Entrepreneurship- An interview with Debarati Goswami


This month, we take a look at a new venture that has taken a leap of faith, moved countries and in spite of hardships kept their hearts in one place.

Today we meet Debarati Goswami, the co-founder of Educocity and talk about her journey that has taken her from the usual employee role to an entrepreneur.  She talks about the hardships if being an entrepreneur in India, the role that project management plays in their development process and their plans for 2012!

·         You moved back from US to India to start your own company- tell us about it.
My husband Bappaditya and I were both working with Apple Inc. as consultants for close to 3 years each, when the entrepreneurial bug bit us. After having been located in the Silicon Valley for quite some time, the ‘big’ question was whether we should start up in the US or in India. We listened to our heart and moved back to India in late 2009.

We wanted to do something in the education space because the roots of a society lie in its education system. As everyone knows by now, our conventional education systems are failing us miserably both in India as well as in first world countries like UK & USA. We thought it’s about time to do something so that students start taking interest in ‘learning’ rather than mere rutting. 

The need for a common platform where everyone associated with any educational institution, be it students, teachers or parents can come together and create an environment for learning was becoming more and more apparent. We wanted to build a city for education (Educo is the root word for education is Latin) Thus ‘Educocity’ was born.

·         How well is a collaborative platform like this one being adapted in India? Or is your target audience outside India?
GUIDE is a cloud based, collaborative, Learning Management Platform from Educocity.com. GUIDE stands for ‘Grow as YoU Identify Delight in Education’ and is all about making the process of learning fun and enjoyable, delightful yet more effective than the conventional methods.

A conscious shift in pedagogical methods is taking place across the world.  Pedagogy is changing from being prescriptive (where the teacher teaches, the students only listen) to collaborative (where teachers and students interact among themselves and absorb the knowledge) Collaboration is no more a thing of the future, rather something we do day in and day out. While various ’collaborative’ software products are available in the market today, they are mostly content based. We believe GUIDE stands apart because it is a platform that the users can use according to their needs instead of tying them up with a specific set of contents.

India has been under the influence of ‘prescriptive pedagogy’ for too long. However, India is gradually opening up to the idea of collaboration within an educational institution and taboos are dissolving. Some institutions are not comfortable sharing their private data with the world. Also we have a relatively young user base, most of them being school going kids. Hence, if institutions want, they configure GUIDE as a walled-garden wherein the safety and privacy of the users are not compromised.

India is at the epicentre of our focus. However, at the same time, we are also looking at other advanced markets, which are easier to penetrate without much user training.

·         What have been the few challenges in working in an entrepreneurial mode in India?
India is still in a nascent stage when it comes to entrepreneurial ecosystem. Professionally, the biggest hurdle we faced was amassing a seed-fund. No investor is ready to invest in a concept and having at least a prototype in place is a prerequisite for raising funds. Thus, boot-strapping is the only viable option most Indian entrepreneurs are left with. This makes the process longer and more difficult and we have seen a lot of people quit their entrepreneurial journey over it.

Also, in India, being an entrepreneur pushes you into a minority bracket and is still considered as an unwise choice by the middle-class society. At times it can take a toll on the family life, especially with parents and relatives. We are lucky to have a very sound support system in place. For others, it might be even tougher.

However, the current scenario is improving in leaps and bounds and we are hopeful that India will catch up with its western counterparts in a few years from now.

·         What does 2012 hold for educocity?
2012 is going to be the most crucial year that our venture has seen till date. We have big plans lined up including an international launch. We are also looking to raise some serious funds. For our venture hopefully this will mean an entire new scale to operate in.

We have also already roped in a few important customers and we will start operating at these sites as soon as these institutes open doors for new students in the 2012-2013 academic session.

·         In all these years trying to develop the product, how have you managed the process?
Having seen how a world class company like Apple looks like from within, we have been very particular about processes and quality adherence from the very beginning.

We try to keep the Product Management, Product Engineering and Service Delivery units all separate from each other since most of the time they have conflicting interests.

We also follow the Agile Scrum methodology to keep our development cycles short. This essentially means an iterative, incremental framework for project management. Scrum is perfect for a lean organization like us. It reduces our process overheads drastically and hence the team is almost always able to deliver faster. It also acts as the perfect remedy against deadline slippage due to scope creeps.

We are also finicky about following checklists. Implementation checklist, development checklist, quality adherence checklist, test plan checklist, you name it we have it. This helps us to maintain the standards without much review effort.

·         Tell me 3 things we should know about your product.
We call GUIDE from Educocity a virtual cloud campus on rent, which essentially boils down to:

No software installation is required to start using GUIDE. It can be accessed over a web-browser and low-bandwidth internet which makes it available anytime from anywhere without being tied to a particular machine. If you want to try, just hit educocity.com and go for a ‘Try GUIDE Demo’ option.

No upfront capital investment is required from the educational institution’s end. We only charge on pay-as-you-go basis based on the total number of users. Thus, GUIDE is especially suitable for small to medium institutions who do not want to maintain in-house IT department.

GUIDE is the most intuitive Learning Management system you would have seen. The user interface is simple and clutter free and you can get started from the word go. There are no steep learning curves and hours spent going through elaborate learning manuals. We believe in the beauty of simplicity.

You can also follow @educocity in Twitter or ask your questions, request a demo directly to @Debaratiz
   

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