Mission Education: Vienova targets 100 schools in 2 yrs

Parikshit Jain - Founder,CEO, Vienova.

Vienova, a venture started by 35 year old IIM Graduate, Parikshit Jain provides private state certified schooling for the K-12 segment. The idea is simple. Provide private school quality education to children, but at affordable prices.

Parikshit and his team achieve this by training teachers remotely, spreading computer literacy, content development and even online tutoring.

Educated at IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmadabad, 35 year old Parikshit Jain decided that a holistic education shouldn't just be the privy of the rich. This former executive with McKinsey India launched Vienova in 2008 to bring sub-skills training and extra-curricular activities to schools on the outskirts of India’s metropolitan cities.

Parikshit is not the only believer in this idea. In 2008 Vienova raised angel funding from the Indian Angel Network and in 2011 raised about Rs 17.5 crore from Helion Advisors. Joining the investors this year are the Bamboo Finance, managers of the Oasis Fund investing Rs 15.7 crore.

What was the idea behind Vienova?

Jain: I wanted to always do something in education. A lot of us in cities are very fortunate to get the best of education, however the moment you step out of these cities which is where 98% of the country's population lives there is a huge difference and there was always this inspiration internally to make a difference in the education the way it's imparted in the country. I think that's what drove that decision. McKinsey helped me to leverage a lot of skills which exist in the outside world for a venture of this kind.

Who are the target audience?

Jain: Our target audience are students in the bottom half of the pyramid and from a geographical standpoint they are students who are just outside the main cities anywhere in the country.

We aim to take our services to those segments of population which haven't had access to high quality education and typically for example in a city around Delhi, it would be 200 kilometers around Delhi rather than Delhi core itself.

Parikshit and his team of a 150 trainers take care of the students' communication skills by training them in both written and spoken English. Computer studies make the kids tech savvy and for their recreational needs Vienova offers art and craft, yoga, karate as well as other sports for primary and middle school students. While Parikshit offers these services pro bono to government schools, private institutions pay between Rs 50-200 per child.

What does Vienova bring to the table?

Jain: There is a dying need for this and majority of the student population requires this particular kind of skill set or enhancement and therefore there is a huge potential for exercise. The segment itself is tough because of the low pricing and the kind of services and consistent quality you need to maintain.

That's the reason why the problem of high quality affordable education has remained unsolved for literally hundreds of years. Having said that, the potential per say or the crying need is very high across the country.

Having reached out to schools on 8 tehsils in and around Delhi and the National Capital Region in three and half years Parikshit realizes bridging the language barrier has been his key challenge. So Vienova has taken an activity based learning approach to content development concentrating more on using props over books. Parikshit admits that having a skilled set of teachers is vital to his game plan and so Vienova has set up facilities for remote training of teachers in schools that they service.

How are teachers trained?

Jain: We take teachers from semi-urban areas if a school is in semi-urban area. Often at times quality there is fairly low and therefore teachers have to systematically go through three steps of training. There is an initial induction training where teachers spend almost 7-10 days in a classroom setting undergoing training being conducted remotely from hundreds of kilometers away through remote training facilities as well as a physical element of training, which is more of a three day capsule over there.

That is followed by an in classroom training program where a trainer actually goes from classroom to classroom and provides feedback to the teacher. That is then subsequently followed by a subject training which again runs in two weeks. Each teacher of the respective subject undergoes intensive testing and training on that particular subject.

Having put the basic infrastructure in place, Parikshit plans to use the latest round of funding to expand reach. The target is ambitious, 100 schools in two years.

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