eLearning for schools has been an established concept since last couple of decades, albeit for affluent class schools. However, it always remained out of purview of rural or underprivileged schools due to high costs and technology incompatibility. A social entrepreneur took it upon himself to change the rules of the game.
To be exact, 1,100+ ZP schools in one of the most economically deprived districts of Maharashtra, Dhule. All schools are digitized using multimedia devices and eLearning making Dhule first such district in India and all these funds are generated through CSR, Community contribution and NRI funding. All 25 Government recognized schools for hearing impaired students in Pune district use eLearning in each and every classroom and students explore the new opportunities which never existed for them before. Behind all these feats, there is one common name, Kompkin, which took up the challenge and treaded the path never travelled before. Today, it is Maharashtra’s most popular school eLearning brand by SumConcepts Technologies Pvt Ltd.
In 2009, Kompkin was launched with specific aim of reaching out to masses with a user-friendly technology and the price point which was affordable. The rural schools still couldn’t afford it and that’s when SumConcepts started approaching corporate giants active in CSR for their support. Today, SumConcepts boasts of 50+ reputed corporate clients and NGOs who have sponsored 12,000+ installations across Maharashtra reaching remote villages from Gadchiroli to Gadhinglaj and from Akkalkuwa to Akkalkot benefiting more than 2 million rural and underprivileged urban students.
The journey was not easy. It was all about concept selling. First challenge was to convince the teachers that their jobs are not under threat. Next being working with bureaucracy and convincing them to allow the official usage of eLearning in day to day classrooms. In parallel, efforts were already started at corporate levels, making them understand that this investment will bear long term benefits, and the results were sustainable, measurable and visible. The road ahead was treacherous but it yielded results. Today, SumConcepts is the most trusted name for companies active in CSR for Rural Education.
A Professional with Corporate Culture-Efficiency and Social awareness
Biren Dharamsi, Founding Director & CEO, rose from being a trainee in a company with a turnover of hardly RS. 2 crores in 1993 to become its youngest President (Business Head) managing a vertical of more than Rs. 100 crore in 2006. During this period, he travelled extensively across continents for various projects and gathered rich macro level experience in Marketing, Finance and Administration. But it was his first meeting with Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in 2007 that was a game changer. Inspired by his conversation with Dr. APJ, he decided to go back to basics and plunge into an unknown territory to leave an NRI life and go back to remote villages. He was adamant not to work as NGO but set up a social enterprise for profit, bringing in the efficiency, culture, competitiveness, discipline and scalability of a private enterprise. He was joined by his colleague Chetan Khona who is an IT geek and today, works as the backbone of all the innovations and developments at SumConcepts.
The eLearning platform for rural schools was a novel concept and setting a trend in the market required humongous efforts. It was relentless efforts from the team and the enthusiasm of the teachers and students and also the support of Corporates and NGOs like Lupin, Tata, Wockhardt, Rotary, etc. that eventually yielded results.
The Business Model
SumConcepts is not merely a software developer. It has positioned itself as a Project Management Company providing end to end solutions. Its tagline ‘Sustainable-Measurable-Visible’ says it all. The corporates need to allocate the funds for eLearning project. They either identify the schools-locality or ask SumConcepts to identify the beneficiary schools on their behalf. Team SumConcepts executes the complete project on behalf of Corporate donors which includes setting up hardware like Projectors, TVs, Computers, Tablets loaded with eLearning software from pre-primary to 12th. The audio-visual high quality animated content is easy to operate and requires minimal technical proficiency for rural teachers. The teachers are trained and the setup is maintained for a period of 3 to 5 years including upgrades and repairs. The Corporates, in turn, earn the credibility in the society for doing good in the world. The usage and impact is tracked and improvements are shared with the sponsors.
A Company with Strong Social Motive
The company takes pride in differentiating themselves vis-a-vis competition on their customer support standards and is built on a foundation that thrives on meeting challenges of rural schools. SumConcepts is a fine example of Social Entrepreneurship, which combines the efficiency, quality, and competitiveness of a private sector combined with compassion and ownership of a NGO. As dozen plus Engineers set out for installations, upgrades and service in remote inaccessible villages, their mission is to take quality education at affordable cost to the masses that will help build tomorrow’s powerful India – one of Dr. Kalam’s dreams. Kompkin eLearning provides students from rural and underprivileged backgrounds to aspire and dream about opportunities that seemed unattainable to the earlier generations.The strong belief is that their projects, services, and products have to be socially relevant to be able to create a sustainable organization with multifold growth.
It’s high quality products with unmatched service professional attitude and care for community has resulted in Kompkin being the highest selling and most popular eLearning brand in Maharashtra for schools. Awards and accolades have duly followed with Kompkin winning Best CSR Projects award by Tata, Significant Contribution to Rotary International, Vocational Excellence Award, Sarathi IT Award, eASiA 2011 Award, Udyojakta Puraskar by MCCIA to name a few and appreciation from likes of Dr. Mashelkar, Dr. Bhatkar, Narayan Murthy, Bajaj, S. Ramadorai and of course, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
Challenges Propelling them Towards Success
Biren acclaims, “The first and foremost challenge was to convince the school teachers that their jobs are not threatened but complimented with the use of technology. The second biggest challenge was donation model wherein to convince the donors that the project was worth investing as there was a unique situation of the buyer not being a consumer or beneficiary.”
Footprint towards Promising Future
The future of eLearning is in making the technology more effective, measurable and affordable. Internet connectivity reaching to the most remote village will entail more benefits with affordable technology. It will also standardize curriculum across Indian states which will ensure easier scalability. Kompkin has already expanded its reach in states like Rajasthan and Haryana and plans to target other states in the near future. The retail segment is also picking up with parents looking for more innovative means to enhance students’ knowledge base. Kompkin is also launching its online version soon along with new value-added apps going beyond the curriculum. Innovation and Social Awareness will be the key for growth of SumConcepts.