Published: 06th November 2019
This academy can help bring out the writer in you!
Saket Kumar, Founder of Education and Career Times, explains how his startup is helping people hone their writing skills to a great degree
"Are you a housewife or are you employed?" That's a common question that women in India get asked after they're married. Many qualified women have to leave their jobs because of other responsibilities. But with Saket Kumar's startup Education and Career Times, women can empower themselves with writing skills that can fetch them flexible jobs. Excerpts from an interview...
What exactly is Education and Career Times? What is its mission?
No matter who we are or what we do, writing is an essential element in our daily schedule. We write emails, text messages, social posts, shopping lists, exam papers, news stories and articles. It is a part of how we work, how we remember, how we learn, and how we communicate. In short, writing is critical for our existence of the universe. Education and Career Times’ mission is to bring a paradigm shift in the way people write. Our intent is to help everyone convey their ideas with good clarity and also generate an economic opportunity out of the same.
How did you come up with the idea? What triggered it?
In 2010, I met with a severe accident and was forced to take complete bed-rest for two months. Bored to death, I created a website and wrote my first blog ‘Careers after Graduation.’ This is how ECT was born in 2010. The idea back then was to increase awareness about lesser-known career options. Within a few months of its publishing, the blog started ranking near the top of Google for relevant keywords, attracting global traffic to the website. It was also my first encounter with digital marketing. However, I went back to college as soon as I recovered. In 2013, I started a digital marketing agency after working for two years in leading organisations in India.
The objective was to help small organisations go global with the help of internet technologies. Hiring content writers was the most difficult challenge in running the agency. For instance, we conducted a written test for around 450 professionals from English (Hons), Mass Communication, and also those in the teaching background for hiring content writers.
Yet, we could shortlist only 12 candidates for the next round of interviews! We first started in-house training in content writing to run our agency smoothly. Quickly, it evolved as a full-fledged training programme and in one year, we had completed around 26 batches!
What are your affiliations and partnerships?
Our organisation has been recognised by the Government of India as a startup. We are also assisting the Government of Delhi in implementing an ‘Entrepreneurial Mindset’ training programme for the students of government schools. We have conducted corporate training programmes for employees of top companies such as Tech Mahindra, and also helped them refine their writing skills.
Learning the right way: The institute has a wide array of training programmes that can help students become great content writers
How has your initial career in writing helped you along the way? Has it had any sort of bearing on the larger scheme of things?
My initial career in writing helped ECT with two things - recognition of the fact that content writing has an enormous economic opportunity, and the work flexibility that allows individuals to strike a much-required balance in life, and eventually do things that make them happy!
List out three of ECT's most powerful functions/roles. What steps have you taken to ensure that each of these are met?
Firstly, transforming our participant’s writing style. There are eight unique and thought-provoking assignments that assess our participants’ current writing style. Individual and detailed feedback on every assignment help our participants identify their strengths and weaknesses. After working on all of the assignments, students experience a significant change in their writing style.
Secondly, making our students market-ready. Integration of an internship opportunity helps students validate their theoretical learning, and subsequently get ‘hands-on experience’ in content writing projects. The feedback from the clients during the internship further strengthens their writing skills and boosts their confidence, too.
Thirdly, availing of economic opportunities. Post completion of the certification, ECT helps participants with freelance content writing projects and even full-time job opportunities in the same. We also help participants write, publish and sell their book if they have a story to tell!
What makes your startup stand apart?
Our reader-centric approach has helped us differentiate our methods from the rest of the world! We actively seek feedback from our participants and work on them immediately to fulfill stated as well as the unstated needs of our target audience. Action speaks louder than words! So far, we have enrolled 340 students. Out of these, just one student requested a refund of fees, and three students left the course after attending a few classes.
The remaining 336 participants have completed the course and praised our work as well! The recognition given to us by the government means that we have to send self-audited reports on the process of certification.
Talking about field, where exactly does your startup align itself? Education, training, employment, or perhaps all of them?
As of now, we focus primarily on training and employment. We may be willing to move around and consider other courses of action soon, if things pan out according to plan!
A majority of your target audience are women. Why is that?
In the US, 43% of highly qualified women with children leave their high-paying jobs to meet family responsibilities. In India, this number is much higher. It is widely accepted that it becomes too difficult for these women to rejoin the corporate world. While working in our agency for the past five years, we realised that a lot of these women seek flexible job opportunities that can allow them to balance their family and job responsibilities.
On the other hand, companies face challenges in hiring writers who understand the complex requirements of digital and technology-based businesses. No university or institute offers such a comprehensive content writing course. That is where the ECT training comes into the picture. ECT helps the participants upgrade their written and communication skills, and connects them with those organisations that are looking for skilled writers!
What kind of services or training do you provide?
‘Content Writing Training’ is our flagship programme. We also offer training in ‘Digital Marketing’ and ‘Personality Development’ that compliments the content writing course, especially for entrepreneurs or fresh job-seekers!
Where did the funding for this project come from? Are you doing it to truly help the women, or is it also a means to generate income?
It is a bootstrapped startup, though there is a pre-approved funding facility available from the Government of India, for recognised startups, as well as from our banking partner! However, we do have adequate funds to meet all of our immediate expansion requirements.
The primary goal is to improve the writing skills of our target audience. Our education system and society focus a lot on verbal communication skills. It is time to let everyone know the importance of written communication as well.
What sort of obstacles did you initially face and how did you overcome them?
It was difficult to convince people that their writing skills can be improved. Most of them had never heard of such a thing! On one hand, some assumed that you could become a good writer only if you are gifted with exceptional writing skills or creativity.
On the other hand, many thought that anyone can write. Both assumptions were not valid. We overcame this hurdle through an effective 360-degree marketing communication programme. We also communicated the importance of good writing skills to our target audience. We took a written test of interested candidates and gave feedback on how they can make their writing more effective. It finally helped us show tangible evidence of how one’s writing can be improved if appropriately guided!
Tell us about your immediate plans for this year!
We aim to have a physical training centre in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata before the end of the current financial year! Apart from that, we would also like to strengthen our current programmes.