Published: 15th October 2020
How this 26-year-old from Pune is procuring low-cost tabs for government school students to study during the pandemic
Pune-based Ankit Virdi launched EduReach India in August to help further his mission. And currently, he has targetted two schools in Pune whose students he will help with the funds he receives
After moving to a new house in Pune, Ankit Virdi was in search of a second-hand washing machine, fridge and all of those things that make living easy. Well, at least, he had a maid to help with everything. But one day, during a conversation with her, she came up with a request of her own. She was wondering how much a second-hand laptop would cost her. Upon probing, Ankit found out that she had four grandchildren who study in a government school in Belawadi and were missing out on academics because they had no means to access it. To add to their woes, her son, who was a daily wage labourer, had lost his job. Ankit generously gave away his tablet, but when the 26-year-old thought about the bigger picture, he knew that his generosity would fall short when it comes to the problem at hand — the digital divide when it comes to academics, especially during this pandemic. Thus started EduReach India in August this year.
Knocking on China's doors
Though Ankit is working as a Senior Design Engineer at Varroc Lighting Systems currently, he was working with Panasonic earlier, helping them design Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers — particularly its main controller and an LCD screen. "I was in touch with vendors from China for this. So I went back to them to procure a custom-made low-cost tablet made for about Rs 4,000," says the youngster. But alas, the anti-China sentiment in India began and the import duty on the tab went up 70 per cent. "But believe it or not, it is still less than anything that one can buy here so I went with it," he reasons and adds that he tried procuring them from Singapore and Taiwan too, but they were offering tablets in the range of Rs 12,000.
The tablet | (Pic: EduReach India)
The next step was deciding who the beneficiaries of the tablet, that has a minimum three-year-span, would be. With over two years of experience at Make A Difference foundation that works in the field of education, Ankit was on familiar ground again. Yet, after putting in a lot of thought, he chose Saraswati Bhuwan English School and Mahatma Gandhi School in Pune, both catering to children from low-income households. Now, who were going to be the benefactors? Thus, started his plea to raise funds so that he could procure more low-cost tablets and distribute them among the students.
Help is welcome from one and all
As of now, Ankit has distributed five tablets to Saraswati Bhuwan English School and six to Mahatma Gandhi School, and he is just getting started. Apart from raising more funds, he recently called for volunteers. "It is not enough that we give them tablets. We needed to do more. Thus, I planned that one volunteer will serve as a teacher to three students and offer supplementary classes," says the alumni of Fr Conceicao Rodrigues Institute of Technology, Navi Mumbai, who pursued his Bachelor's in Electronics and Electrical Engineering there. This kills two birds with one stone, the poor quality of education offered by government schools is compensated with and they are able to keep a track of the tablets, whether they are really being used for its intended purpose. But for the latter, he has devised another plan. The tablet comes with STEM development pre-loaded apps, a firewall that curbs the students' ability to download anything and calls are disabled too. Within two days, he received a whopping 60 applicants for his call.
A student with the tab | (Pic: EduReach India)
"There is certain donation fatigue that I have noticed in people, because, during the lockdown, they have donated a lot. So my next strategy would be to approach the corporates," says Ankit who was born in Mumbai and raised in Indore. Despite these, he successfully raised over two lakh rupees for Mahatma Gandhi School via Milaap. He even got celebrities like actor Rohit Roy and stand-up comedian and National Award-winning lyricist Varun Grover to help with reaching out to more and more people via their social media pages.
Ankit envisions integrating the tablet with a token number in such a way that with the help of the latter, donors can track who the device is being used by to build a beneficiary-benefactor connection. Until then, it's all about raising more funds so that more children can be benefitted.
For more on them, check out instagram.com/edureachin