Turning Points: Edushala’s Winding Road to Success

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Turning Points: Edushala’s Winding Road to Success

 

Edushala teaches its students useful and practical skills that are very much applicable in the real world. “Our classes emphasise projects and peer-learning, rather than tests and textbooks,” says Ruchin Singh, the founder of Edushala. “We want our students to be able to, say, confidently decorate a room, write a poem, or negotiate a contract, and not merely recall facts.”

Today, Edushala is well-known in Nepal’s online education sector, but its path to this strong market position wasn’t an easy one. In this article, we list some of the key turning points that led Singh and Edushala to where they are today.

 

Switching Paths

In the last year of Ruchin Singh’s computer engineering education, he had to study subjects like Economics and Business Project Management, and it was at this point that he realised that business, and not computer engineering, was his calling. He would look at seasoned computer engineers and ask himself if he wanted to be like them, to which his answer would always be a no. If he studied engineering, he thought, he was always going to be an employee. Sure, STEM jobs paid well, but Singh didn’t want to be just another cubicle occupant in an endless row of cubicles.

“I didn’t think the lifestyle was going to suit my character,” says Singh. Instead of sitting behind a desk, he wanted to meet and interact with people. Singh knew he wanted to become an entrepreneur, but he also knew that for people to take him seriously, he was going to need a degree--even if that meant graduating an engineering course, only to pursue a career in business. That is why instead of dropping out of college like some people were doing at the time, Singh completed his education first.

 

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Support from friends and family

Singh was the only son, which meant that he’d have to look after his parents in the years to come. It was therefore important for Singh to get his parents on board, as taking the entrepreneurial path meant working without the assurance of a stable paycheck. Most Nepali parents don’t deem entrepreneurship a practical career choice, and would rather see their sons and daughters work in banks, or become doctors and engineers. Luckily, his parents were very supportive and acknowledged his wish to venture out instead of playing safe.

                                        

Singh then talked to his brother-in-law, Santosh Shrestha, who provided him with seed money for Edushala. Shrestha was happy to invest in Singh’s venture because he too shared Singh’s vision of doing something that would have a lasting impact on society. Moreover, through his brother-in-law’s network, Singh was able to connect with like-minded individuals who later became Edushala’s co-founders.

 

Co-founders’ leaving

With support from his parents, investment from his brother-in-law, and professional input from his network of co-founders, things were looking up for Singh and Edushala. The three other founders he had teamed up with were all driven individuals, each of whom had something to bring to the table. Unfortunately, all three co-founders had to leave Edushala, not because of some unresolved internal conflict, but because each of them had personal obligations they had to attend to. Tension ran high for Singh, as there was suddenly a lot on his plate. Even to this day, he considers his cofounders’ leaving Edushala to be one of the biggest challenges he has had to overcome in his Edushala journey.

“It was difficult to be alone and run the company alone. During times when I needed second opinions or advice on the managerial decisions I was making, I didn’t have anyone to turn to. I still sometimes wonder whether what I am doing is right,” says Singh. With three of the four co-founders gone, Singh was working unimaginable hours. “I had a difficult time prioritising what I should do first. Should I be managing the finances, looking after sales and customers, or doing the paperwork?”

The company wasn’t doing great at the time, and his employees began quitting too. The amount of work pressure began to hinder his creativity and drive, and it was not doing much for his waning passion for running his own business either.

Singh, however, knew better than to sulk. He turned the situation around on its head and tried making things work to his advantage. He came to the conclusion that he was going to have to discipline himself to master the skills required to keep the company running.

 

It was difficult to be alone and run the company alone. During times when I needed second opinions or advice on the managerial decisions I was making, I didn’t have anyone to turn to. I still sometimes wonder whether what I am doing is right

 

Earthquakes

Things were looking up for Singh in his second year of running Edushala. He was gradually making up for the absence of his cofounders. He had also hired competent people who were now working under a single roof in an intelligently designed open-office space; a lot of money had gone into designing this space. The 2015 earthquakes, however, rendered the place inoperable.

Singh and his team were spared the worst of the earthquakes. But because it had only been two years since Edushala had started operation, they didn’t have the resources to rebuild and renovate the office space. They had no choice but to relocate to a much more modest place.

In Nepal, when you give up your bigger office space, the move is always looked at askance by others, but Singh didn’t really have a choice. Instead of going through the hassle of finding a new office, the team moved into a space behind Singh’s own house. It was like they were starting from square one as a garage startup. However, moving into the new space had its advantages too. It cut down expenses, which led to a greater cash flow. The team were able to invest in marketing and afford a larger workforce. Moving into a smaller space also fostered collaboration among the workers, which was vital in scaling up the business.

 

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Enterprise

Edushala had recovered from the effects of the earthquakes, but the company growth was rather stagnant. Edushala needed a boost, and that’s where the business accelerator Enterprise came in.

The 12-week accelerator programme helped Singh gain a better understanding of how businesses in Nepal operated. He met like-minded entrepreneurs and mentors from various sectors, and they helped him tackle problems and encouraged him to continue with his business. Before Enterprise happened, Singh didn’t have practical knowledge in accounting and finance. The 12-week Enterprise course helped him finetune his financial model, making him investment-ready.

“Being able to tap into Enterprise’s network of professionals, investors and mentors has been tremendously helpful for me and Edushala,” says Singh. Every session conducted in the programme gave him the fundamental tools and knowledge required to differentiate his business from others in the market.

Singh truly believes that Enterprise gave his company the structure it lacked. He gained much-needed knowledge in product development, customer development, sales, finance and operations, all of which helped him take Edushala to the next level.

Edushala has been through some ups and downs, but its tumultuous journey is what makes the milestones even more remarkable. The company started with one instructor, and it now has a network of 50 instructors and three thousand students.

 

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    Ujjwal Kumar Thursday, 21 December 2017

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