Sunday, March 3, 2024

Skoodos Co-founder Shruti Verma: Guiding Parents Towards Optimal School Choices

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In today’s changing world, finding the right school for our kids is really important for parents. Skoodos is a new kind of website that helps parents choose the best school for their children based on what the child likes. It’s like having a good friend who knows a lot about schools and can suggest the best ones.

We got a chance to interview the co-founder, Shruti Verma, who made Skoodos, and learn more about how it works, the problems they’ve solved, and how it’s making a big difference in helping parents pick the right school. This interview gives us a special look into how Skoodos is changing the way we decide which school is best for our kids.

Introduction to the founder by herself

I am Shruti, co-founder of Skoodos. It went way before, and I think it went long, long ago. I started working when I was 16. Just 16. I started interning with an NGO. Then, at 18 years old, I started fully working with my mom. She has a background in social development. She has worked with women’s empowerment, skill development, and a lot of other things. And that’s how I started working full-time. And I was the youngest to do an MBA in my entire batch. I’ve done an MBA in international marketing and family business from a university in Spain. During my MBA days, I was already consulting for two types of businesses. At 23 years old, in 2019, I started a school management consultancy where we used to take over the management of the school, turn it around with marketing and operational strategies, and give it back to the management. That’s how we realized that there is a gap in the communication that is happening between the schools, the parents, and the students. So basically, every school was doing the same kind of marketing for themselves. And parents were not getting the Fair platform to kind of go around and check what was good for them. So the schools tell you if the kid is suitable for our school or not, right? You have to wait for the waitlist. You have to get into that entire thing. There’s a test, and everything else is also important. But here we wanted to change the entire narrative, wherein the schools should be equipped for the child. The child is perfect. They are different in their own ways. So, schools should be equipped with them. Every child is different, and so is every school. So, the communication cannot be the same. So that’s how we co-founded Skoodos with my mom.

Why particularly Skoodos? What does the name mean?

So Skoodos is basically the short form for ‘school dhundo’. Now we live in India, where spellings are very different in different regions of our nation. That’s why, from school dhundo, it became Skoodos. That’s how the name came into existence. But because Dundo has a different spelling, we live in a nation, we have so many languages. Dundo has a different spelling in every region of our nation. That’s why from school, Dundo, we came Skoodos

Why specifically an education field? Do you have any relevant history in education or anything else?

I am a daughter of a single mother. And for us, when we see education, and for a lot of people, not just me or my mom, education is an enabler. It enables a lot of things in life. Now, when I say education, I don’t mean degrees. I don’t mean colleges or schools. I also mean learning. So, education is very close to my heart. I wanted to do something that actually fulfilled my passion. My work should show my passion. That is one of my biggest rules that I live by. And that’s why education is one of the biggest sectors of our entire venture. Apart from those, we have two more ventures that also work in education only.

How does Skoodos identify the unique potential of each child to help parents find the most suitable school?

So basically, our platform has about 44 filters to filter out schools for kids. So let’s just take kid A and kid B. Kid A is actually very good at math, and Kid B is very good at sports. What we usually do when we think of education, when we think of school, is think of school care results. We think in that manner: what are the schools that result in the 10th or 12th standard, and all of that. But apart from that, our filters actually show a school in all-rounder format. Basically, it shows the history of the principal, who is leading, because it’s very important to know who’s leading an institution. What history do they have? What background do they come from? We have a display of the teacher, their background, what they do, where they come from, what they have studied, and what kind of education background they have. Then we don’t have a list of the top three. We have a list of six toppers. Top six because it should show its range. Then we have the entire information about indoor activities, outdoor activities, and the alumni of the school, what do they do? Right now, entire 360-degree information within a few clicks is what Scooters actually wanted to do, so we wanted to do it, so the entire idea was just to have everything done from the phone. Everything is available with a click of an app. Why should finding school, such an integral part of a child’s life, not be available in a few clicks. And that’s how we launched our app and web app. So that’s the entire conversation around the idea.

As a co-founder and group CEO, what specific strategies have you led for the success of Scooters?

I think the major strategies that we have successfully delivered are our research and development. So, we went into research and development in 2019, and until the lockdown, we spoke to about 400 schools to know what they were doing, to kind of deliver their message to the kids. Potential parents or potential kids. After the lockdown because we could not visit schools right away, at that time, we spoke to about two Lakh parents to understand what they were actually looking for. Do they really want to know just the results? Do they really want to know that if they have just ACS in the class? We spoke to them personally. I have spoken to them, and I realized that the need is much, much deeper than that. So during the entire lockdown, we did RND, our team was also there. So one of the major strategies that we have equipped ourselves with is our research and development area. I mean, that speaks for itself. We have over 20,000 schools registered on our platform right now, and we have over 20,000 million parents on our platform within two years.

So how did you build a trust between parents and school for yourself?

For schools, obviously, there is a team that takes care of the sales part of it and marketing part of it. But rather than selling so we don’t believe in selling anything. What we do is we talk to them, we identify by where the problem lies, we identify the pain areas, and that’s how we speak to them, that this is the need of the art. So after COVID, people were doing digital, they started doing everything digital. But somehow the marketing conversation that needed to be done was not getting done. So that’s how we speak to school. We have a major network, like I told you about, one of our other ventures called Selling Club. That is the major network of education leaders all around the world. So we spoke to them as well. That’s how they are associated with other thing as well. As far as the parents trust is concerned, any consumer, any end user, they require transparency and information. Information that is valid, information that is not going to keep burning their money. So what happens is once you Koibi platform, where I’m not talking about any platform, anything that you’d want to gain access to, you have to pay. So for parents, it is entirely free. We don’t charge parents anything. We don’t charge our end users anything. They get the entire thing. They just have to log in to access the entire information. They can get information. Any number of schools they want to compare, they can compare up to three schools within their own parameters. That’s about it. That’s how we got the trust of it. We have a team that works specifically with parents. They support parents on calls and emails as well, in case any parent is having any issue with a specific requirement. And they want our team to kind of counsel them. That’s also done by ourselves.

What marketing campaigns or strategies has been particularly successful in promoting Skoodos and reaching their appropriate audience?

Lot of! Let’s just say we do a lot of article-based SEO when our team actually does the R&D. Like I said, the R &D is a major part of it. So, we do write a lot of articles. We do write a lot of personalized tips and tricks for parents as well. We do a lot of different engaging activities. So recently we did a competition called Twinkle-Twinkle was it was one of the first competition for preschoolers. So now these kids were aged from two to five, and we had over 500 registration, 500 to 600 registration within a span of 20 days. And these kids participated. These parents participated. And the best part about this competition is that they don’t have to come and perform and the kid does not get a stage fright. They are comfortable in their home. They have to submit a video. We have a jury and they do that. We awarded tuition fees to the first winner, one year tuition fees of the school. So, all of these activities keep going on. These are the marketing strategies that we have. And moreover, I think the basic level of understanding that school is the start of the education at any level, even 10th or twelfth, it kind of takes care of your college choices or even preschool. We have all the schools from all the boards, for all the standards, even virtual schools, so parents get that entire plethora of choices. It is not just restricted to CBSC or state board or residential or just day school. It is every type of school that has been registered.

Is this platform also for special children?

Special education is very close to my heart. I believe in inclusion myself. I am a big, big advocate for it. And yes, it is there for special students as well. Schools can register. Special school can also register. We do have special schools as well. They can register themselves in case there is a normal, not normal in case there is a regular board. So, for example, a school, which also has inclusive studies, they can also register themselves as special school on our platform. They just have to click a tick box and that’s about it. And we do the verification.

Could you share a heartwarming, successful story of a family that founded Idle School?

I think this was the initial days of launching Skoodos. And that was one of the first calls I got on my phone, my own phone, because we registered on Google from my phone. And I got this first call. There was this mum who called us, and she had recently moved from Pune to Ghaziabad. And she called me. She’s like, I know my kid is not that old, but I would like to know my options and I need help to navigate and understand, because this is the first time I’ll ever be searching for school. And I asked her this, that she told me that I have asked everybody; they have their own opinions and all of that. They have their opinion, but it is very limited to their choices, right? It is very limited to them. So I told her, let me help you out. I got her on Zoom call, and this is the first call ever, okay. So this is very important. I got her on Zoom call. I shared my screen and I showed her how to go about it. And I told her that navigate through, understand what is going on. I showed her the parameters and I told her that my team is going to be there till you find a school. So I told her I connected her with my team, and my team actually did it. So the kids admission should have been six months gap, but six months process to find a good school for admission. So she started her process six months before, and she was not on the last minute. Six months, my team supported with every query she had, even talking to the school, even verifying in case there was a school that had not filled up the information entirely. We were after them. That you have to fill up the there is a parent who’s searching for you and stuff like that. I was done. And that was really heartwarming. And another story could be from the thing that I’m talking about. There is this NGO in Gurgaon. So this competition was for Delhi NCR and this NGO has kids from underprivileged background and they wanted to participate. And he told me I will find sponsor and I will pay for the registration fees. I said it is completely fine if you don’t. And he was very reluctant. So the registration fees was 499 and he was reluctant oh, let me do this and if these kids actually win, I’ll be very happy. And I’ll tell you the kind of dedication these six kids had. I saw their videos, I saw how they were introducing themselves and that was really heartwarming. They actually won, by the way. They won the individual talent category. They got vouchers. This is why education entire sector is so important. Imagine giving kids who do not have the opportunity, this opportunity and they could showcase their talent with over what the event happened with 300 people. So yeah, that is how it is. These are two stories

We have also heard about scams in the education sector that happens like fake scholarships, etc. So how do you manage to keep parents and students away from all this?

So what we do is, our entire system is not bombarding with marketing messages or selling messages or we don’t bombard our parents that way. We have a newsletter that happens once a month. We send it to them. We have an official ID. We tell them and there’s a privacy policy. On our entire system, the web app that you see is very robust. A lot of people have asked for the data that we have. But we are very strict with our data. That is one thing. So our data stays with us. We have a privacy policy. We have our Nd signed with the parents when they click login automatically. So we claim and we tell them in the clauses that we will not share their data. That’s one. And with the schools as well. It happens both ways. Safe. Even with schools, their information is safe with us because we sign agreements. We sign non-disclosure agreement with them. Same with parents. So nothing from our side is bombardment or spamming them with messages. We don’t do that.

 All right, so we have heard that you have been nominated for 30 under 30 title. So if you get it, what qualities of yourself do you believe helped achieve it?

I think the biggest quality that I have is the passion and dedication. I mean, it will sound very common, but I know the passion and dedication that it has taken to kind of co found about three ventures altogether in one goal. And now we are at six, by the way. So it was always like, ever since I actually could learn about work, I was 16 years of age, and from that time till now, there was not a single day that I was not working. I’m not talking about just sitting on one place and working, but actually working. There was not a day that I was not innovating. There was not a day that I was not actually seeing what could be the growth. So I’ve always been a learner. No matter how old I get, I’ll always be a learner. That entire passion for learning and that entire passion to make it is so driven and it comes from our mother. I think that is the thing that comes from our mother. So, yeah, those are the qualities, I think, that will help me become 30 and then 30 that road.

So do you have any visionary plans for Skoodos in the future, like initiatives or projects or funding?

So in terms of funding, we are bootstrapped as of now. We do plan to get into the funding, we do plan to get seed funding and all of that. And future goals for Skoodos is that obviously we’d like to go international and our R&D has already started. I think it started last year around March. So, to go international, the RND has already started. So, yeah, we are planning to launch ourselves worldwide so that no page is unturned.

Can you share a memorable moment or a milestone that reaffirmed your belief in Skoodos?

I remember I was talking to a school, a very big school, and we were having a conversation, we were talking about wellness of kids. It was a very normal conversation. Regarding education, mental health and things like that. And that person actually came from a reference and stuff like that. And after that, I think the conversation was done. I mean, a month or so, we did not talk about it, I did not introduce. So I don’t believe in the idea of bombardment. I believe in the idea of need and desire. If somebody needs it, we’ll get it, right? So I don’t push people. I don’t do that. So any of my sales team also do not push people. That’s one thing that I have integrated very well. And after a month or so, my junior gets a call that I want to subscribe to Skoodos. I had a word with Shruti and it is because of her passionate conversation I had with her, it is why I want my school to be displayed on Skoodos. So, yeah, that is memorable. I mean, there have been many, but as a co founder, we hardly get our chances to celebrate wins.

As a co founder, what did you learn in this whole journey?

Oh, so much. I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is anybody can have a bad day. Everybody of us actually do have bad days. We do have good days. I think not letting the bad days affect the innerself. So it might be only 4 seconds of your day. 4 seconds; things did not go according to you, and it can ruin your entire mood. So I’m a big perfectionist. I was. Now I’m trying to learn that perfection is not the key of a good leader. It is to be delivered at time. It is to be things that needs to be done will happen. My biggest lesson is perfection might just ruin that path of success because you might delay yourself, because you need something to be so perfect. And nothing is perfect. That’s how the human is to Earth. That entire thing actually makes sense.

In a world where choices are plentiful and making the right decisions for our children is paramount, Skoodos emerges as a guiding star for parents. With its personalized approach and user-friendly platform, it simplifies the complex process of selecting the perfect school for each child. Skoodos’s commitment to understanding children’s preferences and needs, and its dedication to transforming the education selection process, marks a significant step towards ensuring a brighter and more tailored future for the young learners. As we conclude this insightful conversation with the team behind Skoodos, it’s clear that their innovative solution is paving the way for more informed and fulfilling educational journeys for children across the board.

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