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Business News/ Companies / People/  Byju’s CFO Ajay Goel steps down, returns to Vedanta
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Byju’s CFO Ajay Goel steps down, returns to Vedanta

Goel was appointed with much fanfare by Byju's, operated by Think & Learn Pvt Ltd, in April 2023, after a multi-year search for a chief financial officer

Byju’s CFO, Ajay Goel, to return to Vedanta (Bloomberg)Premium
Byju’s CFO, Ajay Goel, to return to Vedanta (Bloomberg)

Mumbai: Byju’s chief financial officer Ajay Goel, who was brought on board to improve the edtech’s financial compliance has quit in six months, in a jolt for the company that has attempted to streamline its finances. He will join Vedanta Ltd, his previous employer, on 30 October.

Goel will complete work on Byju’s audited 2021-22 financial statement before leaving, Byju’s said in a statement. The statement, which was due by September 2022, is pending approval from auditor BDO Global, a person briefed on the development said on condition of anonymity.

The top job for Goel, who was appointed in April after a multi-year search, was to finalize 2021-22 accounts by September 2023 and issue 2022-23 audited accounts by December 2023.

“He will transition after completing the formalities of the FY22 audit," the company said in a statement. Goel thanked Byju’s founders and colleagues “for helping me assemble the FY22 audit in three months".

Byju’s has struggled with releasing its audited accounts on time for three years in a row. It filed its 2020-21 audited statements after a delay of 18 months in September 2022. Its long-standing auditor, Deloitte Haskins and Sells, quit in June 2023, citing a non-response from the company, which led to the appointment of BDO as its new auditor. Three external board members representing investors also quit in June, forcing the company to set up an external advisory council.

On Tuesday, Byju’s named Nitin Golani, currently president-finance, to assume additional responsibility as its India CFO. “Ninety percent of the company’s business is Indian," the person said.

Byju’s also hired Pradip Kanakia, who previously held leadership positions at Price Waterhouse and KPMG, to join its advisory council. The company said Kanakia has led audits at Indian and multinational firms and has “expertise in finance strategy, transformation, performance management, accounting, auditing, reporting, controls, compliance and governance".

Golani was previously chief strategy officer at Aakash Education after playing a crucial role in Byju’s $1 billion acquisition of Aakash in 2021, the company said.

He also worked previously at Grant Thornton and has held roles at MetLife and Accenture Strategy.

“Their experience, understanding and insights on business and finance will help us in our ongoing turnaround efforts," founders Byju Raveendran and Divya Gokulnath said in a joint statement.

A dispute with lenders over a $1.2 billion loan has prompted Byju’s to explore the sale of some of its assets. The company has not been paying interest on this loan since June 2023, citing ongoing litigation. It has proposed a plan to pay off its lenders in six months by divesting overseas assets such as upskilling platform Great Learning and reading platform Epic.

Meanwhile, at Vedanta, this will be Goel’s second stint after he left the mining-to-steel conglomerate for Byju’s. He joins at a time when Vedanta has outlined its plans to split into six different companies.

“As part of the structured re-hiring programme called gharwapsi, Ajay Goel joins back the company," Vedanta said in an exchange filing.

The challenges awaiting Goel at Vedanta may have certain similarities with Byju’s, even though the sectors they represent are starkly different. Billionaire Anil Agarwal is also in the midst of refinancing several billion dollars worth of loans at the holding company level, where Goel’s acumen may come in handy.

“Ajay was earlier associated with Vedanta as acting CFO and key managerial person of the company from 23 October 2021 to 9 April 2023. During his earlier role at Vedanta, Ajay contributed significantly in terms of driving business performance, managing the financial affairs of the company and heading the finance function with his leadership acumen. He was also instrumental in successfully handling regulatory approvals, investment matters, capital allocation, investor relations and major M&A-related affairs," Vedanta said.

Vedanta said its CFO, Sonal Srivastava, resigned with effect from 24 October. Goel has previously worked at Nestle, General Electric, Coca-Cola and Diageo.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ranjani Raghavan
Ranjani heads the startup and new economy team at Mint. She covers the investment and the deals ecosystem, which takes her into the secretive world of high finance — mostly private equity and venture capital firms and the people running them. She also writes about the Indian corporate world which includes old fashioned business executives and their emerging challengers from the tech ecosystem.
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Published: 24 Oct 2023, 10:12 AM IST
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