Interview

School Diary: Made in India for the World

Ashish Chaturvedi, Founder –School Diary explains how the pandemic has made schools realize the importance of digital systems

How School Diary is making a dent in the EdTech world?

80-85% of schools in India are yet to adopt digitization in processes. The remaining 15-20% of the schools have adopted different solutions over the years to cater to their specific needs, and, in the process, have ended up replicating data at multiple places and spending a lot of effort to keep everything in sync. The pandemic has changed the status quo in education for good.

It has made digital functioning a widely accepted phenomenon. Be it maintaining student information, engaging parents on day to day progress, conducting online classes and exams, collecting online payments etc., schools are eagerly accepting digital alternatives. This is also making them realize the humongous effort it takes to operate multiple systems for specific tasks, thus making them open to explore more sophisticated and streamlined approach to digitization.

This is where School Diary® is impacting their lives by providing them a one window, mobile app driven, solution that solves all their administrative and communication needs, from basic school operations, parent engagement, fees collections, performance and reporting, online classes and assessments, transport and tracking etc. The icing on the cake is that the solution is available in vernacular languages to cater to small & non-English medium schools as well, thus making it very easy for schools and parents to adopt.

How Covid-19 impacted the business and how did School Diary adapt/innovate?

Covid-19has disrupted two of our most stable business verticals – Pre-Schools/Daycares segment and Bus tracking. K12 schools were impacted too initially as the school operations came to stand still in the early days. However, we were able to intuitively understand the need of the hour and adapted to the situation, with new innovations.

School Diary® recognized the need for schools to continue with education and created a self- hosted, secure platform for conducting online classes while bringing in the convenience to connect seamlessly without worrying about URLs and passwords for every class. School Diary® introduced automatic attendance for students and by default only allowing students to connect via their official names. This was a big boon for teachers who struggled big time initially to figure out who all are attending the classes as students.

School Diary® introduced integrated e-exams that not only allowed schools to conduct online exams but also automatically grade them and make it available as part of performance report for school records and as an input for the parents. School Diary® also realized that students are stuck at home and bored with digital stuff being thrown at them and thus introduced e-store, a feature where students & parents can discover good non-academic books, STEM toys & other useful services to keep themselves engaged in these times.

How have you been handling your workforce during lockdown?

We started ‘work from home’ for our employees from Mar 2nd 2020, much before the nation-wide lockdown happened on Mar 25th as we could see the mayhem coming our way. Thanks to that proactive approach, all of our employees were able to safely be back home, at their native places, well in time. So far none of our employees or their families have been affected because of the pandemic and that is one comfort we take out of the whole situation.

On the flip side, keeping employee morale and regular engagement high was important. The management took initiatives to have regular team calls with everyone and one to one calls with each individual to understand their issues. Regular team building exercises were done to engage employees in a fun way to help the bonding and reduce WFH related stress. We also ensured that all of our employees were paid timely salaries without any reduction to keep them afloat in these difficult times. Annual bonuses and performance incentives were released in full to everyone irrespective of their performances.

What are the plans of School Diary in expanding their business in India/abroad?

School Diary® is proudly ‘made in India for the world’ product. All our existing international and Indian customers are very appreciative of the benefits and the ease of use they derive out of School Diary.
Internationally we are already live in 10+ countries across Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East and South America. We are aggressively working towards our goal of having our first few customers in USA by end of FY2021.
Our goal is to reach 5 million customers in next 3 years with 3 million users coming from our international business.

What are the key challenges for digital transformation in schools and what would your advice be to counter these challenges?

The K12 education has been stagnant for over the past 50-70 years. The same traditional pedagogy and methods are still being used for classroom teaching, after all these years. Most of the schools are still using pen and paper-based systems to manage their student information, fee and accounts as well as communication. Teachers and staff are not technically trained or are not internet savvy to adapt quickly to the changing ecosystem.

Second, is a mindset challenge that we observed. Most Indian school are unwilling to pay for or invest in technology enabled systems but instead would depend on hiring more manpower to do the job, which, in the long run, is more expensive and less efficient.

Thanks to the pandemic and the reluctant adoption technology, most schools are realizing the significance and the potential of digital systems as the future. They have come to see the benefits of the process through central student information management, online education and exams, parent engagement, online fee collections etc. and they are most likely going to continue using them even post COVID-19 lockdown is over. I feel schools should invest in new technologies that increase student engagement, bring innovative content, reduce manual effort of teachers, while being easy for teachers to adopt. Schools also should earmark some budget to try new methods, tools, trainings and technologies every year to keep looking out for the best solutions that can help them increase the overall quality of education.

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