If someone were to visualize themselves from outer space very well, as if it really felt real, or better gets the opportunity to travel to outer space someday, they may be struck with the fact that the earth is quite small in comparison to the rest of the observable universe, not to mention the rest of the unobservable universe. This realization makes people humble at that point in time.
It is also prudent to reason that, after having realized the underlying complexities of the systems and processes that human beings have created for each other from a socio-economic point of view; one could either sit back and try to understand it all with a not-so-great mindset; or one could relish the opportunity to understand it all, to the best of their abilities; or one could be either of both at different points of their lives;, as long as they also understand values like happiness, gratitude and empathy.
We’re living in the age of transition as per many, because we’re (as in the world as a whole, not a select few nation states) trying to re-imagine our society using a blend of technology, ethics and diversity principles or tools and applying them to all sorts of problems ranging from climate change, regulation, wealth inequality, social inequality, healthcare, materials science and energy. It is also a daunting time to live in for the sanest of the sane persons because everyone will be vulnerable at some point or the other in their lives owing to these transitions in our society. Our future generations must be guided, directed and taught not like their older generations gone by.
Today, at Bangalore we spoke to the founder of QShala, an education technology platform whose USP lies exactly where it needs to be when it comes to education: in the product. In the way our future generations could be taught. They justified their learning methodology for children to us. Below are the excerpts from our interaction.
Give a brief info about your startup?
QShala is a curiosity learning platform that is designed to foster life-skills & curiosity in children. We conduct live online courses where we use questions, stories, and activities to make children proof-proof.
Children today are digital age citizens, living in the Age of Information. But, with increased and easier access to information at our fingertips, there is little effort to dig deeper to explore the “how” and “why” behind the “what” of information. QShala programs help in overcoming this attitude. It equips children with a questioning mindset and life skills to stay “qurious”, confident and aware learners in an ever-changing world.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
Back in the day, we were ardent quizzers and used to participate in many quiz competitions while in school and in college. Fortunately, we did really well in many competitions, got the chance to travel abroad and win quite a large amount of prize money.
But the real question was, “What next?”
We set up Walnut Knowledge Solutions in 2011, while we were still in college, trying to explore the democratization of the benefits of quizzing, and thereby instilling curiosity in children.
The 21st century demands a huge pool of skills from the youth, not only in order to succeed, but simply survive. School education is no longer enough, because success now not only requires knowledge, but also other skills like confidence, financial literacy, public speaking and everything else we wished we’d learnt in school. So we do exactly that.
Keeping curiosity at the base of every single venture, the aim is to encourage children to ask tons of questions, even the difficult ones, in order to develop these basic skills.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
Both of us were former corporate lawyers, but passionate quizzers at heart, we participated in several quizzes during school and college. Having been bitten by the bug of curiosity, even while we were corporate lawyers, we sowed the seeds for our curiosity company and continue to nurture the same till date.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
QShala is based out of Bangalore, mainly due to our personal convenience. Considering our product is virtual, physical location does not hinder our product quality or sales.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
Our aim at QShala is to ensure that curiosity is nurtured every single day. It is only when we keep things interesting, and consistently develop will we manage to retain our children and continue to help them grow. We need to make sure that their experience is always top-notch, full of fun, and keep our activities in line with something children will continue to enjoy every single day.
Further, the dream is to grow into one of the largest edtech companies, without losing sight of the reason we started this. We need more kids to join our programs, and continue to remain curious even after they graduate from our courses.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
Our competitors include Whitehat Jr., Uable, StayQrious, Camp K12, Outschool, Lido Learning, and Realschool among others.
What differentiates us from them is that we go beyond school academics to teach essential life skills to children.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
A dynamic work-life balance is the aim we have. Unfortunately, our Sunday Family Quiz requires us to work for a while over the weekends too.
Especially now, with the remote situation, the defining line between work and life otherwise is quite thin, but we try to take out some unwinding time where we catch up with friends and family, watch TV and just laze around.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no, then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
So far we have raised INR 2.7 Cr in angel funding. The round was led by Zerodha-backed start-up incubator and fund, Rainmatter Capital, with participation from other notable angels including Mindtree co-founder Mr. Kalyan Banerjee.
Other investors and mentors include Ms. Preeti Sawhney (Former Director, Lowe Lintas), Mr. Sanjay Tambwekar (CTO, Qwikcilver), Mr. Suresh Kumar Pinglay (Former Vice President, Oracle, India), Mr. Chetan Vinchhi (India Head, Uptycs), Mr. Avinash Umapathy (Partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas), Ms. Akshita Ganesh (Product and Strategy Lead, Reforge), and Mr. Nikhil Bhandarkar (Co-founder, Ubiquity Capital).
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
The biggest misconception people have about our company and style, which is majorly including quizzing in every learning aspect, is that quizzing is an intense mindsport which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Contradictory to this, the window to reality is something else altogether. Our family quizzes testify the same, because week on week, families come back to quiz with us, even if they have no experience prior to this! Provided that quizzes are conducted in the right manner, with lots of fun elements, quizzing can definitely be fun!
What gets you excited about this company?
The fact that our company gives us the opportunity, or rather shows potential to navigate mindsets, decisions and maybe even paths of the coming generations is incredibly excited. After all, they are the leaders of tomorrow!
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
With the thin line between work and life, we try and find a little time for us in the mornings. We wake up early, and try to fit in some self-care time, either in the form of meditation, exercise or just some well-spent family time. Work begins by 10AM and takes up 10-11 hours of our day, post which we just need to rest, and try to get a good night’s sleep, hitting the hay stack by 11PM.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
Our first few employees came mainly from our own friend groups and network. They heard about what we were doing, asked if they could be a part and voila, the magic just began, falling into place like pieces in a puzzle, just meant to be. Our entire crew comes from various diverse career backgrounds, and are definitely a fun-loving, passionate and curious bunch!
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