Edupreneur Quest – Touring and inspiring edupreneurship!

by on March 20, 2013

The Teach For India (TFI), Central Square Foundation (CSF) and Villgro team has just wrapped up its three city roadshow to kick off Edupreneur Quest! Between February 9th and 17th, we traveled to Mumbai, Pune, and Delhi to host our first series of edupreneur workshops. We ended this series by hosting a webinar for those participants who could not join us in one of the three cities. We couldn’t wait to meet all of the enthusiastic teachers and budding edupreneurs, and we hoped that we could live up to our expectations of providing a spark of inspiration to bring forward an array of innovative ideas to disrupt the education system.

We started in Mumbai at Teach For India’s main office – it was a packed room brimming with enthusiasm and ideas waiting to burst through! After a long day of teaching, we knew it would be tough for everyone to end their day with a three hour workshop, but the enthusiasm in the room showed us just how truly committed to the cause the participants are. Poorvaja (TFI), Namita (CSF), and Emily (Villgro) coordinated the event, with a business modeling session led by Villgro’s Mukesh Sharma and an interactive panel discussion with Nikita of Masoom and Azad from CSF.

Mukesh jump started the session with his business model canvas, modeled after Alexander Osterwalder’s conceptualisation, after which participants had the chance to informally use the business model framework to tackle one of several challenges faced by schools. Nikita then spoke about her inspiring journey to entrepreneurship, and how personally fulfilling the move to starting her own organisation committed to improving night school education has been. After Nikita shared her experience, Azad and Mukesh joined in for an open panel to offer the audience the chance to ask questions of both entrepreneurs and investors.

The next morning, the CSF / Villgro team, along with Miheer of Zaya, hit the road for a car trip to Pune. We were met there by Jagdish, CEO of MangoReader. The format was similar, and the highlight was the interaction between the audience, Miheer, and Jagdish, who fielded many questions about entrepreneurship and conceptualising a business idea.

After a week’s break to reflect on the past two sessions, the team joined again for the workshop in Delhi. We decided to change the format of this one a bit, and brought in Manisha from Avanti Fellows to do a case study using the business model canvas. We sat with Manisha the day before at the CSF office to hear how Avanti has adapted its model to meet students’ demands and provide the best possible college preparation. Lisa, founder of Going To School, then spoke about her experience teaching in the UK, and how a student inspired her to come to India when he asked “what is it like to go to school in India?” Finally, Ashish Dhawan, Founder of Central Square Foundation, gave some words of wisdom about why now is a great time to be in education, and that we are all in it together to build an ecosystem of like-minded individuals to catalyse the education reform movement.

The last stop was a Sunday morning jaunt back to the CSF office in Delhi for an interactive webinar with those who could not attend. We did a condensed version of Mukesh’s business model canvas, and discussed the programme structure. Participants asked a number of engaging questions and showed great enthusiasm for applying to the programme.

All in, we were excited to have over 70 participants from TFI, Gandhi Fellowship, TISS, Azim Premji University, and even several budding entrepreneurs who found out about us outside of these programmes! Common themes that came up during the session included — “how do I decide whether to start a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid,” “how do I find the right type of funder,” and “how do I truly understand my customers and their needs.” Hopefully we were able to provide some wisdom on these difficult to answer questions, and we hope to guide applicants through these challenges as the competition progresses. We heard some really wonderful ideas from the participants, and we are very eager to start seeing the applications pour in. 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