Open Pathshala Helping Indians Learn More Regional Languages From The Comfort Of Their Homes

Language is something that sets us apart from other animals. Had humans never been gifted with the ability to communicate using a structured set of ordered sounds and noises, we might still be living a primitive existence, a basic hunter-gatherer lifestyle consisting of days of running after beasts which are physically superior to us humans.
Would we ever be able to progress as a species if we were never able to communicate with each other in an organised, developed way? Probably not. India is a land where we speak almost 22 official languages. Many people always tend or dream to learn more than one language.
There are many reasons you should learn more than one language:
Career advancement: Learning multiple languages enables you to work/do business in multiple countries, which will make you valuable to employers.
Travelling: Knowing the language of the region you are travelling in, helps you in having a more immersive experience.
Working out your brain: Learning a new language effectively exercises your brain, and makes you think in ways you probably haven’t thought before. This establishes new chemical pathways in your brain.
Medical benefits: Studies show that knowing more than one language can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia by a few years.
Today we are presenting an exclusive interview of a young and innovative startup Open Pathshala is based in Mumbai, India.
This startup is offering online classes to train its users who are interested to learn other regional languages of India that too from the comfort of their home.
Lets see what the founders of this venture has to speak about their journey.
1.What is the Name of Your Venture? Any specific reason for this name?

The name of my startup is Open Pathshala. Pathshala means a school. It is an open school – without boundaries, where anyone can come to learn. The plan is to make this an online platform where anyone can learn any Indian language, irrespective of geographical or other barriers. 

2.Who is your target Audience/clients?
The target audience is hobbyist learners, travelers who travel to different locations and hence they need to learn some basics of the local language, job goers who have moved to a different city in a different state, NRIs and their children who don’t have access to the tutor who can teach them their mother tongue.

3.Where is your venture based (city, state, country) & What are your geographical target areas?
Open Pathshala is based in Mumbai, India. Since this being an online platform, there is no geographical barrier. Though the current set of students come from metro cities of India and some from US and Europe.

4.What problems does your venture resolve? What are your products or services?
Open Pathshala provides on demand classes for learning a regional Indian language and cultural courses related to India. Language learning, specifically regional language learning is a pretty unorganized sector in India. We plan to bring top tutors under one online platform so as to make language learning accessible. No matter where the student is, learning from a tutor with diverse experience and tailor-made curriculum is always possible at Open Pathshala. Students can learn through recorded video tutorials or Skype based interactive Live Classes to learn a language. As for language tutors, Open Pathshala gives them a global platform where they can share their knowledge.

5.Share the idea or story behind the venture. How did it came to an existence? What motivated you to start your own venture?

I always wanted to build something that could make people’s life simple, that could help them solve their problem. Initially, Open Pathshala was positioned as a platform for school students to watch video tutorials and understand their school subjects better. We decided to start with Sanskrit as we found there were hardly any resources available for it and also, that would make us stand out with other companies. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out for us. Instead of school students, we were getting a lot of hobbyist learners who were interested in our services. We re-positioned this platform into a hobbyist language learning platform as we could see a demand from that side. Once the video tutorials were in place, we started offering Live Classes, where a student could learn from a personal tutor at flexible times. As the demand grew, we launched group classes and then Indian cultural courses like Introduction to Vedas, Ayurveda, and philosophical courses like Bhagavad Gita.
6.Who are your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
There are very few notable platforms which offer services for learning Indian languages. But in case of global language learning is considered, Duolingo, Babel and CultureAlley can be considered as competitors. All of them provide app (machine) based learning. Although it is good a point to start, to really attain mastery in a language, you need to learn from a human. That’s how you speak a language –  by practicing it with someone who knows it already. This is where Open Pathshala stands out. The Live Classes give you a chance to learn from best tutors at a flexible schedule – on demand!

7.How did you identify your co-founder? Tell us some thing about your co-founder/s
Rahul Dolas is the founder at Open Pathshala. He is a software engineer by education. After working for 2 years at a startup, he started working on the idea of Open Pathshala at the age of 23.

8.How did you hire your first team members? What skills Do you want in your employees/team?

The first team members were friends and common friends! First of all, our visions should align. If even they believe that we need to work on the problem which we are solving, then that is the most important aspect. Skills are important but they come later. If someone believes in an idea, he/she will spend considerable time to upgrade their skills to contribute to the solution of the problem.
When we decided to start with Sanskrit language, a friend connected me to Sanhita Joshi, who is brilliant at Sanskrit language. With her help, we developed a video course and later on added bunch of other Sanskrit tutors to the platform who all teach online. She currently handles the academics part of the venture.
9.What expansion plans are you looking for the next 2 years, next 5 years?
We started with Sanskrit, and now, we are looking to apply the same working model to other Indian languages. For next two years, the goal is to develop content for regional Indian languages and study the market to develop effective language learning solutions. Since it’s a new market, we will be doing a lot of creative experiments to see what works best with our students.

10.Where do you want to see yourself in next 10 years?
We want to be the premier place to learn not just languages but music, history and arts. It will be truly an Open Pathshala where a student could connect to an expert live to learn something from him/her.

11.What are your goals over the next 1, 3, 6 and 12 months?
The immediate goals are to create more courses in Sanskrit language and launch various cultural courses that brings the philosophical and traditional side of Indian culture to the world.

12.Have you raised any funding? Or have any plans for the funding?
The startup is bootstrapped. We are open for receiving funding.

13.What were the problems you faced during the starting days and how did you resolve them?
I, being from a technical background, was comfortable in building technical stuff. But understanding the market and identifying the actual target audience took a little time. We were fortunate to shift the pivot to something that works without burning out. Taking feedback from your customers and delivering what they want was the most important thing. That took our idea from point A to point B, which being totally different than we imagined.

14.What was the most challenging part of your journey till now? How did you overcome those challenges?

Changing the pivot of the idea was the challenging part. Though it turned out to be a great decision until now. Our product was made for school students and it wasn’t working. Things didn’t work even after visiting dozens of schools and classes. After talking to some of our current students, who were hobbyist learners, we decided to start Skype based one to one classes and focusing entirely on the hobbyist language learning market. Even that was challenging in the beginning. But things started to work well once we polished that idea along the way.
15.Are you married, single or in a relationship?

16.What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?

As a startup founder, there is no thing such as non-work time! If I find some free time, I spend it on doing photography, or playing the guitar. I also hit the gym regularly to remain fit.
17.Whats your favorite food & holiday destination?
I’m constantly trying new food items – specially desserts and milkshakes. There is no clear favorite but the choice would slightly lean towards Italian food. I like exploring historical places like Rome or Hampi.

18.Whom do you consider your idol or biggest motivator?
I would say my biggest motivator is Sachin Tendulkar. Staying true to your passion along the way to achieve your dreams, no matter how long it takes, is what I learned from him.

19.What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

The major difference is the ability to take risk and be self driven. And not just that, also staying firm even if things don’t look good.
20.If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Perhaps I would have taken multiple internships during the college days. One in my area of education and other in some other area such as marketing or sales.

21.How has being an entrepreneur affected your family & Social life?
I spend most of my day at my desk with laptop almost all seven days of the week. I just get to take short breaks to enjoy the social life. There is not much time that you can allocate for social life.

22.Anything, you would like to say to our readers or upcoming entrepreneurs?
Things might not go like the way you think initially. Be open to modify your idea according to the demand of the market. Constantly learning and changing your product after talking to customers will take you places.

23.Tell us something about your education & family background.
I am born and brought up in Mumbai. I studied B.Tech from VJTI, Mumbai. Both my parents used to work for the government and now they are retired.

24.What is your USP which makes it unique & different from other start-ups in similar domains.
On-demand and totally flexible schedule of classes along with an awesome bunch of tutor makes the difference. No matter in which time-zone the student is, we can help him/her learn what she wishes.

25. What do you think is the biggest threat to the success of small businesses & Start-ups today?
Complex business and taxation rules could be one of the threats. As a business owner you would want to spend time to grow the business. And not understanding complex laws and making accounts sheets each month.

26. Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?

Successful? Not yet. Success is more like a process than a destination. The more you improve more successful you become. I would measure success by the number of people whose problems we have solved, whose life we have made simpler and whom we helped grow.
27.Please share complete name, address, phone number, email id & website of Your Business & Contact Person
Name of the company: Open Pathshala Edutech Private Limited
Address: 8, Ground Floor, Shree Ganesh Krupa Housing Society, Swami Vivekanand Nagar, Old Mhada Colony, Near Lokpuram Bus Stop, Pokharan Road No. 2, Thane (W) 400610
Name: Rahul Dolas (Founder)
Email:    [email protected]com
Website: https://OpenPathshala.com

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