Shaping young minds

Shaping young minds

June, 2nd 2014

Rohit Pande has used the power and reach of the Internet and the mobile phone to change the way children are taught in school with the Rs 30 crore Mind Shaper Technologies.

While my parents have influenced my career interests, peer pressure got me to wear the entrepreneurial hat and technology helped me give shape to my dreams. After completing my engineering degree from IIT-Delhi and MBA from IIM-Calcutta, I took up an offer as a consultant with Anderson Consulting (Accenture) in London in 1997. I quit the job three years later and returned to India to start Mind Shaper Technologies with just `10 lakh. Almost 14 years into providing solutions for the K-12 (primary and secondary education) segment, I can boast of a rich set of products and applications which have influenced the way how children are taught today. And, I am happy to have played to my strengths to script a success story with the `30-crore company.

Some of my batch mates, both from the IIT and IIM, had started their own ventures and had been prodding me to do the same. I gave in. On my return from London in 1999, I initially toiled with the idea of a start-up in healthcare as it looked promising. However, my growing up years played an important role in the final decision. My parents were both teachers and the academic environment at home got me thinking. I thought I would feel at home if I worked for the education sector.

The foray of the Internet and the dotcom boom in India only made things easier for me.

To begin with, I had taken a small office space of 500 sq feet on lease in Delhi and worked very long hours. This was possible because I was still single and did not have any financial responsibilities. I started visiting schools and colleges and gave presentations on how the Internet and mobile phone could change the way children were taught and how parents could monitor their progress. Getting an audience was never a problem, but even after 500 such outings in schools across India, I was still to get my first client.

Finally, I got the breakthrough I was looking for with Sanskriti, a school located a few blocks away from my Delhi office. I developed a system of integrated applications to take care of their administration and other work. I also agreed to actively manage the account for `75,000 a month. It was well received and, within one year, we had managed to have 70 schools on board, clocking a turnover of `1.5 crore in 2000-01. I had 20 people working for me back then. We also launched our brand, Classteacher Learning Systems.

In the second year, the number of participating schools went up to 100, but I was not happy with the progress because the Internet was still at a very nascent stage and teachers were not comfortable using the online platform. So, in 2002, we decided to reinvent ourselves and get into the actual class room, that included teacher training programmes, designing digital content and innovative solutions such as Digital Whiteboards -a touch-screen device that projects multimedia content. We were the first company to offer the service and this brought about a revolution of sorts.

Today, we have a host of specialised services, including Classroom Konnect -a platform that allows teachers to share class notes, revision notes, mind maps and class work instantly with students -and Curriculum Library, which has over 20,000 concepts, apart from education android apps, such as Racing Mania, a thrilling car racing game designed to hone both mathematical and motor skills of children. These products are a result of 12 years of innovation and content development and 2.5 million manhours. In 2011, we received $15 million from Fidelity Growth Partners India for our ex pansion. In the following year, we intro duced a tablet called Classpad in the market. It's inbuilt software helps cat egorise students as fast learners, aver age learners and slow learners. The tablet also helps teachers transfer notes, share their own content and con duct tests and assessments. We also have another segment of services on home solutions, including iPerform, iPerform offline and preloaded Classpad. These products help students complete their homework and prepare for exams.

At present, we have a presence in around 1,400 schools, including DAV and DPS schools in Delhi, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. We also have a small presence overseas, including Africa, Indonesia and Thailand. We will be a bit more aggressive with our Internet and mobile-based educational solutions, as the market is now mature.

We have a staff strength of 400 and the 2013-14 turnover of `30 crore has given us the confidence to expand to other cities in the country. However, our Classpad segment will be the one to look out for in terms of revenues and we are aiming for a target of `100 crore in the next three years.

(As told to Amit Shanbaug) Please send your feedback to In 1997, I joined Accenture as a consultant, but quit the job three years later, influenced by the entrepreneurial successes of my IIT and IIM batch mates.

In 2000, I started Mind Shaper, an online education solutions provider that primarily focussed on innovative classroom teaching methods through the Internet. At present we have a presence in 1,400 schools, across Delhi, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, as well as in Africa, Indonesia and Thailand. Rohit Pande 42 years Company Mind Shaper Technologies Headquarters Delhi Seed capital `10 lakh Age at starting business 29 years Source of funds Own savings Turnover in the first year `1.5 crore (2000-1) Present turnover `30 crore (2013-14)