In our generation, the number of start-up companies that have sprung up is probably more than the number of companies that existed 50 years ago! In every other field, people know what must be done and what must not be done. Yet, invariably, more and more start-ups perish down the line, unable to hold their breaths. Various reasons can be attributed to the failure of a start-up.
At the initial stage, every start-up analyses and evaluates its ecosystem and takes sound decisions such that the company doesn’t break while progressing to realize its dream. However, as time goes by and the team gels together, the company gains confidence; blindsided by the confidence, some decisions might go against the company. And then there comes a time when the company finds itself facing an opportunity where a critical decision needs to be made. This decision could potentially make or break the company.
Leaving off the opportunity would do no harm. The company could simply continue to scrape the rock with a spoon. But taking up that opportunity has a risk involved in it. You might be banging your head on the rock or you might be drilling right through it. Plans and commitments for the current customers would have been already made and the work in progress would be right on schedule. The new opportunity will provide more resources to complete all the plans and commitments easily and efficiently. Also it will help the company to expand its territory vastly. But all this would come at an expense of a huge time delay (for the existing customers). The company/team needs to invest double the amount of energy and efforts to get the right returns out of the opportunity but they need to make sure that they don’t lose the current set of customers by delaying their requirements.
How can that possibly work out to everyone’s benefit? The trick is to tell the child, with a smiling face, that mommy is arriving soon, even though it is already known that she will be hours late. Do everything needed to keep the child calm (which is not at all an easy task). But that calmness will help the company immensely to keep its focus on the opportunity.
It is inevitable for every start-up company to have the good, the bad and the bold. But only the outcome of the bold would reveal the true character of the company before the world.
As an IT professional/software developer, meeting the so called ‘experienced’ people from the same domain is extremely common. These experienced people tend to give unsolicited advice and suggestions at the drop of a hat, especially when they are into part-time work (besides their day-jobs) like creating websites and doing Joomla/Moodle-CMS customisations. It is so annoying to hear them whine about this stuff that I stop short of uttering, “Boss, we are not into that kind of stuff. So, please stop!!” I knew a person like this, who happened to be my cousin’s neighbour.
For many years, this neighbour, our hero ruined my visits to my cousin’s house with his annoying tales about the market. But when I heard that he had shifted to another place, I was like, a little happy. With the hero gone, I delightfully went to my cousin’s house many times. My most recent visit to his house was to see him off (as he was going abroad). It was a hectic day spent in packing, playing with his kids, taking them for scooter rides, for ice-cream treats and to children’s park. By 9 PM, we were almost done for the 12 o’clock departure; the entire house was into lively discussions about their flight experiences, stories of delays, tips for safe travels, etc. I was relaxing after the long tiresome day, but was also taking a last look at my cousin’s laptop to ensure things are in order (another problem if you are a techie, you are the family’s helpdesk!). My football-fan heart kept reminding me about the Argentina vs BelgiumQuarter Finals! I was getting tempted to stream the match but I got into a dilemma. “If I watch, I get the blames for not being too ‘serious’; & if I don’t, I miss the excitement”. Laptop, safer seats and internet access was pushing me to go for the Match.
But suddenly, I got pulled out from my deep thoughts with a very familiar “Hellllo!!” It was none other than the erstwhile neighbour, our hero, who came to see my cousin off. “Great”, I thought. “I didn’t see that coming!” Our hospitality, the drinks, delicious dinner, and the rain-induced pleasant weather energised him and made him the favourites for the eventual battle with me.
As usual, he began by sharing his experience in starting a School Management System and comparing that with Report Bee. I tried my best to be vague and turned a deaf ear hoping that he would eventually lose interest. My bad! He was in a playful mood and was instigating me. The saddest part was that my parents were listening to all of this and didn’t know what to say. I felt that all the support they had shown for the last several years was being questioned. I was forced to keep my post safe from a penalty kick by our hero.
So, for the millionth time, I explained the difference between School Management System and Report Bee. He dodged my defense and continued, “big innovations are happening around; how good are you?” I was so tempted to say “Po pa(Get lost), I am not in the mood for this argument, please leave me alone!” but resisted. I tried to distract myself with an ALT + Tab to the online streaming; “what??!! The Match is already down to its 30th second! Damn! I missed the kick off.” This was definitely not my day.
Just when I was looking forward to getting engrossed in the match, I got pulled into another discussion initiated by our guest. “Do you know Khan Academy? Someone is doing a good job of converting their videos into local language (Tamil). I read it in today’s Times of India.” Then he started explaining how it would help the underprivileged children, the Corporation schools and so on. Argentina vs Belgium match was into its 7th minute, goal less, and here I got an open chance for a goal!! All credit goes to the good pass by Cloud Vidyashram team (that’s the name of the Khan Academy project). I just needed the finishing touch. I said, “it is done by our company.” He was – the entire room was – like “Huh, What???” Just then, Gonzalo Higuain of Argentina scored the 8th minute winner of the match. We were in sync! Score ‘1-0’ baby. Game on! I jumped at this opportunity like Miroslav Klose.
I explained to him what Cloud Vidyashram is and how we are involved. (Report Bee and AMM Foundation partnered to form Cloud Vidyashram and dedicated moths of hard work to translating the Khan Academy videos so that language was no more a barrier in quality education of the local children here). Then I slowly moved on to explain for the million+1th time what Report Bee does! But this time, I showed Report Bee’s demo product on my laptop . As I took him through the different sections of one of our products, the world class designs and user experience made him more and more engaged and I, for the first time, felt his respect for our work and for my words. I silently thanked our Design Team and UX team for this awesome work. His wife was also listening to all of this; they both took their seats saying, “nice-nice, good-good…”
I casually asked his wife, “which school do your kids go to?” “Chinmaya”, she said. ‘Tadan… man mein ek Laddu futa‘*. I asked, “which branch?” It sounded “Anna Nagar” ‘Beta, man mein, ek aur laddu futa‘*. So, I quickly opened Chinmaya’s Parent Portal and asked them what their kid’s class, admission number and date of birth (Report Bee has a Parent Portal where parents can also check their child’s progress at school). They looked each other wondering where I was going with all this. I keyed in the details and pressed ‘Show Details’. Dang! ‘Student Not Found’ popped up on the screen. So, I tried with last year’s standard and section but that did not work either. “What am I missing”, I wondered.
Meanwhile, he got more curious and enquired, “is that school your customer?” I was too occupied to reply but when I finally found their daughter’s records to show to the parents, I said an animated, “yes, they are our customers!!” (I found the reason why the student record didn’t show up, that in itself is a separate blog post). With surprise all over his face, he said, “you guys serve Chinmaya?!!” I proudly said, “yes, all Chinmayas in Chennai”, dedicating ‘futa huwa Laddus to our Growth Team’. Once again, laptop got more spectators; and this time, the entire house was in ‘Balcony seats’. I showed them the hero’s daughter’s profile (based on the credentials her parents gave) and everyone went, “WOW!!”
He quickly opened his mobile and searched his mails for ‘Report Card’. One of the search results read “from Report Bee”, which he opened. Gaping in awe, he went speechless. I continued reasoning why Report Bee is different from other companies . He got even more engrossed and I happily satisfied his curiosity about the architecture and scalability of the application. The brilliance of our Creation Team and the many new terms and concepts left our hero totally spellbound.
Favourites didn’t win our game but it was a win-win for both of us. A long, uncomfortable battle that had lasted years witnessed a spectacular closure. Nothing could be more amusing than a new-found respect writ large on his face as he watched us leave. The low light of the night concealed my Goose-bumps from others :).
It was 5:30 in the morning. I forced myself to get up and go for my class. Being fit is a resolution I have taken on myself and I am working towards it! Since getting up early in the morning is always a task for me, I told myself: go for Class, RB and Cloud Vidyashram (CV) will make it to the news today! Absolutely no relation, but that is how my mind works! I came back from class and the first thing I asked Sriram (my greatest support in life and my better half) with full excitement, “Hey! Did you check the paper?” Sriram, said, “no! But come let’s check it out!” We opened the paper, and Lo! We found an article on CV in the second page- Global Content with a Home-Grown Voice! RB got a mention too! What a great start to the day!
You guys must be wondering why this excites me so much! Read on to join the CV team and share the excitement!
Cloud Vidyashram is an educational initiative that envisions to provide “quality education that is free for all” by using available technology and knowledge in the public domain. As the first step in this initiative, Report Bee along with AMM Foundation have translated 42 Khan Academy videos to Tamil and are providing it to schools in a format that can be easily consumed by students. Khan Academy is an organisation that provides digital content to students in Maths and Science (along with many other subjects). Their videos have had phenomenal impact on children in the US. Following this many countries such as Spain and Finland have implemented the videos in their countries. With so much going on in the world, how do we provide this quality education to our children too? Is language barrier the problem? Can we translate these videos to see if it has an impact on the children? Are these your thoughts? Well, this is exactly what we had in mind and that is exactly what Cloud Viidyashram is all about! The project is currently being implemented in 2 schools: Maduvankarai Corporation school (Guindy) and Sir Ramaswamy Mudaliyar School (Ambattur). In both the schools, we are piloting the project with class 11 students. They are revisiting the concepts that they learnt in class 6-10. This was decided as they needed to get their basics right before learning more concepts. We have conducted a baseline test at both schools. Currently, the students are viewing the videos in both schools. Each child is given one computer to personalize their learning. This is done so that each child can learn at his/her own pace and be sure of what they are learning. The impact will be measured using Report Bee’s software.
Sounds exciting, right? How was all this possible? Well say Hello to the CV team!
AMM Foundation – For funding the entire project. Yes money does matter!
Shankarnarayanan Sir, Headmaster, Maduvankarai Corporation School – He readily accepted to implement the project in his school. There on, his enthusiasm has only increased. CV team is lucky to have him on board and share his experiences.
Venkatachalam Sir, Headmaster, SRM School – Not many will be involved in the project and observe what the students are learning like you, Sir. CV team is really lucky to work with you and your teachers.
Amruth Varshini – Your work will go down in history. Your voice is amazing! Thank you for translating the 42 videos all by yourself!
Judy Mam – You are an inspiration to all! The amount of work you do even at this age is motivating for us! Thank you Mam, for helping us with worksheets!
Sundaram Sir, Coordinator, Maduvankarai Corporation School – Right from setting up of computers and ensuring the batches arrive on time, the Project is successful only because of you.
Shankar Sir, Coordinator, SRM School – Thank you for Single handedly managing the project at SRM School, Sir. With people like you in our team, we know that distance can never be an issue.
Namithaa Jayasankar – Apart from helping us coordinate and implement the project at school, translating the worksheets to Tamil has really helped us! We hope you continue and bring in more interns to the project!
Raga Vijaya – With your expertise in literature, thank you for collating weekly reports on the project! Your reports bring clarity to the project.
Vishal Sridhar – Thank you for handling schools efficiently and being so sincere in your work. You have an attitude that keeps the entire team motivated! Kudos!
Altius Foundation, Central Square Foundation, KA Lite, Akanksha Foundation, Sriram Reddy, Sriram Sampath – Thank you for sharing your knowledge on this project. We are lucky to have people like you mentoring us!
And finally the RB team – You guys rock! Right from design to implementation! You are CV’s pillar of support!
Cloud Vidyashram team truly hopes that it will be able to transform the lives of the children by providing this quality education with minimum usage of resources. We hope to make this project a success with your continued support.