Rohit Prakash and Puneet Goyal are management graduates with a difference. Rather than crunching numbers in corporate boardrooms, they go by the headcount of students whom they have reached out to. They speak a different language and sport an outlook removed from the world of business. Understandably so, as they are co-founders of iDream Education, a Gurugram-based social impact ed-tech organization.
By Kavitha Srinivasa
We at SAH caught up with the founders who share their vision as they are preparing for new innings.
As privileged middle-class children, Rohit grew up in Delhi and Puneet was raised in Chandigarh.
A friendship happened while pursuing a management degree at the Management Development Institute (MDI) in Gurugram. Like typical management graduates, they have had a brief stint in the corporate world, which has given them the required exposure and bandwidth to move on and follow their heart’s calling.
A common desire to work in the interactive learning space and to connect learning and real-life growth morphed into an uncommon partnership in 2013. Gurugram, which is evolving as a destination for health-education startups, is the base of this venture. “Gurugram has become the defacto business hub in north India and has helped us build richer connect with content partners and development organizations working in the social education sector,” said Puneet.
iDream has worked with more than 75 NGOs reaching to 2,500 schools and around one lakh students in its journey.
After working and researching on digital learning solutions for the rural, underserved masses and government schools for some years, there was a felt need for custom designed learning solutions for the underserved segment. That led to the establishment of the technology and content development division in 2016, which we now know as iDream Education. The vision was to develop and facilitate transformational learning solutions for the underserved to ensure life-shaping growth via student-centric digital literacy. “Technology is an enabler, it provides accessibility and we felt we could bring in the last mile learner into our fold through tablets and the mobile,” added Puneet.
A certain amount of strategic planning with grassroots approach has resulted in customized tablet and mobile-based learning solutions for rural school education. As the organization journeyed along, it has evolved into a specialist, partly created by circumstances and partly by Passion. iDream Education has designed and developed learning material across various categories of learning including digital books and apps, apart from offering offline content. This has brought a sea change in the learning scenario. Nikhil, a student of class VIII in the Government Primary School, Seelampur, Greater Noida Uttar Pradesh has shared the sentiment. “Ever since TABLAB has been set up in my school, I enjoy coming to school and watching interesting videos. I made this model of a fan by following the instructions from my tablet. I used whatever material was available at home and did it on my own,” said an excited Nikhil.
There are two aspects to the work, first being iDream develops and offers local language content and apps for NGOs.
For large scale adoption, iDream has taken a combined approach of development and aggregation of regional language content. Some categories of the content are developed in-house like practice assessments and for others like the Digital Books, the team works with content and app development organizations and integrates them to the app platform, which is multilingual.
In the process, content generation has become a research activity as the core team customizes solutions that can engage, excite and personalize the learning experience for every rural learner in their language and as per their state board.
The second segment consists of tablet-based labs, an integrated experiential learning on tablets with local language content and apps and is called the TABLAB.
This is a customizable solution whose display and content is designed to work in government schools regardless of infrastructure and location.
Interestingly, TABLAB also benefits the teachers as it becomes a personal assistant and helps them deliver personalized learning. The device can function even during power cuts, its hardware is robust and with an almost error-free Android, TABLAB is user-friendly. “We believe in investing in teachers as it’s in their hands to train the students,” said Puneet, by way of explanation. “Every component of TABLAB has been designed to complement the psychology of all stakeholders involved in government and rural school education, thereby breaking open the usage and impact barrier,” highlighted Puneet.
Rural government schools conjure up images of absenteeism, but this stereotyping has been put to rest. “Ever since the TABLAB has been set up, our enrolments have gone up by 30%. All thanks to continuous support from the iDream team,” said Sh. Prakash Chand Yadav, Principal of a Government Senior Secondary School, Kaharani, Bhiwadi in Rajasthan.
As a long-term, student-centric digital learning infrastructure, TABLABS have been set up in government schools, and it has led to outcome-based results. A case in point is the presence of a TABLAB in a government school in the interior part of Jamnagar in Gujarat. One student in Grade VI had special abilities and during training, the teachers avoided giving her a tablet because they felt she may not be able to handle it. However, the iDream representative insisted and gave her the tablet and merely suggested she plays with it. It took the child three-four button touches to overcome her hesitancy and almost naturally she managed to play a video, a lesson or open a digital book in a couple of minutes. “Wherever we deliver learning tablets with local language content, we are seeing transformational acceptance by rural learners, who are amazed to learn with these interactive devices in their mother tongue,” said Puneet with satisfaction.
For the integrated TABLAB project, iDream is working with 62 government schools since 2016 with around 1,500 tablets that serve 12,000 students across 11 states. “The biggest advantage I have seen is that most of the irregular students are now regularly coming to school. And secondly, our science lab is too small but we have activity videos on our tablets which really helps us to practically help students understand the topic better. TABLAB is a time-saver,” expressed Satyam, a teacher at Sri Vigodi Prathmik Shalay, (Nakhatrana) Kutchin Gujarat.
Having worked in the ed-tech space since eight years, the organization now offers end-to-end solutions for government schools and customizes the process. Wherever required, the approach is tweaked to integrate content in the local language and the hardware is worked out accordingly. The curriculum is in sync with the state board. Something seems to have changed about the way in which we understand rural education. “Puneet and I came together at iDream Education with one clear objective: to reach every last mile learner with best of enjoyable learning solutions and growth opportunities that can transform their lives,” said Rohit.
As Rohit and Puneet journeyed along the education space, they pursued their vision and aligned it with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a Developed India by 2022. “We wish to see every single child in rural and semi-urban India to have access to quality learning and growth opportunities. We shall try to do whatever it takes to achieve this,” they explained. It didn’t take long for the duo to partner with government-related initiatives as they carry the promise of scale and reach. A recent effort is a practice app platform for bilingual learners being developed with the NASSCOM Foundation.
Of course, growth opportunities in the education space have its share of hurdles, caused by an unstructured and fragmented ecosystem. Ironically, this is reason enough for both management graduates to quit their cushy jobs and charter their own course. But then the entrepreneurs have managed to figure out how the system works and have made the right moves. In November 2017, iDream Education was invited to be a part of Chintan Shivir, a two-day workshop organized by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) to discuss and create a roadmap for Digital Learning in government schools. An integrated web and app-based learning platform is an idea put forth by iDream.
“We are in it for long and through our solutions including TabLab, we shall create best possible value for our target learners and all stakeholders,” explained Rohit.
“Since both Rohit and I have been working in the learning space since eight years, therefore we had a network of NGOs and education partners which gave us access and reach to our content work when we launched iDream Education,” explained Puneet. Moreover, the solutions have been stabilized so the range is vast and gives scope to include many more NGOs into the portfolio. As of now, 11 corporate houses network with the organization under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.Wind World India is one such corporate CSR partner that has worked with iDream Education to setup tablet based labs under its CSR programs.
“We thank iDream Education for introducing this unique and effective learning platform — TABLAB. It is one of the innovative and user-friendly tools of the digital education system, I must say. It has greatly helped us creating a positive impact in underprivileged schools and rural students as a part of our CSR intervention.” said Deepjyoti Borah, Senior Manager (Climate Change & Sustainability), Wind World India Group.
Given its outreach, it’s anyone’s guess that iDream has grabbed eyeballs and for the right reason. What stands out is that in 2017 iDream Education’s TABLAB won the Google SMB Heroes Award. It was declared the North India Winner by Google India under the Impacting Change through Digital Category.The Google SMB Heroes is a nationwide program designed to recognize and celebrate SMBs that have embraced digital successfully.
This year, iDream intends to partner with as many NGOs and Foundations as possible, and expand its presence across all states in India. The immediate focus is to make available tablet-based digital education in every state language aligned to state boards across the country. The partners brace themselves for upcoming challenges. “We would say that the coming 10 years are the years of personalized learning and growth. If the NGOs, CSR, Corporate Foundations and State Governments focus on engaging our rural students and handholding them towards skill-oriented education, we can transform our country’s school education setup,” Rohit and Puneet summed up.
iDream has been engaged with NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) and MHRD for its planning to make quality learning resources available in every state language in the country
TABLAB, the flagship product for government and rural schools is about tablets preloaded with local language and state board aligned multimedia and play way app-based content
The platform development for the Tech Stack is done in native Android with Java, SQL lite, and Firebase
Content development happens through flash based animations and android based learning apps