Jr that is targeted at children. The vast majority of his customers are American children and this year, there has been a 90 percent surge in one-to-one classes on the platform. The startup is owned by Byju’s, which is the second most valuable startup in India.
Bajaj is going after Pradeep Poonia in a lawsuit after his startup has been heavily criticized by the engineer. He has filed a case against Poonia for defamation. Poonia has been a public critic of the company, highlighting, among other issues, alleged flaws in the quality of the courses found on the platform and the marketing strategies of the company. Bajaj is seeking to win $2.6 million in damages. A similar lawsuit was also file against Aniruddha Malpani, who is an investor who shared unfavorable feedback on the startup.
In the lawsuit against Poonia, the engineer is being accused of infringing on the copyright and trademark properties that are owned by White Hat Jr. He is also being accused of defaming and spreading disingenuous information concerning the founder and his startup. Additionally, he is being accused of accessing the private communications app of the company.
The lawsuit further accuses Poonia of sharing the contact information of WhiteHat Jr employees publicly and making potentially dangerous comparisons such as likening the marketing tactics of the company to the sexual abuse of a child. The lawsuit also highlights concerns about Poonia accusing the startup of killing a made-up kid that was featured in one of its commercials.
The lawyers representing WhiteHat Jr have also accused Poonia of having recorded sessions of classes conducted by the startup, asked questions irrelevant to the course with an intent to harass and humiliate the teachers and then the recordings were posted online.
It was further alleged that there is evidence that some of the one-on-one communications between the teachers and Poonia have left the teacher feeling extremely harassed and threatened. This is said that to be even more relevant since females make up the complete workforce of 11,000 teachers.
The lawyers have stated that Poonia’s actions have tremendously impacted the startup and have led to loss of its reputation and goodwill as well as the confidence of its customers. It has been submitted that the tweets of the defendant have cause the plaintiffs to suffer a sharp dip in the rate of conversion from trial classes to actual registrations. This has resulted in the revenue of the company being severely impacted.
The lawsuit, which has a number of grammatical and spelling errors, is an indication of the low tolerance WhiteHat Jr. has for criticism. Poonia shared internal posts of a WhiteHat Jr Slack channel showing that the startup has forcefully used copyright protection to remove numerous unfavorable criticisms against White Hat Jr. in recent months.
In the second lawsuit, WhiteHat Jr has alleged that Malpani has been unjustly critical because of his position as an investor in rival platforms Bibox Labs, ConceptOwl and Multibhashi. The damages being sought by the startup from Malpani is $1.9 million.
Bajaj has stated that going to court was not the intent; however, false and unethical attacks severely impacted teachers and other employees daily.