Empowering Accessible Education: Ex-IAS Gauri Kumar's Journey and her EdTech startup Scholar Planet
Brandedgupshup: Good day, everyone. Today, we have the honour of speaking with Gauri Kumar, a distinguished ex-IAS officer and the founder of Scholar Planet, an innovative EdTech startup. Thank you for joining us, Gauri Kumar.
Gauri Kumar: Thank you for having me. It's my pleasure.
Brandedgupshup: Let's start by discussing your remarkable career as an IAS officer. You held various key positions within the Indian government, including Secretary to the Government of India in ministries such as Labour & Employment, Cabinet Secretariat, and Home Affairs (Border Management). Could you share some insights into your journey and the impact you made during your tenure?
Gauri Kumar: Certainly. My journey as an IAS officer was both challenging and rewarding. Throughout my career, I had the opportunity to work in diverse ministries and contribute to shaping policies and strategies at the highest level of governance. My work in areas such as labour and employment, border management, and cabinet affairs allowed me to make a significant impact on India's development and progress.
I believe that effective governance is crucial for the welfare of the nation, and it was my privilege to serve the country in various capacities. I worked closely with stakeholders, experts, and government officials to drive positive change and ensure efficient administration. The experience and expertise I gained during my tenure continue to guide my endeavors today.
Brandedgupshup: Could you tell us about your involvement in different sectors like education, health, etc?
Gauri Kumar: I had the opportunity to work in diverse sectors and in key positions at different levels of governance, from Local Self Government, to the State and Federal government and as the Representative on the Boards of International Bodies, Banks and Companies. My expertise across social sectors like Education, Health, Urban Development, Labour & Employment; Industries & Mines, Environment & Forests, Finance, Home Affairs, Agriculture and Textiles, has enabled and shaped my holistic approach in public policy and development. I remained committed to fostering excellence in the public sector companies as the Member/Chairperson of the Public Enterprises Selection Board, post retirement.
Additionally, I am the Founder Trustee of Vayah Vikas, an organization based in Bengaluru that focuses on the well-being of the elderly. This initiative reflects my commitment to social causes and ensuring the welfare of all segments of society.
Moreover, my involvement with various prestigious schools and institutions talks about my dedication to fostering quality education. Education is a fundamental pillar for the growth of individuals and the nation as a whole. By actively participating in educational initiatives, I strive to contribute to building a strong foundation for our future generations.
Brandedgupshup: Your academic achievements are also noteworthy. You hold a Master's in Public Administration from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Could you share how your academic pursuits have influenced your career and initiatives?
Gauri Kumar: My academic pursuits have played a crucial role in shaping my career and the initiatives I undertake. As a Harvard alumnus, I was awarded the Littauer Fellowship by Harvard University for outstanding achievement and dedication which was a recognition of my commitment to excellence and public service. It further reinforced my belief in the importance of continuous learning and staying abreast of the latest developments in the field.
The Multi-sectoral learnings and experience came very handy in my role as Director General, NIFT, towards academic consolidation, as the chief architect of the National Institute of Fashion Technology Act, which accorded the status of an Institution of National Importance to NIFT.
My time at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government provided me with a comprehensive understanding of public administration and policy-making. It expanded my horizons and equipped me with the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle complex challenges in governance.
My academic background allows me to bring a multidimensional perspective to my initiatives, ensuring that they are well-informed, innovative, and aligned with the evolving needs of society.
Brandedgupshup: Let's now delve into your entrepreneurial venture, Scholar Planet. As an advocate for accessible education, you founded this EdTech startup. Could you tell us more about Scholar Planet and how it differentiates itself from other EdTech apps?
Gauri Kumar: Scholar Planet is an integrated learning platform that aims to provide equitable access to quality education for all, leveraging technology and strong data analytics. It stands out from other EdTech apps through its unique features and offerings. Here are some of the key differentiators:
Gamified learning: Scholar Planet offers a socially engaging experience for kids by incorporating gamified elements. Children can play with friends, earn badges, and compete for a spot on the leaderboard. This approach makes learning enjoyable and motivates students to actively participate.
Easing pain points for content creators: Teachers can easily generate content for global consumption by uploading an excel sheet or images. Scholar Planet is working on patent-pending technology to simplify the creation of videos, making it easier for teachers to contribute their expertise.
Equitable access to quality education: Scholar Planet aims to bridge the education gap by providing affordable access to quality education. It forms partnerships with state governments and the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan to ensure that children from all geographies can benefit from its offerings. SP believes that in order to catch up on social indicators and to be able to get holistic outcomes, one needs to make interventions across sectors and adopt a collaborative approach.
Multiple user-centric: Scholar Planet serves as an integrated e-learning platform for the entire education ecosystem. It fosters collaboration between students, teachers, parents, and schools/institutions to support children in building their future.
Empowering and assisting teachers: Scholar Planet aims to reconcile the disconnect between conventional teaching in schools and student expectations. It does so by leveraging technology to assist in reskilling and upskilling teachers, enabling them to deliver effective education.
Personalized dashboards: The platform provides personalized and customized reports on dashboards for students, teachers, parents, schools, and institutions. AI-based real-time data analytics offer insights that aid informed decision-making and help individuals select optimal pathways.
Future-ready kids: Scholar Planet focuses on providing time-bound sessions and MCQ-format questions to help students learn and practice at their own pace. It also provides access to question banks for Olympiads and competitive exams, enabling students to test themselves regularly.
Cost-effective: Scholar Planet has a low cost of development and integration of the latest technology, making it an affordable option for schools, parents, and students. This affordability contributes to its scalability and wider accessibility.
Ad-free app: To ensure an uninterrupted learning experience, Scholar Planet is completely ad-free. This eliminates distractions for children and addresses parents' concerns about inappropriate pop-ups or interruptions.
Global outreach and recognition: Scholar Planet serves as a medium for peer teachers to reach a global audience with their content. Teachers can assign assignments and quizzes to their students, enabling outreach and engagement beyond traditional boundaries.
Feedback from students: Teachers can receive feedback from students on the content they upload, allowing them to make necessary alterations and improvements.
Offline and sync: Students can complete their assignments and quizzes offline and sync their progress for submission when they have good connectivity. Additionally, both students and teachers can review scores and access answer keys with just a click.
These features make Scholar Planet a comprehensive and user-centric EdTech platform that addresses the evolving needs of students, teachers, and parents.
Brandedgupshup: What about the partnerships you have done so far?
Gauri Kumar: We are formally partnering with 50 schools of Kendriya Vidyalaya sangathan and 10 from UT of Ladakh, on a pilot basis. We expect the personalized dashboards to catalyze informed choices and career pathways in an ‘I am okay’ mode and with no child left behind.
Brandedgupshup: Thank you for sharing those insights, Gauri Kumar. Your illustrious career, academic achievements, and dedication to public service are truly inspiring. Scholar Planet reflects your commitment to fostering accessible education and making a positive impact on society. We wish you continued success in your endeavours.
Gauri Kumar: Thank you for the kind words. It has been my pleasure to discuss my journey and Scholar Planet with you today. I hope our efforts in the education sector contribute to a brighter future for generations to come.