Aishwarya Rao, Meenakshi Shankara, Saratnath B, Chandrashekaran, Founders, Cradle India Foundation
“Bringing literacy to the underprivileged”
It is said that the future of a nation is its children. It has also been said that India has the potential to become a World Leader in the next twenty years. However the facts gleaned from the 7th All India Education Survey, 2002 tell a different story.
Less than half of India's children between the age 6 and 14 are going to school. Only a little over one-third of all children who enroll in grade one reach grade eight. At least 35 million children aged 6 - 14 years do not attend school at all and 53% of the girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
With so many illiterate children our Nation’s future looks very bleak. Despite the enormity of the task Aishwarya Rao(PhD), Meenakshi Shankara (MCA) , Saratnath B (BTech),and Chandrashekaran (MBA) are doing their best to bring a change. Their venture “Cradle India” has been hard at work in Hyderabad bringing literacy to the underprivileged.Yourstory learnt from the four young entrepreneurs about their attempt to solve the education crisis in our Nation.
How does Cradle India help the underprivileged children of India?
Cradle India has a simple purpose of creating the right environment for under privileged children in their very initial stages of growth. By this we mean the first 5 years where a child needs the right psychological support and love which in our observation is deficient in the poorer sections of the society. The lower income group communities in India particularly those in the disorganized sector usually live a hand-to-mouth existence leaving very little time or resources to ensure proper environment of growth for their children. This has an adverse effect on the child’s psychology and motivation levels to join the schooling system and graduate.Cradle India provides day care services for the children of the urban poor. At the foundation, Children are provided good food, learning tools using audio visual media and their hygiene is addressed with trained maids and good quality products.
What are the services that you perform for these children?
Cradle India provides free day care services to the children of the urban poor. The children are between the age group of 1 to 5 years. We have currently admitted 10 children with scope for expanding to additional centers based on need and scale. Is your venture unique among such Charity organizations?
We are perhaps the only charity organization operating in this niche area. Other NGOs who operate as orphanages are more residential. Our purpose is to provide these children with a similar environment that a commercially operated crèche has. In addition, we have made arrangements to admit children from our foundation when they quality for schooling.
How do you plan to extend Cradle India’s reach to children in other areas?
Our strategy to scale up is driven is by studying specific ‘catchment areas’ where we find children who could use our support system. In addition, since the model is portable. Hence, we can open additional centers in areas where large transient population works. Such as large construction sites where thousands of daily wage laborers work. Children in such areas usually walk around unattended in hazardous and polluted conditions.Your entire team works at a full time job besides Cradle India. How do you manage the two?
We form a core team of 4, each of us are professionally occupied in our full time jobs. We have hired a full time center manager, 1 security guard, 2 house maids to carry out daily activities.
What has been the biggest challenge in getting people to respond to Cradle India?
The biggest challenge was to educate the mothers on the merits of our model and how their children could benefit from our foundation. We had to convince the mothers, their family members that their children would be attended to by trained personnel and aspects of health, hygiene and even education would be addressed with specific goals. We had to spend substantial amount of time on the field talking to focus groups and gain their confidence.
How has the overall response to your venture been from patrons and users?
Our basic model is scalable and portable. We have now admitted 10 children in our flagship center in Hyderabad of which 6 of them have started reading Basic English sentences, recipe rhymes and even gained weight! Their mothers are happy because their children look healthy. The mothers are able to work longer, hence increase in household income.
Every patron is fully satisfied with the way we are executing the work that we do. The work of the foundation has spread virally and we are receiving proposals from students and professional willing to volunteer their time and resources. Some even want to kick start a separate center in their cities.We have been featured in Sakshi – a Telugu news daily in Andhra Pradesh. The feature carried feedback from the mothers who has admitted their children in our foundation
What makes you believe that Cradle India has an entrepreneurial future?
The foundation has within one year of inception produced tangible results. The children are smarter, healthier and their mothers happier. We have near-by school volunteering to partner with us to admit eligible children into their schools
What have you envisioned for Cradle India in the next 2 years?
In two years time, we wish to help at least 100 children in 3 cities in India. We would like to leverage the provisions in the Right to Education act to help the children in foundation gain direct admissions to schools
It is obvious that Cradle India’s mission is of great importance to everyone. We wish Aishwarya Rao, Meenakshi Shankara, Saratnath B, Chandrashekaran strength and tenacity in fulfilling their goals. Have a look at the great work they are doing at http://www.cradleindia.org