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  • Writer's pictureShubham Parse

Ravichandran Venkataraman, Chairperson at eVidyaloka Trust

Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

Ravichandran Venkataraman: eVidyaloka is a not-for-profit social enterprise (80G Trust) that is into education of children in Rural India. We started, what we now see as online education given the pandemic, 11 years ago. Not only did we reach villages online but we also used only volunteers to teach. eVidyaloka was founded by Venkataramanan Sriraman (Venkat) and Satish Vishwanathan (Satish). Both met me at that time to explain the concept and I was completely convinced that this is the way to go. I joined the Trust 8 years ago and am now the Chairperson of the Trust.

Great Companies: What are the various services provided by eVidyaloka Trust - Education - (Not for Profit Organization)

Ravichandran Venkataraman: We teach children from 5th to 10th Std in village schools in vernacular. We offer 3 distinct programs -

(a) Digital Classroom - here we set up digital infrastructure in village schools and our volunteers come live online over our Technology Platform and teach;

(b) Digital School - here children learn with content that has been pre-recorded, in vernacular and accessed through the eVidyaloka App. We also give worksheets and doubt clearing sessions;

(c) Teach thru Television - here we beam pre-recorded content in vernacular languages via cable TV. Overall, we reach 75 lakh children across 150 districts (600+ villages) in 11 States. We offer education in 6 different language and have close to 55000 volunteers

Great Companies: What makes eVidyaloka Trust - Education - (Not for Profit Organization) different from hundreds of other similar service providers?

Ravichandran Venkataraman: We are not for profit, we are the pioneers of online education having started this movement over 11 years ago, we teach in 6 different languages and we focus on children in village schools who need access to good quality learning experience.

Great Companies: What were the struggles and challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Ravichandran Venkataraman: There were many struggles -

(a) 11 years ago people did not believe that online education makes sense. There was always a doubt on its efficacy. When we showed them over time as to the significantly better learning outcomes, few accepted it;

(b) Funding - we had very few adopters during the first 4 years - it was only after that we started raising CSR Funds;

(c) Volunteer based and so scaling was a bit difficult. We had very few volunteers initially but slowly that has picked up over the years;

(d) Being a Pioneer - we were pioneers in online education and that too with volunteers. Being a pioneer comes with its own issues as there are no past lessons to learn from. We made mistakes in the model and the model took us 3 years to perfect

Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line eVidyaloka Trust - Education - (Not for Profit Organization)?

Ravichandran Venkataraman: Our Vision is To create a knowledgeable and empowered rural India through quality education. Over the next few years we hope to cover all the Aspirational Districts. Ultimately, our plan is to have a virtual school in every village, thereby opening a page of education in everyone's life. This can happen only if it is supported by the Community at large and Corporates in particular. Currently, companies like Infosys, LTI (L&T Infotech), CAMS, Broadridge, ANZ, HP, Ujjivan Bank, etc help fund us. This needs to grow substantially as we plan to reach many more millions of children across the country.

Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Ravichandran Venkataraman: I will limit this to non-profit organizations. The shortage of teachers in this country is close to 1.7 million. This is just the government schools. So, there is a need for thousands of organizations like eVidyaloka that can help this country reap its demographic dividends. We invite all of them to join this movement and participate in this Nation Building exercise driven by passion and powered by Technology and Volunteering. It would be good to focus on outcomes and on the needs of our children.

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