Educationist Fatima Agarkar bats for child-centric solutions in Indian educationRekha Balakrishnan
Co-founder of KA EduAssociates, an educational startup that aims to integrate theoretical knowledge with practical implementation, Fatima is all for incorporating current trends in global education.
Education today is much more than a child attending school, and keeping track of her academic routine. It involves a wholesome gamut of activities that often involve training of teachers and also training and educating parents to keep up with the academic achievements of their children.
It’s all about child-centric solutions not limited to any curricula, but focussed on quality training with international standards.
Mumbai-based educational management startup KA EduAssociates, co-founded by Fatima Agarkar, aims to integrate theoretical knowledge with practical implementation, by incorporating current trends in global education.
After completing her MBA, Fatima added BEd and Ecc as teacher training qualifications.
She worked with European Commerzbank, Times of India, Swiss-based Egon Zehnder before being part of education startup JBCN Education, where she was involved in creating educational programmes and implementing them as a consultant.
But education proved to be her calling in life. “While doing my Master’s degree abroad after completing my schooling and college studies in India, I realised there was a huge gap in how teaching was approached. I always wondered why the gap could not be bridged and, fortunately, my foray into education was the start of the change I wished to see, and it has been a pleasure to create and bring new perspectives from the corporate world to education,” she says.
To say that entrepreneurship was in her blood would not be an understatement. “I am the daughter of an entrepreneur who, 45 years ago, challenged the retail business his father created and ventured into exports – at a time when Indian goods were not valued. My father has always inspired and encouraged me to innovate,” she shares.
Fatima set up KA EduAssociates in Mumbai in 2016 along with co-founder Gitika Kishanchandani.
“While we got started on our vision with teacher training, given my experience in setting up schools, we branched out into consultancy as well. I am happy to say that both verticals are going well and we evolved as any new startup will have to into curriculum design as well,” she says.
“So our strength is to remain ahead of the curve. Unlike other startups, we went top-heavy with manpower, put together a large team and that’s how we were able to branch out to other markets quickly. More hands are always an advantage. A bit heavy on the pocket but you cannot think small and be conservative when you are a startup,” she adds.
The company’s portfolio includes consulting services for preschools and high schools, school audits, curriculum design, teacher education, parenting workshops, and student workshops. The company’s model includes a combination of in-house and outsourced team of facilitators including global teachers. The online facilitation, web and airs etc., also make the reach more widespread.
Fatima believes that their USP lies in out-of-box thinking and the ability to evolve and innovate. “Speed of action and passion for what we do makes us aggressive. Also, each of us in the team have taught, headed institutes, and managed it from a buyer’s side, so we know the business well,” she adds.
KA EduAssociates has its presence in 30 cities, has skilled close to 500 teachers as part of face-to-face courses as well as online and, importantly, helps promoters set up close to 10 schools in a short span of 18 months.
Though the company has been approached by investors, they have preferred to go the homegrown way.
What about challenges and tough moments? Fatima is pragmatic. “For any startup, the first client is always a big one and perhaps the toughest, as you have a vision but no track record. We went out there and demonstrated our capabilities and that’s a huge game changer. Take a risk; expose yourself so that they understand the difference. This client then went on to become an anchor client for us and today openly recommends us. Our biggest success was perhaps the validation that we got from a client who had limited resources and spent it on us, and at the end of the engagement, recommended us to four other clients.”
Apart from her father who is a role model, Fatima is also all praise for her husband, former cricketer Ajit Agarkar.
“My husband is very disciplined and committed and has put in long hours to represent the country as a bowler .... it is hard work, but he has never complained. This is a huge reminder for me that nothing in life is for free, and success needs every bit of hard work, a bit of luck, and a few godfathers who give you a break.”
In the future, Fatima plans to venture into Southeast Asia and the Middle East because she believes “there is a need that constitutes high demand and we already have a head start in what we have amassed as learnings.”