Tussle and Triumph in conversation with Rajesh, founder and President of Saakshar, who is building a community through various projects such as Happy Learning Project, Fulfill A Wish, Career Counseling & Course Options After 10th and Summer Computing Camp.
How did you get the idea for your company?
I was an acute victim of stage fear. I’ve had sweaty palms, quivering voice and racing heartbeat. More often than not, I felt I can’t speak up in spite of knowing the topic thoroughly. I’ve got very good schooling in excellent private schools even though I come from a very rural and humble background.
I’ve excelled in soft skills eventually and did many internships in startups to implement my creative ideas and to practice soft skills. Suddenly, this struck in my mind, if a person like me who has got very good education faced soft skills difficulty, then what might be the situation of government schools in India.
I immediately went to government schools and enquired teachers, talked to students and also interacted with government school teachers in my personal network and found out that children are lacking in communication skills and basic arithmetic and also they are not passionate about learning anything in classes. So, I thought this is the real problem that needs to be addressed.”
What is the community challenge that you are trying to solve?
When we see the situations of Primary Government schools in India, we realize that while they do provide basic amenities, but they do not have an environment that can motivate students or instill in them the willingness to learn.
Most of the students are not confident, not capable of doing basic arithmetic, not able to communicate clearly and lack social skills. We are inclined to make children of our area educated on leadership, communication skills, decision making apart from Standard Textbook Syllabus through we are inclined to make the children educated on leadership, communication skills, decision making apart from Standard Textbook Syllabus through the application of innovative methodologies.
There are many people around us who cannot socialize with others or who feel troublesome in socializing with others. Just imagine the situation of a Government school student how terrible it will be.”
What is the uniqueness of Saakshar?
Many people want to do something for the poor children but they don’t find a platform to take support from. Hence, we are building communities of change for volunteers who want to join and offer their service to the children by just taking two hours of time from them and offering a chance to do something meaningful during weekends and leaving them with great satisfaction, along with children getting benefitted and improved gradually week by week after these sessions.
We are a cost-effective community, as colorful educational charts are used for creating a classroom environment which motivates students to learn.
How did you build your core team?
I’ve actually met a lot of people who are passionate about this cause and I’ve closely observed them, know their skill-sets. I’ve formally invited them to join the core team and they gladly accepted the invitation and joined in the mission.
What is the revenue model?
We aim towards equipping every child with confidence, communication skills and to create opportunities to achieve his/her fullest potential for free. The emphasis is on making them more interested towards learning.
Who are your target consumers?
Government school students and Government schools are beneficiaries. Government teachers and parents are indirect beneficiaries.
We started going to Primary Government schools every Saturday to educate the children with our volunteer’s help. We are teaching basic arithmetic and communication skills while imparting social skills using innovative techniques. Indeed it just takes us 2 hours of time and the results are really inspiring.
To instill the zeal of learning in children, we are transforming those dull walls in schools into interactive learning environments by coming up with a makeover by preparing colorful educational charts. Apart from improving the skills of children, volunteers are feeling contented as they are a part of shaping tomorrow’s generation.
We mentored 249 children in 5 schools in our pilot project by providing them the required study materials for learning, colorful educational charts for instilling the learning nature in them and by fulfilling their wishes for inspiring them to dream more and achieve more in a very cost-effective manner.
The children have opened up, they are showing interest towards learning and we have seen significant improvements in children in very short time periods.
How did you finance your startup costs?
1.We did crowd funding for Wish Tree Project, which means every child has a wish of his/her own, which he/she thinks will become true someday and miraculously make his/her life fanciful. We fulfilled those wishes which brought happiness in their lives and they are dreaming more and hoping for the best for the future.
2.We have had received contributions for donation camps for distributing required study material for children.
3.We do crowd funding whenever required and we do have an active monthly donation of Rs. 10,000.
How did you get your first batch of volunteers?
We got the first bunch of 30 volunteers at once. The strategy is not just telling about what I want to do but to make them part of improving the quality of our India’s education.
What is the big picture of your startup?
We want to increase the number of schools for improving more children. Within 5 years from now, we should be serving a minimum of 50 to 75 schools by strengthening our community of 40 members to 750 members.
We are planning to have tie-ups with corporates in the form of their CSR activities for serving more children. We are also onboard experienced changemakers as advisors and team members for strengthening the team.”
What is the success story of your startup in your own words?
I am really amazed at how much things change and how fast our Saakshar Organisation is growing. I am grateful for the support and encouragement from all of the people around me, and especially my parents.
It is fascinating to see how interested people are in our mission, but at the same time how hard it is to find more new members and donors who are committed to our mission.
We were seen always brainstorming about how to get new volunteers. We have got a good number of volunteers in Guwahati, New Delhi, and Navi Mumbai and we are ready for doing wonders in children’s lives.
Saakshar Organisation is currently serving in cities of Guwahati and Vizianagaram. We have built our communities in New Delhi, Navi Mumbai and we plan to start as early as we can.
What is your advice to upcoming startup founders?
If you are asking for advice, I always tell everyone to start young when you don’t any financial burdens or any other setbacks.
You will have enough time to pursue your passion when you are in college. Also, you will get the unlimited access to your college network during your undergraduate years.
Believe in learning things while doing them, you will learn a lot as you grow.
More details on the projects
1. Happy Learning Project:
If you visit some government schools in India, you will realise that while they do provide basic amenities, but they do not have an environment that can motivate students or instill in them the willingness to learn. We wanted to transform those dull walls into interactive learning environments. So, we came up with a makeover by preparing colourful educational charts that inculcate the zeal of learning in them. So, we began ‘Happy Learning’ Project !! In the classrooms, children are having a great time. They are learning from colourful educational charts on the walls at their own pace according to their interests.
2. Fulfill A Wish:
Remember the happiness you felt as a kid when your wishes get fulfilled. More than the contentment of receiving things it’s the assurance of being cared for that’s more satisfying. Behind the scenes:- Fulfill A Wish Program is carried out in Gajularega Government Primary School to bring smiles on children’s faces and to make them dream more in life.
Why Fulfill A Wish? At Saakshar, we drive children to dream and wish. We motivate them by promising to fulfill their one wish. This program encourages children whose parents find it difficult to cater to their wishes. With every wish fulfilled the child develops a positive outlook towards life and the wish giver is instilled with utmost content through the simple act of giving.
3. Career Counseling & Course Options After 10th:
Finally the 10th exams will be over and the results will be out in a couple of months. Now you stand in the Robert Frost’s ‘crossroads’. What will you do next? Will you take the road less traveled or go for the one trodden by many? For the first time in your life, you’ll have to face a question that might haunt you all your life, “What are you going to do after this”? This question will pop-up from time to time, whenever you reach an important milestone in your life.
Every student has a unique set of skills, strengths, and weaknesses and hence it’s very important to take unique decision for every student.
Don’t be afraid of seeking guidance, a right guidance can simplify these choices for you. Nowadays, you can approach career counseling where the counselors help you take a decision based on your unique profile. We as a mentor help you understand these choices and put ahead of the career path of various options available to you. We included probable courses or streams that the individual can pursue, the necessary entrance exams (if applicable) and the cutoffs for the same, the eligibility for specific courses.
4. Summer Computing Camp:
Summer Computing Camp is an extensive, interactive, hands-on and fun program that aims to inspire the innovators of tomorrow by supporting the study of computer science. It’s our mission to empower the next generation of coders, engineers, and innovators.
Apart from these programs, we also distribute books and required study materials to Government school children for reducing the burden on their parents.”