I was 10 when I moved to Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan to live on my grandparents’ farm. Amidst the natural beauty of the farm, I developed an intense love for reading books. Jhunjhunu was a small town, limiting my exposure to the world. My books made sure I didn’t feel lost. However, I had no idea this love would lead me to find my mission, purpose, business and my place in the world.
Over the next few years, I went on to do an MBA at IIM Lucknow and got placed at a top investment firm. I also started my own consultancy firm and was earning very well, leading a comfortable life with my partner.
But, I wasn’t completely satisfied. I knew I was itching to do something different, more impactful, in whatever way I could. One day, something within me fundamentally shifted and I knew I had to make this happen. So, on my way to closing one of the most important deals of my life with my boss, I quit. Right there, on the airplane. I knew this is not what I was meant to do. I decided to give everything I have in helping children find their place in the world through reading. If books had helped me become who I am, I was sure they would help millions of other children too.
In 2008, we started Stones2Milestones Education Services, or S2M as we call it. The primary goal we work towards is to create a healthy reading ecosystem for children. Skills and concepts are taught in a planned, logically progressive sequence such that students are engaged to include reading as a part of their daily lives.
While I know that money is important, I did not want S2M to be another shark-like profit making venture in education. So, we started slow, first as after-school centres, then to programmes in nine schools and now we impact 60 schools across the country. Our period from 2008-2015 was one of great reflection and learning as we wanted to focus on finding the best possible way to change the way that children learn. We experimented with several kinds of interventions – one with 70 schools of the Meghalaya government too! Now, we are more focused.
Through our flagship programme, Wings of Words, we are transforming the way children learn to read English. WoW is integrated with a school’s curriculum and focuses on creating a reading culture in school and improving fluency and comprehension in English. We have also trained over 400 teachers to be emotionally intelligent educators, who facilitate a creative learning environment in their classrooms. We support the teachers through an app called WOW Connect as well, where they can keep in touch with us, access training videos and other interesting material. In fact, we see technology playing a large role in taking our mission to scale.
The road has been very tough but very rewarding. Through S2M, our team has enabled over 30,000 young children to read with skill and will. Achieving scale is still one of our biggest challenges. While schools know reading is important, not many are ready to pursue it actively. We have also built our team with a lot of care. Today we are 20 full-time employees strong and work with freelancers in different cities across India.
Earlier this year, we also launched Freadom, an android app to help parents and children in grades 1-3 bond over small activities around reading. Since we are still comparatively small, social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, continue to be prime modes of communication where we are trying to build a community of readers every day. Through these platforms, we have been able to connect with co-believers and garner huge support for our work and have been able to create an informal and open space for two-way communication.
It fills me with joy and pride that I have been able to transform my passion for reading into a socially good business that’s touching so many lives! It’s also heartening to receive great feedback. For instance, one parent told us that his child won the spelling bee at his school because of our programme and one headmistress said that her teachers have become more effective and efficient leaders because of S2M. I always hope to continue building this business with care, because our work has only just started.
Here’s to building a nation of readers!