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Menterra investee spotlight: Curiositi Solutions

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Impact investment fund Menterra invested in education startup Curiositi Solutions last week. Here, co-founder Sathish Hariharan talks about the company and its plans:

What does your company do?
We help schools improve learning outcomes in science and mathematics. We do this through a unique combination of physical-activity kits and personalised learning software. We have built a portfolio of 120+ curriculum-mapped activity kits that link to key concepts covered in the curriculum and integrate these into our partner school’s curriculum. These professionally designed activities help students explore concepts, build models and conduct experiments while sitting in the classroom; bringing excitement and improved concept-understanding to the topic being taught.
In addition to this, students and schools are provided with personalised adaptive software that they can use at the school and on mobile phones at home. This learning and practice software adapts to the student’s learning level, and helps them further practice and fill in any learning gaps.

How did it come about?
We discovered that the learning environment in classrooms across India had changed very little in decades. While the world around us has undergone dramatic change, classrooms continue to be dominated by chalk-talk and suffer from poor learning levels and rote-based learning. We decided that change was due, and asked ourselves the question – ‘If given a chance to go back to school, how would we have liked to learn science and mathematics?’ Over the course of three years, we developed an exciting, comprehensive activity-led programme for these subjects that is effective, teacher-friendly and affordable for schools.

Why are you excited about this space?
We are excited about the opportunity to create impact at scale. India has the world’s largest cohort of school-age children, and we are deeply excited by the opportunity to bring improved learning outcomes in an affordable and exciting manner to children in India.

What is innovative about your service?
I think we are unique in the education space in providing a comprehensive solution that enables experiential learning in the classroom, further reinforced with personalised software that students utilise at school and at home to further develop their knowledge. We believe that this dual approach provides an engaging and highly effective program.

What is the impact you want to have?
We currently have over 20,000 paid subscribers benefiting from our science and mathematics programme. We plan to cross the 100,000 students in two years, working towards our goal of impacting one million students.

What successes and challenges have you seen till now?
Developing and fine-tuning the activity kit portfolio was a big challenge in itself. While it is relatively straightforward to develop activities for some topics, there were a host of topics where we had to repeatedly brainstorm and prototype concept ideas before identifying an activity that checked all the boxes – develops concept-understanding, safe to use, interesting to students and can be easily manufactured and shipped. We went through a steep learning curve on understanding the varying motor skills of children of various age groups, their average reading levels, what level of activity-building is possible within a single period in class etc.
In addition to this, it took time to truly understand the concerns and goals of the different stakeholders at the school, and how to build a programme that addressed these goals.

What’s next?
We continue to fine-tune our portfolio of products and see significant opportunity to provide an integrated offering to schools. There is opportunity to further expand and improve our portfolio of activities. We also believe technology would play a bigger role in education and are looking forward to enabling intelligent products that make experiences friendlier and personalised. Our challenge is to find the right mix of offline and technology-based solutions that helps us improve engagement with our existing customers and improve learning outcomes for students.

What keeps you motivated?
The idea that we can potentially transform science and math learning is fundamentally very motivating to all of us at the company. When we visit schools and see the programme in action, it is very satisfying to see the joy on children’s faces and to hear positive feedback from teachers.

How will Menterra help you?
We were looking for an investor who could provide strategic support and industry connections, in addition to capital. In this respect we look forward to a rewarding association with Menterra. We have very experienced professionals from the fund already supporting us as we develop the roadmap for our product and decide on market strategies. We also look forward to leveraging Menterra’s experience, industry standing and network in the education space.

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Villgro is India's foremost social enterprise incubator. We work with early-stage for-profit enterprises that have an impact on the lives of India's poor. Since 2001, Villgro has incubated 109 enterprises, which have generated around 4000 jobs, secured Rs 1125 million in follow-on funding, and touched over 15 million lives. www.villgro.org

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