The Aakash Journey: Educator To Entrepreneur And Beyond
The father-son duo behind Aakash Educational Services delve into the effects of the pandemic, the origins of Aakash Educational Services, their collaboration with Byju’s and the philosophy behind it all
The rise in online education and the plethora of Edtech start-ups has multiplied the access to education. As offline educators upskill themselves to navigate the changing waters and evolving technology for online and emerging hybrid classrooms, the values that guide educators now become more important than ever.
Started in Rani Bagh in Delhi as Ashish College of Correspondence in the early 1980s, Chairman and Managing Director JC Chaudhry reminisces the beginning of Aakash Educational Services in a lively BW Businessworld Wednesday Wisdom discussion on the future of Edtech and Entrepreneurship. Due to a sudden exit of teachers, educator JC Chaudhry had to teach multiple subjects and the college had to eventually shut its doors. In 1988, he came back with Aakash Institute to offer coaching classes for medical and engineering students which now has over three decades of legacy across many Indian cities. Driven by his commitment to making students happy, Chaudhry believes in gaining satisfaction from the success of his students and the respect they shower him with.
In his earliest memories of his father as an educator, the younger Chaudhry - the eponymous Aakash who also serves as Managing Director of the chain adds, “At that time when we were young, around 11 years old, we were not sure what he (JC Chaudhry) was doing. I mean we only knew that he was teaching students and he's making doctors. There was a very funny incident that happened in my brother’s classroom, where the teacher asked the kids 'what are your parents doing?' And then he raised his hand and he said, my father makes doctors. So that's the impression that we've always carried.”
Finding his role in the next generation of the business, Chaudhry adds, “One of the finest decisions that he took (JC Chaudhry) was to make me a franchisee. I think the idea was that I should have respect for the brand and the independence of running an outfit like an entrepreneur. He further adds that his respect for the brand forged his understanding as an entrepreneur. “It also taught me to respect the brand because I had to pay a royalty for the brand and I would have a fixed amount of money to be spent on managing the finances and managing teachers which is one of the bigger challenges in an education institute. I think that turned out to be a great experience for me.”
Meanwhile, founder JC Chaudhry believes his marriage to his wife Kamala and the birth of his children were great moments that the success of his educational venture shadowed. He credits his wife for her constant support and attributes his success to her. Further, talking about milestones he adds that producing all-India toppers for medical entrances was a great moment of success for the brand. He also credits the fame garnered to brand building and marketing and the initial advertiser who convinced him for the same. He explains, “Advertisement is necessary for a wider appeal and broader reach.”
JC Chaudhry adds that his advice to entrepreneurs is to focus on the intent of the business, be slow and steady, maintain a cheerful attitude and in a partnership- share the credit, the blame and motivate one another to do better. He maintains that he manages to remain positive as he doesn’t allow negativity to linger and plunges himself into reading or distracting himself with a movie or by visiting a temple. The older Chaudhry also has a penchant for numerology and has recently launched an app for the same.
Speaking of his father, Aakash Chaudhry explains, “He's been a role model and I think the learning did not start from when I joined the business. The learning started way before when we were kids going to school. And I think his passion for work is exemplary and that is what we as his children have been trying to emulate. I think he has always kept karma before anything and has never compromised on values or given into any kind of temptation or deviation.” Whereas, JC Chaudhry adds that his son has taught him to be flexible and patient. He believes his son’s decision-making skills and ability to convince and express his opinions are praiseworthy.
Commenting on the latest collaboration with leading Edtech platform Byju’s, the duo explains how the association was to bring together Aakash’s offline and test preparation expertise and Byju’s online K-12 segment knowledge. Aakash Chaudhry goes on to explain that the quality of pedagogy would remain the same. He also remarks that the realm of education is steadily changing and with online education, not just students but parents also sit in on the classes and that creates a lot of pressure for online educators to continue to create their USP with high-end engagement and quality. He opines, “Having access to quality education in this country will go through a significant change. I think it was fairly limited to metro cities and state capitals before where students had to leave their hometowns and travel to distant locations. But it’s different now, with the penetration of internet and digital learning methods.” He states how AI tools can aid education, and teachers too can gain from the repeated learning and problem-solving options.
The younger Chaudhry goes on to predict that the state of formal education and degrees may soon come into question. “I think you are all aware that recently Google started accepting Google certification as fair enough qualification to give a job. Why would somebody line up for a B.Tech program or a bachelor's program if you can study completely online and get a job? I think those kinds of changes will come in with location and job markets because of the change in education,” he adds.
Thus, the pace of change in education and pedagogy have only been heightened, and not precipitated by the pandemic. While the state of online education remains distinctively evolving so is the state of work and ‘the workplace.’ In the hybrid workplace of the future, a hybrid form of education might just aid digital native employees to be well equipped for the changes that come with time.
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