‘Mindseed’ aims to put an end to factory-modeled education
A school that has made a difference! 'Mindseed' sows seeds...
Once branded as ‘dyslexic,’ Prasad Dhumal, is today a self taught individual, a serial entrepreneur and a visionary. Entrepreneurship is innate in him. In school he sold mix CDs, in college he applied his Statistics and Economics knowledge to run an asset management company. At age 19 he convinced the Italian company Carrera Jeans to hire him to start their Indian operations. After a year of running their operations he decided he could do it better on his own and started his own supply chain management company. After exiting that business, he went to business school and started Mindseed next. Sounds interesting? Read on more from Baishali Mukherjee…..
Starting Mindseed was in a lot of ways deeply personal for me. I am a failure of the factory model of education. If you spoke to a seven or ten years old Prasad, you would have thought that he was a bright kid but that’s not what my teachers thought. They identified that my spellings and handwriting was weak and neglected to notice that I was very strong in mathematics. So they mounted a campaign to keep pointing out areas where I was not good. What’s worse is that they succeeded; I passed my tenth grade board exams as the second in my class, from the bottom. I was diagnosed with ‘dyslexia’ and told that this was an incurable condition, so not only was I dumb but I could not get better. All the while they neglected my precocious talent for Mathematics and logical thinking.
Working to ensure the end of the factory model of education
I started Mindseed to ensure that no other child has to go through what I did- that instead of asking the child to adapt to the school, the school should adapt to the child. That there should be a school that moves at the child’s pace, this school shouldn’t discourage any child by moving too fast in topics that is built on skills the child is yet to master. Also the school should ensure that no child is bored by having to do things that he has long ago mastered. The school should be ‘just right’ for each child, keeping them challenged but not overwhelmed. If we build a school like that, we thought, there would be no more Prasad’s left behind.
The fundamental belief with which we build this organization is that there is a genius hidden in each child and it is our job to unearth it and make it visible to the child and his parents, to give wings to that genius and explore each child’s full potential. All the differences between us and other pre-schools stem from this fundamental difference. Thus, we are bringing our mission to life and working to ensure the end of the factory model of education.
Child is at the centre of the classroom, not the teacher
It is my belief that pre-schools should build spaces and infrastructure that provoke the child’s thinking, immerses him in a topic. At Mindseed our classrooms are called Mind Stations and are segregated based on skills. The other thing you would notice is that the spaces are built so that the child is at the centre of the classroom, not the teacher.
The people behind
We started very small with just two pre-schools in 2012 and needed only Rs 15-20 lakh to get underway. There are many people who helped in this journey- my brother Amrut who is the co-founder and the brains behind how we brought this vision to life, my parents who have served both as inspiration and support, my team who took a risk in joining us and bringing this idea to reality, my professors from INSEAD who helped and continue to help me think through, and our angel investors.
Today we have impacted the lives of over 7500 children and have stirred the thought of education revolution in over 225 teachers. Mindseed is currently a network of about 50 pre-schools across Maharashtra and Gujarat. Mindseed has approximately 300 resources.
The recognition and support
Our funding started as a fortuitous conversation with some of our professors. Amrut was discussing about our company and its prospects with Srikant Datar, senior associate Dean at Harvard Business School and I was doing the same with Partick Turner, my entrepreneurship professor from INSEAD. Both of them suggested, almost simultaneously, that we seem to have proved out our idea and now it is time to take some capital on. When we asked them about their journey, they both said, “Start with me, here’s US$ 20K.” We thought, “Wow! Here are some of the brightest minds in the world and they think we are really on to something, so much so that they are putting their money, their faith in us.”
This snowballed into more professors from Duke and INSEAD joining. Raja Parthasarathy, an MD at Morgan Stanley, also an INSEAD alum led to another group of great people including Sanjay Shah, co-country head at Morgan Stanley (MS), SG Shyam Sundar also from Morgan Stanley, A Arumugam who headed Rothschild in Asia and others. A big reason why everyone took this decision was that we were finally rethinking education and it’s a struggle that is all too real for any parent.
In addition to adding more schools which we will continue to do we are growing by listening closely to what the parents want from us, testing those opportunities and building solutions to them. There is a demand for keeping children for longer with us. Responding to that, we piloted day-care last year and strengthened our offering to launch it this year. Parents are also coming to us saying that now that our kids have graduated from Mindseed to schools they are facing the factory system again. When we dug deeper we discovered that by making the curriculum ‘just right’ for each child it ensured that children at Mindseed were learning a lot faster than their peers. The parents want their children to continue with us and learn as fast as they could, so we are piloting an afterschool service where this learning could continue. As this experiment matures we will launch it more broadly.
Would you put your money into remodelled factory school in our country? Please share your views.