On this #TeachersDay

On this #TeachersDay

This is more a personal post. I grew up watching my mother put her heart and soul into teaching for more than 25 years of her working career. My childhood memories revolve around her always doing something around teaching — even at home — correcting papers, preparing for her class, etc.

And my wife, is a music teacher who went to the prestigious Berklee College of Music and loves teaching. And is one of the most sought after music teachers in Bangalore in her private music studio

And so it goes without saying, I have a real soft corner when it comes to teachers. I still remember with appreciation all that teachers have done for me, right from school to college to my post graduate degrees. I won’t be what I am today but for all those wonderful teachers. And I’m sure most of you resonate with what I’m saying.

On my encouragement, since both our kids go to school now, my wife decided to put her teaching skills to broader use and has been teaching for a couple of days a week for more than a year now. This is in one of the most reputed schools in Bangalore

Through this process, I realized, how little we value teachers in our society. My first shock was on finding out how little teachers get paid even in this day and age — irrespective of their backgrounds and what kind of schools they teach in (private, international — doesn’t matter). An entry level software engineer (from a decent college) probably​ makes more money than most teachers you know. And this is for the most important job of educating our next generation.

But, what’s even worse is that they are treated as dispensable commodities in the schools. From what I hear, most of the teachers in my wife’s school feel they are treated badly — and when I checked with other teachers in my ecosystem they reflect the same. And they are forced to work there since they don’t see an alternative.

An incident happened a few days back that was the hair that broke the camels’ back for my wife. She was called into the office along with another teacher by the HR person in school. When they went into the room, the HR person didn’t even offer them a seat (this was the first day of the new academic year) but handed them their contracts and shared the salary information verbally in front of each other. Imagine if that happened to you and a colleague, with your HR. A complete invasion of privacy!

My wife was so devastated and disappointed that she decided to resign the very next day after informing the school management. Funny thing is that the school management feels the HR person did nothing wrong! And this is one of the top schools in Bangalore.

Why aren’t more teachers voicing such concerns? Because most have no other income streams and are afraid they might lose their jobs if they speak up.

On this #TeachersDay, I write this with a heavy heart. I don’t have any solutions but wish this sad state of affairs changes and changes soon in India. For any teachers out there, please do share if you feel I have this whole thing wrong and things are much brighter out there. That would be very encouraging to hear.

Upskilling 150 Million People

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The Economist recently ran a special report on India which was highly informative. I particularly found “A Billion Brains” to be a great summary of the education scene in India. One aspect called out in the article was the humongous skill gap that we have in India.

Here is the gist of it. The current annual demand for skilled labor in India can employ 100% of the population entering employable age. But only 4 MM people (2.8 MM through higher education and 1.2 MM through vocational training) are getting any sort of formal training while 17 MM trained labor is required every year. Majority of graduates study humanities (2.5 MM) and hence have to be trained on the job. The following slides share more details on the demand for labor across sectors and the supply side issues.

Skill Gap In India

Given the above context, the efforts of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to upskill 150 MM people by 2022, is quite commendable. Here are some highlights from my conversation with NSDC on this topic.

  • Goals: They have 20 identified sectors (plus the unorganized sectors) on which they have tons of market information they have shared via this knowledge bank. They have approved 77 projects so far (61 in training/upskilling and 16 for sector skill council ventures)
  • Criteria for selection: a) Main focus is the ability of the funded project/company to upskill/train a minimum of 100K people in 10 years (this number could be across sectors – same company training IT, Hardware, etc.). b) 70% of the trained people should be gainfully employed. c) And the company should have a robust 10 year business plan
  • Structure of the funding: No specific cap on the funding. They will fund 75% of project cost (without land and buildings). Money is given out in tranches. Mostly as loans – 6% interest (could have an interest moratorium of 2-4 yrs)
  • Stage of the company: They are open to funding from early stage startups to mature companies (as shown in the table below. But, it helps to have some early proof points on how the model will work
  • Sectors: They are keen to fund projects across all 20 identified sectors but seem to have more of an appetite for non-IT projects to balance out their portfolio

The table below summarizes the list of projects they have listed on the website. As you can see, these listed projects aim to upskill about 70 MM people over 10 years and on an average each project upskills about 1.4 MM people at a cost of Rs 36 Crores over 10 years.

NSDC Projects

For startups out there in the training/skills development space (particularly non-IT), NSDC could be a great way for you to get non-dilutive funding for scaling up your operations. If you are a company that has gone through the NSDC process, it would be great if you can share your experiences/tips for other aspiring skills development startups.

Introducing Edustars

Go to the EduStars website

Education continues to be an exciting sector for entrepreneurial ventures in India. The following chart shows the extent and frequency of the investments that were made in this sector by Private Equity investors (including Venture Capitalists) over the past few years.

Source: Venture Intelligence, Jan 2012

A recent poll conducted among various investors showed that education is one of the most favored sectors for investing.

Source: Venture Intelligence, Jan 2012

What makes education an exciting sector? Anything new?

In his comparison of India and China, Professor Yasheng Huang of MIT – an expert economist on India and China – calls out education (and thereby Human Capital) as one the top reasons why China is ahead.

Here is a link to Prof Huang’s recent presentation at TED. (Forward to 10:30 if you are pressed for time)

This presents a great opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs to have an impact on the Indian education ecosystem – be it K-12, Higher Education or Skills Development. The growing penetration of technology (mobile/tablet devices, internet, etc.) provides greater opportunity to reach out to millions of people and provide more personalized learning options (Khan Academy is pursuing a similar strategy in the US today). There are several opportunities to make the learning process an enjoyable experience. For example, social media tools can be leveraged to improve user interaction and promote group learning.

Why Edustars?

As of right now, in India there is no convenient platform for information sharing among the Education entrepreneurial community.

Edustars has been created to fill that particular need.

At a high level, Edustars aims to:

  • Provide an online platform for information sharing
  • Provide access to a world class mentoring team with deep domain expertise
  • Periodically recognize outstanding startups with an “Edustar” award, thereby providing nationwide visibility
  • Provide information from similar startups around the world with regard to their challenges and triumphs.

We welcome suggestions from education startups regarding any other venues wherein Edustars can add value and contribute towards your overall su
ccess.

 


Investing in Education – MIT Enterprise Forum Event

I had the pleasure of participating in the MIT Enterprise Forum Bangalore‘s kick-off event last night. The topic for the night was “Education”. The event was well attended and it was great to see the entrepreneurial energy and excitement among the participants around this sector.

I was asked to share my perspective on investing in education and so I put together a few slides on the topic. Post the event, I have received a handful of requests to share the presentation. And so, here it is (a cleaned up and shortened version). Obviously, without the verbal commentary this presentation only tells a partial story. But, happy to engage with entrepreneurs who share a mutual interest in improving the education ecosystem in India.

Investing in Indian Education Ecosystem

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