While working for a recruitment firm in the Middle East, Rajeev Koyal often contemplated why unemployability was such a big challenge in India. On further reflection, he realised that the Indian education system is largely based on theoretical knowledge with little focus on practical learning. He decided to quit his job and start Avurtana Learning in 2010, under which he now runs HobbyMaster.
[caption id="attachment_186845" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
Rajeev Koyal imparting skills-based science learning to students[/caption]
Bengaluru-based HobbyMaster aims to integrate skill-based learning with school curricula and produce readily employable manpower in India. It offers Science and Technology Innovation Lab programmes that combine concept teaching, application of concepts, and skill training. All of this is available in a single kit, delivered to schools through fully trained facilitators. The kit is tailored for Classes 5-9.
“Our programme is all about applied science, technology, engineering, and life skills,” says Rajeev, who brings 10 years of experience in sales and business management, having worked with Citibank, Ma Foi, TeamLease and Engineering Management Partners International (Dubai).
in 2012, Guru Prasad joined HobbyMaster as Co-founder. He had left a successful corporate career to follow his passion for teaching. He has been teaching science and math to students of various age groups over five years. And he brings two decades of experience in research and development in the telecommunications, electronics and IT.
Breakaway from traditional teaching
According to National Employability Report 2015, only 3.67 per cent of computer engineers can actually get jobs. The fact is directly attributable to the lack of sufficient importance given to skill training in schools.
HobbyMaster's other programme called Hobbies-in-Education involves learning via hobbies like model aviation, robotics, and electronics. Students go through an hour-long session every week, and get equipped with skills like mechanical design, electrical design, wire winding, mechanical assembly, electrical assembly, industrial design, and testing.
But the road to acceptance was not smooth. Rajeev visited many schools and tried to convince principals but faced rejections multiple times. Finally, personal references came to his rescue and helped him bag the first deal with a school.
They did a pilot project in the first two schools and noticed a remarkable difference in students' performance. However, getting the first twenty schools was the biggest challenge for them. But in the last two years, the number went up to 50 from 20. Having its own R&D unit in place, they produce Do it Yourself (DIY) kits in-house.
“We do not manufacture the finished product, but we build the DIY kit. We invest a lot in our R&D unit, but make sure our kit is affordable as our target is both high-end and middle-class schools. Our kits are reused by the students to reduce the cost. We have tied up with 50 schools across Karnataka and get paid an annual fee for each child,” says Guru.
Addressing the shortfall of engineers
India has witnessed a growing concern in the quality of science, maths and technology education imparted in schools and colleges. According to a Manpower report, by 2020, the shortfall of engineers is expected to range from 1.5 to 2.2 million putting India's economy at risk. Meritnation, SimpliLearn, UEducation are some of the biggest players who are trying to fill this huge by offering interactive learning solutions. To name a few of the emerging startups would be BIBOX and Avishkaar Box.
HobbyMaster was initially bootstrapped with seed capital of Rs 5 lakh. Started with one employee in 2010, HobbyMaster has grown to 30 employees. According to Rajeev, 80 to 100 products have been locally researched and designed by HobbyMaster.
This year, they will start their own online learning platform by taking the same concept of HobbyMaster online. Last year, they received angel funding and started operations in Hyderabad, Pune, and Kochi. In the next three years, HobbyMaster is likely to expand to about 20 different locations. They are also looking to raise another round of funding by the end of this year to back the expansion plans.
Camera person: Rukmangada Raja
Video Editor: Anjali Achal