Entrepreneur Karan Bajaj attributes the success of his Mumbai-based coding learning platform WhiteHat Jr. to Indian women’s untapped talent pool who made the one-on-one teacher model possible.
Speaking at the 11th edition of YourStory’s flagship tech-entrepreneurship summit, TechSparks, Karan Bajaj, Founder and CEO of Whitehat Jr., recounted the startup’s journey from its inception in 2018 to the acquisition by BYJU’s for $300 million in August 2020.
He said that as the world realises the importance of teaching coding at an early age, startups in countries like the US, China, Israel and others in Europe have made attempts at building similar learning platforms.
“What worked for us is getting the educated and qualified yet underserved population of women on board – who were not actively involved in the workforce due to childcare restrictions, familial responsibility, and safety concerns in bigger cities,” he said.
The startup leveraged this talent pool to conduct one-on-one virtual lessons. The model garnered success in the startup’s global expansion to the US, the UK, and Australia, and hopes to replicate the same as it ventures into other subjects like mathematics.
“Parents loved the sheer engagement their children had with teachers and the extent to which they could make the creative expression of children come to life,” Karan said, while engaging virtually with the audience that numbered to over a thousand.
A model inspired by mother
The reason Karan had a strong conviction from the first day that women would make excellent teachers was his mother, who excelled academically and was a Delhi University topper.
The entrepreneur recalled growing up to see his mother constantly shifting base – from Sri Lanka to Ladakh and Assam – to accompany her husband who was an army officer. As a result, she could not pursue an independent career.
This inspired Karan to focus on the female workforce when he set out to build WhiteHat Jr.
“I always thought there must be thousands of women like my mother who are highly qualified but are away from the workforce due to familial responsibilities,” he added.
India’s opportunity with tech
Karan believes that coding today is what mathematics was during the industrial revolution.
“Before the industrial revolution, mathematics was not taught in schools and there was a gap of about a decade before the education system caught up with the needs of the industrial world where maths became the centre of the curriculum in schools. Similarly, everybody is realising the importance of teaching coding today,” he shared.
He further said that consumer tech is at the centre of every household, and industry and technology are shaping the world. The idea behind encouraging coding lessons is to prepare children to “become architects of this technology vs passive consumer of it.”
He further encourages entrepreneurs to leverage the underutilised population in the workforce and create service-oriented models which can be brought to scale with technology.
“India has a valuable talent pool, and this is a very powerful mechanism to create opportunities within India and develop products of value for the world,” he concluded.
TechSparks – YourStory’s annual flagship event – has been India’s largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we’ve received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.