May 02, 2022

Technocrat aims to revamp Gujarat’s education scene

Technocrat aims to revamp Gujarat’s education scene

AHMEDABAD: Diversification in business domains is a common thread among Gujarati entrepreneurs who make it big. Pratul Shroff, who is counted among Gujarat’s first few techno-entrepreneurs, did the same, but with a twist.

About 25 years after scripting the growth story of eInfochips, one of Gujarat’s first product engineering companies, Shroff has now fully dedicated his efforts to Dr K R Shroff Foundation (KRSF), a social enterprise he founded a decade ago.

eInfochips was taken over by New York Stock Exchange-listed Arrow Electronics Inc back in 2018, around 24 years after it was founded by Shroff. Market sources peg the acquisition deal size at an estimated Rs 2,000 crore.

Shifting focus to KRSF, Shroff is trying to bring a paradigm shift in the education sector, one rural government school at a time, by bridging the skill gap in learning.

“We adopt a management-based approach to identify the skill gap, and level of education among students. A class 5 kid may not know how to read or count properly. Once this is identified, specially trained teachers are deployed to train kids using innovativeteaching learning methods and technology tools. Specific techniques are used to understand how much the students have grasped,” Shroff said.

To his credit, Shroff has spearheaded the mission to improve the quality of education imparted to some 40,000 students across 460 schools in 400+ villages of Sabarkantha, Aravalli, Narmada, Botad, Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad districts.

A case in point is Aarti, a student from a government school in Idar, who was being compelled by her family to give up education after Class 8. “Despite being a meritorious student, Aarti’s family could not afford her education. She, somehow, convinced her parents to let her go to school. Aarti was one of the students trained by KRSF’s team of teachers and she managed to clear the National Means cumMerit Scholarship (NMMS) exam to bag a scholarship and fund her Class 10 education and tuition fees,” said Shroff.

Yet another student from Sabarkantha’s government primary school, Nisha, had shifted to Idar from Agra. Being a Class 5 student, Nisha was admitted to Class 1 as she did not know the Guja- rati language. However, having worked hard to understand the language and polish her skills, Nisha cleared exams of classes 1, 2 and 3 all in the same year after being taught by KRSF’s teachers.

Shroff is independently funding KRSF, which has an annual spend of Rs 8 crore in a year. “Since my 30s, I always wanted to do something for India. Even when I was in the US, I always thought about coming back. About 5 years ago, I realized that life will slip by and my dream of doing something for society will remain just that — a dream. I could keep chasing revenue and building the company or I could commit myself and my time to what I always aspired to do — something that makes a difference in the lives of others. So, finally, I took the plunge and started the next phase of my life,” Shroff said, commenting on his transition.

His overarching vision is to make villages self-reliant not just through education but also through vocational training, digital literacy, and micro-businesses, among others.