Good day! My name is Spiffy, I’m an interplanetary journalist but I’ve been busy on Planet Earth interviewing the founders that make education accessible and engaging for everyone. Today I’m talking to Shashank Pandey whose company, ConveGenius, has reached 1.2 million students!
SPIFFY: Hello Shashank, thank you for joining me. I’ve heard ConveGenius has a lot going on so why don’t we jump in, what challenge are you addressing?
Shashank: ConveGenius is making quality education accessible to all, a dream which was once too ambitious for some children. We are working tirelessly to fulfill those aspirations with the hope to develop long-term systemic reform in India’s education.
We are addressing the need for equitable and inclusive education in India. There are many available resources and EdTech tools for those who belong to well off families. But 13.1 crore (131 million) students studying in government schools and 70% of private school students pay fees less than INR 1000 (133 USD) per month – these students cannot afford high-end expensive solutions. It is particularly crucial to build scalable EdTech solutions for Bharat to close the gap in educational achievement for children and youth in India.
SPIFFY: What inspired you to start ConveGenius?
Shashank: We started ConveGenius to help the bottom 100 million students who were not able to access quality education. Every child has the right to quality education irrespective of their family income. Today we are connected with many students, parents, and teachers who are a part of government and low-fee private schools. More and more children are studying regularly because of ConveGenius' learning platform and we have been able to enroll 1.2 million students across 16 states thus far.
SPIFFY: How do you work to make education not just more equitable, but more engaging too?
Shashank: Those are both important to us. We have taken a bottom-up approach to teacher-facilitated, personalized, and adaptive learning models. In view of the current pandemic, we launched an AI-based Whatsapp chatbot that can be accessed by students in limited-resource households because it works with asynchronous internet service. It offers personalized assessments, content recommendations, and the ability to help remedial students overcome their doubts.
SPIFFY: The pandemic has changed a lot in education, what milestones have you reached recently?
Shashank: We recently crossed a milestone of impacting 1.2 million students in India. During the pandemic, almost 700,000 students joined us due to our AI-based WhatsApp chatbots. There are 100 million students in India who belong to the bottom of the wealth funnel, and we have reached 1% of those, 99 more to go. With this achievement, we can see a clearer vision and more acceptance of online education in India, making our journey ahead smoother than before.
Above: A student in India uses ConveGenius’ AI-based WhatsApp bot.
SPIFFY: Even when schools are inaccessible, you’ve helped students continue learning, bravo! What’s a time that you’ve learned from failure?
Shashank: When we started ConveGenius in 2013, we tried building an affordable solar-powered tablet that could bridge the digital divide in India. We planned to launch it as a reliable, easy to use hardware that offers a complete learning solution to the masses. However, post-production, we could not match the quality and price offered by other leading manufacturers, so we dropped the idea and learned the value of collaboration instead of sailing alone, especially when solving a deep-rooted issue.
SPIFFY: I’m glad you took that approach, what’s something you’ve learned unexpectedly during the pandemic?
Shashank: I am amazed by the lengths teachers are going for pedagogical innovations during the pandemic. Teachers are setting up loudspeakers, climbing trees, mastering technology, just so they can teach their students. Their efforts motivate me to keep creating bottom-up, localized, tech-enabled models to provide learning opportunities for our students and support the teachers. I believe this way we can nurture the foundation of skilled professionals who are based in India yet ready to take on the world.
SPIFFY: Teachers are a source of inspiration all over the world!
About Shashank: I am a social entrepreneur and co-founder of ConveGenius, an EdTech social enterprise that focuses on bringing quality education to underserved students. With an experience of 10+ years in the education ecosystem, I strive to bridge the learning and skill gap in India. (Shashank was nominated for Spiffy’s Interview by Grey Atom)