Corporate Review

Ramya Bhaskar: creating the groundwork for tuning up today’s children for 21st-century skills

20 Dynamic Businesswomen 2020 Interviews

How Ramya Bhaskar is creating the groundwork for tuning up today’s children for 21st-century skills?

The business world’s dynamics are wavering at a great speed in the 4th industrial revolution, faster than ever before.

These are the signals of incredible advancements achieved by automation aided by artificial intelligence.

However, despite rapid economic growth tasted by India, unemployment is rising due to the country’s low level of skill intensity, conventional educational framework.

India spends around 4% on its educa­tion, lower than the middle-level companies.

Top of that, our country’s mainstream educa­tion system and syllabus haven’t kept pace with rapidly changing business needs, that demands advanced technology adoption and other soft skills.

Most schools and colleges still focus on teach­ing skills that will soon become obsolete.

New advancements in technology create demand for new skills and soon only people with skills that are irreplaceable by automation will thrive in a future economy, designed by disruptive technologies.

Synopsizing it, the question arises; Is India skill-ready for its 21st century?

The dearth gave a push to Ramya Bhaskar who’ve always been ambitious to do something for India.

Like an old hat Soft­ware Engineer, Ramya Bhaskar started her professional innings at a big software company, Robert Bosch.

Afterwards, she got associated with a Silicon Valley start-up as one of its initial members in Bangalore.

Observing a huge difference in the quality of education between tier 1 and tier 2-3 cities, Ramya envisioned providing accessible and affordable quality education to all and laid the foundation of Specadel Technologies Pvt Ltd in 2010 as its Co-founder.

Further, the team developed an education platform to deliver video, audio, tests & reports on Android & iOS, after recognizing the rise of smart­phone usage in India.

Further, the start-up collaborated with many schools and coaching institutes in India & abroad and delivered their content on the platform, to make it accessible to everyone.

Byju’s, one of its customers, availed the platform’s services for its CAT, GMAT, GRE, Class8-10 courses and acquired the company in 2014-15.

Also Read: The Perfect Fit Leader: Arun Kapur on creating his indelible mark as a Business leader with Bottoms up approach

The second innings

Ramya’s next stop was a gaming company, where she headed some of the products till 2016 and managed 3 multimillion-dollar games.

In late 2018, Ramya Bhaskar realized that the young minds in India are not getting enough exposure to learn advance skills like their coun­terparts in the US or China.

She then founded her second start-up, in 2019, to make learning, programming & Artificial Intel­ligence accessible to every K-12 Student in Bharath. The firm teaches the skills required for the next 10 years – AI, Programming & Flight science through online platform & classes with the help of games and hands-on activities.

Ramya Bhaskar draws out the sketch of her journey with the Corporate Review. Here are the edited excerpts.

Crossing the hurdles

Before starting the company, we surveyed 850-900 students from different cities and different age groups to understand the bottle­necks in learning programming and AI and main bottlenecks are

1. Infrastructure issues-we launched a platform which can run on mobiles, desktop etc, where just by logging in to the portal, students can learn more than 30 programming languages.

2. Language prob­lem- we launched teaching programming and AI in vernacular languages so that students can learn these concepts in their languages.

3. Teaching methodology- we developed hands-on activities and games, through which students will learn the concepts first, then they will be exposed to programming syntax using real-life examples.

4. Lack of guidance- teach­ing 1-on-1 helps in concentrating and prioritis­ing learning than anything else.

One of the biggest challenges for a start-up is to find the right set of people to start with. As ours was a completely technology-based offering, I had to find the right set of techni­cal people.

Thankfully my connections helped me to do the first version of the product and I could take it to market to see if this is required in the market.

Victorious Moments

When we get calls from students from remote areas and when they say how the platform is helping them to achieve their goals, at the comfort of their home at 1/10th of the cost, that makes us feel very happy.

Also, I recently did my first podcast about rethinking computer science in education.

This is concerning how Industry revolution 4.0 skills can be incorpo­rated in schools, based on my paperwork presented at IIM Bangalore. For every Industry revolution that has happened past,

Road Ahead

In late 2018 when I started working on a proto­type, I wasn’t sure will parents and teach­ers would encourage students to learn such courses as it is not in their curriculum.

But in 2019, CBSE with NITI Aayog took a bold step of introducing AI and Python programming for Grade 8 and 9th students. This suddenly opened a lot of opportunities for us.

Only 4-5% of CBSE schools adopted AI in 2019-2020. Although we introduced our online platform only in mid of the academic year, we were able to help around 400 schools across India, UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia in different small ways to implement AI and programming in their schools.

We upskilled 1200+ teach­ers so now they can confidently teach these new technologies to their students.

Since now AI and Programming is a curriculum-based subject, we are receiving a lot of interest from students to learn these concepts through our live online instructor-led class.

In 2020-21 as more schools implement AI and programming in their curriculum and CBSE board is raising awareness about the need to learn new-age skills, we are well-po­sitioned to take this advantage.

We are also launching more courses this year, for summer vacation, we just released the Flight Science course designed by people who have worked in ISRO and DRDO.

This course has received a lot of good feedback in a short time.

A Piece of Advice

I am sure many want to become entrepre­neurs but are still confused about leaving their current job and joining the entrepreneurial community.

It’s not always you have to leave the job and start a venture.

Many times, you can do a prototype of a product in your free time and test the market.

If you get enough traction with a basic product then the chances to succeed as an entrepreneur is more and it’s worth taking risks.

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