Education is and will be at the core of human evolution. Over the years, there have been several significant transformations in the education sector but the ideology behind providing education remained unchanged. However, due to unevenly distributed and exorbitant education, there has been a huge gap in this sector— especially in rural areas. Gomathi Shanmugam (Co-Founder at AhaGuru) began her quest of entrepreneurship at an earlier age to address this gap in the education sector and make Math and Science interesting for students. After her graduation, she was actively involved in figuring out ways and means to make Mathematics and Science easier for students to understand. She developed a concept called ‘Lab-in-a-box ‘ in Aid India, which was adopted by over 1500 schools in 2 districts of Tamil Nadu. The concept was soon recognized and appreciated and won the Innovator’s Award for Aid India.
To improve the quality of education in the rural areas, she started two schools—starting from construction of the school buildings, appointing and training teachers, to planning, developing, and delivering an activity-driven curriculum, it was an incredible journey of learning and growth. Further, to cater to the need for technology in education, Gomathi met Dr. Balaji Sampath, Co-founder, AhaGuru. This led to the inception of AhaGuru allowing students to get access to quality education and training.
In a recent interview with Business APAC, Gomathi shared her experience of transforming the education sector. Here are quick snippets,
From where did you get the idea of establishing AhaGuru?
I feel school students usually find Mathematics and Science subjects difficult, especially when they are moving to high school. My aim was simple—I wanted to make learning Mathematics and Science interesting and easy. With the establishment of AhaGuru, our goal to enhance the student’s curiosity and their love to learn the subjects deeply was perfectly met.
Knowledge must be accessible to everybody, how are you transforming today’s education sector?
True! Knowledge must be accessible to everybody. Today, technology has helped students to get high-quality teaching irrespective of the location. Students from all over the globe are in search of quality education but are unable to receive it due to a lack of technological means. When we looked at Edtech as a sector we witnessed this gap and we wanted to provide the means which will eventually fulfill our objective to reach children in rural areas. It is quite evident that quality education has transformed several lives. So, it is especially important that high-quality learning is affordable and accessible to everyone. Our goal is to bring that transformation into students’ lives by offering them a better education.
What the different courses offered by AhaGuru?
AhaGuru offers various Online Classes for IIT JEE, CBSE, and NEET. We have just started a 3-month live online JEE Mains Crash Course, developed and taught by India’s best teachers to help students learn Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics. Our online offerings for IIT JEE, CBSE, ICSE, NEET include live online classes for students from Class 7 up to Class 12. Our Mentored Learning Program is available for students of Classes 11 and 12. Self-Study recorded video courses in all topics in Mathematics and Science are available for students from Class 8 to Class 12.
What are new courses initialed during the COVID-19 lockdown?
During the COVID-19 lockdown, we started live online classes for students of Classes 7 and 8 as well. Also, we introduced several more test-prep courses and brought onboard mentors who can help students transit smoothly to online learning. We successfully conducted free webinars on topics like Trigonometry and Electrostatics for high-school students which reached nearly 15,000 students all over Tamil Nadu.
How are helping students who are facing issues in rural areas?
In the wake of COVID-19, the majority of schools in urban locations are offering online classes for the students. However, most schools in the rural area are unable to offer the same during the lockdown. To cater to the need, we have launched Math courses on topics like Arithmetic and Fractions, as well as Basic English on our AhaGuru app. Also, we have included a new technology feature into the app to enable it even in areas of low-bandwidth and offline modes. Through the Aid India team, the AhaGuru app courses have reached nearly 60,000 children in remote villages and helped them continue their learning during the lockdown.
How has COVID-19 impacted AhaGuru?
Initially, we did not have people who speak languages like Kannada, Bengali, and Hindi. The wake of COVID-19 urged us to expand our scope to enroll students from different parts of India which motivated us to hired people from across India. We are located in different locations – Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Srinagar. Also, At AhaGuru, we have a good work-from-home culture which gave us the flexibility to hire many mentors from different parts of the country who could guide and mentor students from different States, enrolling in AhaGuru.
What are the qualities today’s leaders must possess? Also, what motivated you?
I believe leaders should trust their intuition. Over the years, I have learned that our intuition is right most of the time. Finding the right people for the right job is the second vital thing a leader must possess, especially for startups. I believe in hiring people who are self-motivated and passionate about the work creating a heavy impact on the company. At AhaGuru, the team is self-motivated and extremely passionate about the work we do. They own the brand.
Addressing your second question, I would say that one book that motivated me is ‘Good to Great’. At times, when I have doubts or questions, I prefer to go back to this book and helps me priorities the things I need to focus on. Another book which I love to read repeatedly is ‘Go Kiss The World’ by Subroto Bagchi. For me, the real motivation comes from our students who give us positive feedback. Those are the stories and experiences that keep me going.
Lastly, would you like to share about AhaGuru’s upcoming courses?
Currently, our focus is on JEE, NEET preparation courses, as well as other competitive examinations like BITSAT. Also, we are planning online classes and courses for CBSE to cater to the high demand from students. Utilizing the AI, we are planning to leverage technology more efficiently to help students adapt and learn effectively. For both middle and high school students, our plan to launch Math Olympiad and CBSE courses.
ALSO READ: Iconic Business Women to Follow in 2023