A long time cliched phrase once stated by a humanitarian, that “Learning should be fun”, still lives and it not only stands strong, but the concept is seeing a fast paced rise in every nook of the world. The best live example to this would be the rapid mushrooming in the online education space and the growth and entrants in MOOC platforms.
Hachiko Learning, founded by Ekshita Kumar and Sachit Kapur is a platform to intersect technology, humanities and business and create applications that would bring a difference to the rural sections of India. Ekshita is a Computer Science graduate from University of Carolina. Having worked on various projects at Center of Digital Humanities, she later joined the Management Consulting team of a large consulting Organization. Sachit has extensive experience in the field of Supply Chain Management and Sales & Marketing.
We got an opportunity to get in conversation with Ekshita Kumar and learn more their platform Hachiko Learning.
Tell us the story behind the Startup. What problem is Hachiko Learning team solving?
The idea is not to replace, but to complement the existing system to make it well-rounded so that students are more in tune with learning in this information driven world..Information and the way it is consumed has changed dramatically over the past few decades. In fact, we now receive almost all of our information on tablets and phones, and even PCs are slowly taking a backseat. However, the Indian education system has somehow not aligned itself to these technological changes.
While the western countries are now approaching education as a way to teach students how to learn and how to sift through the pool of information available, we are still continuing on the path of ensuring that our students know the alphabet, the laws of motion, and the software development life cycle.
The dynamism that is required to excel in this technologically driven professional world has not yet been activated in this country and people are simply trying to collect check marks for topics they know. That is what we would like to change. We start with preschool and primary school students through game-based learning on Android tablets because it not only makes learning more fun, but it imparts crucial skills such as cognitive skills, analytical thinking, etc. while helping the students learn their course material. These are the skills that develop at a very specific age, and are often overlooked by even the best preschools and primary schools in India. With information being available to everyone, it is these assets that would make people more successful in the future.
For senior classes and universities, the use of tablets with access to digitized content from around the world is what will teach them how to manage and analyze the data that is constantly shared with them through various mediums. That’s the future – one device with complete access to all resources and people who know how to use these sources and data to their advantage.
How has been the response to Android apps released so far? What makes Hachiko Learning team’s Apps unique from thousands of kids apps out there in the market?
Hachiko Learning has only launched a small percentage of its app portfolio on the Google Play Store. We usually create apps with very specific learning outcomes in mind and keep most of these apps only for the Hachiko tablets which are duly customized for usage by schools and colleges. However, the apps that we have launched on the Google Play Store have all earned a rating of 4.5-5.
What makes us stand out is the pool of resources and minds that come together to create every single app and the iterations that it constantly undergoes to bring it closer to perfection.We started out as app developers with no experience in education. It took many trips to preschools and primary schools for research and involvement of educationists from around the world to help us create products that have the gentle balance of both playability and learn-ability. However, we haven’t stopped there. Every app we decide to create goes through iterations of reviews by educationists at all levels. The idea is to constantly improve and evolve to offer better products to the consumer.
From the website, it is mentioned that you aid institutions in digitization and schools to incorporate interactive games technology. Please tell your experiences in dealing with Educational sector – how ready are they to digitize and adapt to new trends in education?
The educational system in India is deep-rooted and extremely rigid. Change is not welcome easily in this industry, and the entry of companies like Educomp has not helped in changing that scenario. We are definitely behind the western nations in implementing new thought and methodology, and convincing potential clients to try out an innovative and personalized model of learning is our biggest challenge. When globally, game based education and tablet education are gaining recognition, the Indian system is attempting to grab on to conventional ways of learning. However, more and more people, especially educators, are realizing the need for change, especially in the primary and pre-primary segments. That opens doors for educational startups that want to bring about change.
To help the process along, we also conduct workshops in schools so that parents and teachers can truly gauge the value of technology driven education and interactive content.
What I would like to point out is that digital content does not only have a market in schools, but also has a lot of scope in universities. We, in fact, are currently working with Mewar University based in Chittorgarh to digitize their content. For some of our clients, we have even opted to conduct orientation sessions for tablet use to aid the transition. This is the direction in which the Education Industry is bound to move and it is only a matter of time before people take on innovative solutions to offer quality education.
Take us through your work in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh. What are the interesting insights you gathered from there?
Imagine a 4th grader in these rural and tribal villages attempting to read a 60 page book when everything he learns is everything he absorbs from his village, his community and his audio and visual experiences. It is much easier for this population to learn by action, sound and sight, and hence our methodology helps them focus on learning without losing motivation, interest and confidence.Our experience in Madhya Pradesh was truly eye-opening for us. We worked in tandem with Rio Tinto to visit remote villages in Chhatarpur District and implemented a tablet based education system with the use of games and rich applications. The attendance of these run-down government schools showed up to a 60% leap and children who had no knowledge of even colors, shapes, and basic English words, quickly grasped all the concepts.
Game-based learning is, in my opinion, the ideal way to target not just seasoned learners, but also first generation learners. While it motivates and attracts the seasoned learner, it offers the first generation learner a sense of accomplishment and hence builds his/her interest.
Please tell us the funding details for Hachiko Learning, and if the startup has break even. Are you looking for external funds?
Hachiko so far has been a strictly bootstrapped startup but has made significant progress towards achieving break-even. With the ground-work complete, Hachiko will definitely be looking into external funding within the next few months to assist its growth.
How do you plan to get the word out about Hachiko learning to target educational institutions and parents?
So far we have been working with a very small team and have targeted educational forums, conferences etc. to spread the word. We have spent a lot of time setting up appointments with principals and boards of schools, but we realize that a change so big that it alters the face of education needs more than marketing, it needs slowly changing national ideology.
Our focus, thus, has not been mass marketing, but ranges from activities such as presenting to parents at Pathways International School during fairs to spending time with educationists at various forums.
What are the future plans for Hachiko Learning?
Hachiko has a three-fold plan, which is very evident from even the services mentioned on our website. We will be expanding our reach to schools for digital game-based learning and to colleges for rich content-based applications, and will also be looking at reaching the rural and tribal populations of India through our corporate alliances.
The idea is not to simply sell a product, but to sell a product that can bring about positive and revolutionary change for all.
What is the biggest set back you have faced so far in your startup journey? What advise would you like to give fellow entrepreneurs, based on your experience?
I think people have this notion that ideas are everything. Yes, belief in an idea is imperative for its success, but true success lies in execution. When we started out, we were enthusiastic that simply developing good apps would get us through the market, but the biggest challenge for us is actually reaching our audience. For our industry, we not only need to convince the child through our product, but also the parent and educators he comes in contact with. The first step to success in a company is to correctly identify all of your stakeholders and to devise a way to reach them and persuade them of the value of change.
We hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as we did doing it. Here’s wishing Team Hachiko Learning All the best!