2020’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Abhishek Gupta
NavGurukul
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4 min readFeb 21, 2021

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2020 was a big year by all means. Everything changed. While startups are celebrating the opportunity from increasing shift to technology, this year marked a hard time for people who aren’t comfortable with technology or have limited access to it. While we may celebrate the coming out of EdTech Unicorns, their practices (sales & engagement) and pedagogies are concerning. While some may rightly argue, that these practices are no worse than coaching classes, but their scale makes it a cause of worry.

Just recently, McKinsey published a report or one out of every 10 American workers, may need to transition out of their jobs by 2030 due to the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market. India may do worse, or better, but irrespective is bound to be affected. We are in dire need of more Khan Academies, Wikipedia(s), Code.org(s), Scratch(s) — but most importantly made for India, for many different contexts within India, for many of our languages. Non-profits outside India has delivered technologies, and so can they do in India. And I hope, 2021 leads us there. I hope 2021, leads us to develop tech-enabled solutions where inclusivity is at the centre. And all of this can only happen if we all come together. Rome just doesn’t take time to build, but can’t be built alone either.

Coming back to 2020 and NavGurukul, here’s our the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, followed by where we can use your help.

The Good

  1. In March 2020, we had 80 students, a team of four. Currently, we have a capacity of 600 female and 60 male students, four campuses, three different courses, an online application (Meraki) to teach programming, and a hybrid course, and a team of 23.
  2. We have launched a one-year course for Graphic Design and another on Facilitation.
  3. 90% of our students are women, 70% of our team is women, 60% of salary goes to women, 50% of our team is rural, 50% of our team is our alumni.
  4. More than 120 students have got jobs and are together earning more than 3.6 Crores per year.
  5. About 1 lac per month is received per month as donations from our alumni. 6 of our alumni have already paid 1.2 lacs which is our suggested amount for paying-forward.
  6. We launched Meraki — an open-source application to teach programming and typing to girls using an android phone and a keyboard (that we would be giving away), and get jobs. More than 10 volunteers are making this possible.
  7. We are currently supported by Accenture, Microsoft, KPMG, Amazon, Wingify, Games24x7, Dunnhumby, DCX Technologies, SBI Cap Securities amongst many other donors. Monthly donations were set up at navgurukul.org/donate.
  8. A campus for 200 girls in Pune funded & supported by Microsoft and Accenture was started on 20th Nov.
  9. A second campus in Bangalore (and fourth for NG) to support 180 girls funded & supported by KPMG.
  10. We released offer letters to 508 girls for the above two campuses. We have more than 30 mobilisation partners, with students joining us from 14 different states of the country. This is the most diverse batch of students with respect to caste, geography, with a strong focus on girls from extremely vulnerable backgrounds such as HIV+, or ones who faced abuse.
  11. More than 100 tribal female students have been selected through efforts by Tribal Research and Training Institute, Maharashtra. We have partnered with three other state Governments and partnering with more.

The Bad

  1. We are short-staffed and hiring across multiple roles.
  2. As we scale, we need more time to balance our work and setting up a culture and a long-term direction.
  3. Many students dropped out due to Coronavirus. Many of them were married immediately after.
  4. Quarantining a large number of students created operational issues, and poorer learning outcomes during quarantine time.
  5. Many operational hiccups need better solutions. Result of being spread thin across four locations.
  6. Need to communicate more effectively with our partners. As we scale, we need better ways to report while retaining the personal touch.

The Ugly

  1. Few of our students who were deeply interested in teaching were rejected by online platforms (to teach coding) due to accent related issues. Barriers for people from rural areas go beyond what we can imagine.
  2. Many students are deferring their joining to the campus on account of the uncertainty of their examinations. Due to this, there is a poor conversion from students who have confirmed joining to arriving on the campus.

Help Us!

  1. Join us — full-time or voluntarily. If you are working for a for-profit, consider a year of change. Work with us, and or some other non-profit. There’s no better way to help, but with your time.
  2. To reach out to deserving female students — 17+, any stream for any of the location— Pune or Bangalore.
  3. Connect with Government organizations that can help us in the mobilization of more students.
  4. If you are an NPO, you can partner with us on teaching students remotely through Meraki — typing & programming, and getting them entry-level jobs.
  5. Share this email with your colleagues and encourage them to help. :-)

2021 comes with a lot of emphasis on building team, culture, and making sure that the foundation for the scale that was laid last year is nurtured well. It is an exciting time, but also one with more responsibilities. You being with us on this journey means a lot. Thanks so much for taking out time to read through this, and offer your support the way you do.

With love and hope
Abhishek

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