The business of education..

Recently, I have been seeing a lot of news and opinions posted on LinkedIn about the wrong and unethical work practices in the ed-tech companies in India. Many new age internet and social media activists have been dragged into this debate and brawl against such companies. Even these companies have been threatening with legal actions ( some have filed cases as well.) against such activists and those who had witnessed unethical work practices while working in such companies. I won’t get into the legalities and who is right or wrong as its upto courts to decide.

But I would like to add my two cents on the current picture of education in India. Infact, the picture is so gloomy that education has become business and a money minting machine these days. Because such companies know very well that in India, only two domains are such that they are never questioned about their value for money or even if they are worth paying for? Any guess what they could be? ..Well, they are Education and Religion.

The Indian family ( especially middle class) can spend millions on their kids education and never even question if its really worth paying so much. The ROI is hardly ever taken into consideration, atleast when it comes to schooling and bachelors degree. Maybe masters and even higher studies might not be favoured by the families, but basic schooling and college education is a must. One of the reasons for Indian parents/families having blind faith in spending exorbitantly on education is because, unlike USA or other western countries, where a person can progress in life even without a formal college degree or even a school dropout, provided he/she has the required skills earned through the practical lessons of life. But in India, a school and college degree is a one way ticket to the success and materialistic progress in life. It is impossible for anyone without a degree to excel in life, even if they might have the skills acquired with practical experience. Even though exceptions exists, but they are as rare as a honest politician to find.

And the real problem is even if that degree is not even worth the paper, still millions are spent on kids to get that degree with a blind hope that degree will shower on him/her a good job or even a good bride. Education in India is less for gaining skills or even less for learning, but certainly valued more for social status, internal family/neighbour jealousy, or even just as a pre-requisite for appearing for govt jobs like civil services. That’s why it only happens in India, that a young engineer also has a MBA degree but works in Civil services. Even strange, is that many doctors also try desperately for getting into police force or administrative services. Does it sound peculiar?

So, when the purpose of education as perceived by the people is just for getting a job, gaining social respect, winning a family feud, or just to qualify for the particular entrance exams, then no wonder the quality of students and learning experience degrades. And this provides a perfect environment for such ed-tech companies to mint money. In short, vultures are invited to have a feast…..

So, when we see these companies asking Indian parents to pay lakhs of rupees for a 3rd grade kid to excel in life( I wonder how that would be..) then parents do not hesitate ( most do not..). When a ‘XYZ’ ed-tech company tells the parents that they teach 6 year old kids to learn coding and thus become the future Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, then parents do not mind. When ‘ABC’ ed-tech company tells the people that they teach the best courses online, not as a teacher, but as a partner for their kids bright future, then it is hard to resist the dream of their kids becoming successful one day.

This is the background on which such ed-tech companies are rapidly becoming unicorns and their founders billionaires. They don just teach kids and students about education, but they also teach parents to dream. I am afraid if that dream might someday turn out as a mirage.

Today, when public schools in India are failing ( with the surprising exception of Delhi), when in person coaching or tuition has become a thing of the past due to Covid, where teachers teach for the sake of making ends meet, where students learn just to get a degree and go to America, and where parents are willing to spend lakhs and crores on classes, tuition fees, books and exam preps, then is there any better environment than this for the business of education to prosper in India!

We all know the answer very well!

© Abhishek Karadkar and, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Discussion review: What the media wont tell about the media!

Recently I watched a panel of media experts discuss about the change in the media world after Covid-19 in India. Here are the few points which formed the gist of the discussion

-> Covid has impacted the media world as never before. Print media, TV news, radio, digital media, social media platforms, OTT etc.

-> The subscriptions and readers of print media like newspapers, journals etc is decreasing for the last few years, especially since the onset of the covid. This might be due to the fear of covid, as well as the availability of digital options readily available to the reader.

-> Infact, reading has decreased nowadays. No one wants to read a long article or even a book. So, summary of the article/book is what readers prefer. This has huge consequences on the society because this shows the patience of reading and appreciating the author’s efforts is dwindling. And that’s why we see, audio books, or youtube videos showing the summary is viewed or listened more than actual reading.

-> TV is Dead! Yes, this has been the common understanding of the most of the experts. Since last few years, the audience is shifting to Over the Top (OTT) mediums as these mediums have smartly bundled the viewers choices ( for all age groups and genres), and marketed them at an affordable price. Hence, viewers now prefer to watch a movie or TV show on Netflix or Prime, rather than on traditional TV or even theatres. This has also impacted the advertising revenues which earlier television used to have the largest chunk, while in recent years, it has been consistently reducing.

-> The readers and audience of all backgrounds have access to Digital mediums today. This is because of the affordable and fast internet access provided by companies like Jio in India. Due to which, many people prefer to read news online instead of buying newspaper, prefer to watch TV shows and movies on mobile.

-> Digital is the King of the media nowadays. This is the because every medium has started its own digital platform, be it newspapers like Hindu with subscription based options, Radio channels like Radio Mirchi or All India Radio with their apps which can be installed on Iphone ( which lacks FM receiver…strangely), Digital journals, magazines, bundling of news app like InShorts etc. Everyone is using Digital space to reach out to the readers who have switched from traditional paper/TV based medium to digital-online-mobile medium.

-> Radio is still holding its ground due to its real life experience unlike songs app like Spotify, Saavn and Amazon Music which has millions of songs. Even though the subscribers are increasing but Radio remains the medium for millions who have mastered the art to tune their work with radio’s frequency at the same time. Hence, for advertisers, radio remains an important medium.

-> In India, earlier, English newspapers and channels used to be the preferred option for elite audience. But now as English is becoming more common due to spread of internet and mobiles, its audience is growing. But at the same time, vernacular remains a strong medium as the vernacular newspapers like Dainik Bhaskar, Sakaal, Ananda Bazaar Patrika etc have also started their own digital mediums and apps to retain their audience. Hence, the competition between English and vernacular unlike previous times is growing.

-> Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Koo, are becoming the channels for staying updated with the news and current affairs. Also, the option to express the comments, share the news & content, like or dislike, subscribe makes these channels more attractive than the traditional filtered and edited news channels. But it is also worth noting that the traditional news channels and papers are more trustable as compared to social media, which is also been targeted by fake news and propaganda theorists. Hence, the user has to maintain discretion while accessing such mediums.

-> Finally, the popularity of Youtube channels, podcasts and blogging as a medium to express opinions is ever increasing. Even though the revenue or advertising is yet not well matured unlike the TV, but viewers prefer to watch a favorite YT channel over traditional TV news channels for information. This has led to mass explosion of data and information on the YT and it might even lead to mis-information and hence, proper and authenticate content delivery is expected.

Thus, the media world is going through a revolution and as of now, it seems that Digital is going to be the future of media.

Twilight thoughts..

I clicked this pic today. Simply love this. It reminds me that nature is so beautiful. Even something as simple as sunset can make us go deep into thoughts and contemplation. We live with so many worries everyday, but life doesn’t value those worries. Because at the end, all worries, and stress are momentary. Just like this sunset is also for finite time, we really don’t have time to over think about our past or future either. Time just slips away, people move on, new opportunities come in, happiness and sadness eventually fade away, nothing is constant. Only change is constant, Life is just like a wave which travels, and matching the right frequency is needed to tune in to the right music. That’s when life becomes a celebration. Enjoy the simple beauties of nature, be kind to people, help someone, don’t overthink or over work as well. Because the world really doesn’t care if we have worked for 8 hours or 18 hours a day. Our success and failures are our achievements, the world often judges based on their own logic. We can’t act or live as others want, all we can do is just live the right way doing the right thing. Let truth be on our side and let’s view the world with a lens of kindness and curiosity, because if we don’t, and just rush after money, fame or power, sooner or later, it will slip away just like life. To value the important things is what matters the most.

Lockdowns are back…

Opinion on Covid second wave in India..

I am writing this article amidst the new lockdowns imposed by the govt in my state. Its been an year since we had seen the lockdowns before, and here now, we are witnessing this again. Looking at the past one year and how Covid has evolved with new waves, and changing the way of living, many of us fear now that this might be the permanent way of life here onwards.

Even though lockdowns might be one of the weapons to ‘break the chain’ of covid wave, but no one can deny the fact that lockdowns are simply brutal. Shutting down the entire state or country has tremendous consequences. We all have seen it firsthand last year. The business cannot sustain, workers lose their jobs, shopkeepers have to close their shops, tech crowd has to work from home for long hours, staying at home results in increased psychological stress, anxiety about the future, kids and college students get affected as their exams are either canceled or postponed, health care warriors have to fight everyday against this virus by often risking their life, which results in enormous physical and mental stress on them as well. Besides law enforcement has to work day and night to administer the lockdown measures, which involves a lot of efforts on their side. All this has fundamentally disrupted our way of life.

But whats the solution? Is it like we have to accept this is going to be the way of living until all get vaccinated in the world, or herd immunity sets in? This might take years. Currently whatever alternatives we are applying are temporary. Like work from home can never be a permanent solution. Because it is evident that not all can work from home, except the tech jobs. Even for them, this is becoming more and more stressful and boring. Work needs physical interaction, social exposure and real life experience. Not all professions involve coding which do not need any pre-requisites, except coding knowledge. But what about sales? or Aviation pilot? or even field technician? Can they work from home permanently? The answer is obvious No!

Sometimes, I find myself fortunate just like my colleagues who can work from home as our work demands a laptop, internet connection ( ofcourse, stable and fast..) and a working brain..thats it. Be it my tech job or my writing passion, I can manage things from home. But I feel incredibly bad for those who can earn their bread and butter only by selling stuff everyday, or whether in transportation business. I cannot imagine how they must be making both ends meet.

While on the other side, for some rich and influential groups, it is business as usual. The govt in my state is busy involved in looting , as they call ‘vasooli’ from the people. The stock market has crossed 50k mark and those with the money and power, are reaping the profits out of this bloated market. The IPL games are about to begin and even covid second wave cant stop them playing, rather entertaining as I hardly regard IPL matches as professional cricket matches. They are more or less like the assembly of rich businessmen and women who own the teams, the advertisers, the cheer leaders and the multi-crore earning mercenary players. Even film industry continues with their entertainment as usual even though Covid has done that job better. The YouTube is filled with newly educated pundits making videos with their precious commentary on politics, economics and scandals. Even elections are in full swing in five states in India, and the rallys are conducted in such a massive way as if to wonder if the people there are living in an iron curtain, with no knowledge of covid precuations. The leaders are busy bashing each other, asserting their Hindu religion and chanting name of Ram and Durga Mata. For all of such businessmen, politicians, cricketers, stock Guru’s, filmstars, covid is something which stays away from their closely guarded citadel. For them, covid is something which just affects the poor and the middle class, as if they deserve them…

As lockdowns are back and so are all the adjustments and compromises we( the common masses) have to do, I reminisce Ghalib’s famous shayari..

गुजर जायेगा ये दौर भी, जरा सा इतमिनान तो रख,

जब खुशियाँ ही नहीं ठहरी, तो गम कि क्या औकात है !


This time will also pass, have some patience

When happy days did not last for long, how can sad days endure forever…..

© Abhishek Karadkar and, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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What Young India wants..

What my young generation wants to do for the country..

Young India - YouTube

I recently read a book written by Chetan Bhagat ( the famous engineer turned banker turned fiction writer….thats quite a change of career..) – ‘What Young India wants‘. This is his first non-fiction book in which he comments about the ground reality in India until 2012 when the book was published. I have read his other fiction books like Five point someone, and later watched a couple of movies based on his books like 2 States, One night at call center, and Half Girlfriend. But this book is quite interesting as it sheds light on what the youth of India really wants…

India is the youngest country in the world, because it has the world’s largest young population between 18 and 35 years. I proudly belong to this group. So, this book is actually a bundling of my generation ideas and dreams about what we want to achieve in life, What India do we want to live in, or even if I can kindly quote JFK, with the question of ‘what we can do for India!’

The author pinpoints quite a number of issues which the youth faced in 2012. Those were my college days and until now, some of the best days I ever had in my life personally. I was securing good grades in my engineering exams, I was hard working, sincere and very ambitious. I was also very optimistic about my life. But outside my happy go lucky life, the country was digesting quite a number of corruption scandals, Anna movement ( or Kejriwal dominated movement), and also eagerly waiting for the next leader, Narendra Modi to come to the stage and take charge of the country. We all were so tired of everyday corruption scandals, rape news and lack of governance displayed by the then UPA govt, that we all just knew one answer, that only Modi can fix this mess!….

And so it happened. Modi won in 2014 and India finally got a new govt. Since the last 7 years, things have changed in India and in my personal life to such an extent, that when I returned back to India from United States in 2020, I could not believe this is the India I lived in until mid-2015. We know longer hear of any corruption news, rather we see development and progress has become the new headline. I dont want to write what this govt has achieved in the last 7 years, and how India has changed and even unchanged in some sectors, as it isn’t congruent with the topic of the article.

What does my generation want? I think quality education and employment tops the priority. Indian bright minds still suffer from lack of good colleges, updated industry or research oriented curriculum and employment opportunities where we can learn and contribute to the country. Thats why we see many of my friends are in USA and other countries. Even I went and gained a masters degree, worked for sometime to gain the industry experience. Even though I am aware that govt cannot provide job opportunities to everyone, and the onus lies on people and industry to support startups, innovate and create more and more job opportunities.

But equal responsibility lies on govt to support the emerging startups with a conducive environment. Even family often wants their kids to become engineer and move to Silicon valley, or become a civil servant and live a comfortable life on govt perks. Because this will ensure that their kids future will be secured. I believe this myopic mentality has been the root cause of not creating enough job opportunities in the last several decades. We want this expectation from society to stop. Let us become what we want in life. Not everyone can become engineer or bureaucrat. Some of us want to dance, or paint, or even write like I am doing right now. Sometimes, I wish I had become a writer than an engineer, but the lack of prospects to earn money through writing in India and fear of losing family support, makes us persue a society demanding career. Young India wants this to stop…

Then, societal issues has always been a concerning issue for us, especially caste, religion and marriage perspective. Its been 75 years since India became independent and our founding fathers imagined a India which would be free of caste & religion based discrimination. Hardly has this happened. We see how our parents and grandparents generation continue to follow the caste system. We cant bond too much with people of other religions or lower caste. A upper caste guy cant marry a lower caste girl, and vice versa. Friends are made based on the food we eat, whether is it veg or non-veg, beef or chicken,…Ohh, Beef is banned in India now, forgot about that…If different caste or religion couples fall in love and decide to marry, then they are not only opposed but even sometimes ostracized and killed by the ultra-conservatives in the name of honor killing. I find all this to be preposterous. Is this the India we wanted in 2021? On one side we watch American TV sitcoms like Friends, and learn to become liberal, but on the other side, we are conservative enough to live in a ghetto of our own caste and religion. I do not blame this on the parents generation as they were brought up very conservatively, but I feel bad when some of my own friends and colleagues endorse such caste and religion based discrimination. This is something young India wants to stop.

Finally, my young generation is very hard working, sincere and hopeful about the future. We know we are at a remarkable time in India, when all we can do is move ahead and develop the country. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, ‘There is no Alternative’. Similarly, young India has no alternative but to work for the betterment of the country and society. Gone are the days when people used to run away to USA and other countries for better life and opportunity. I know people still are migrating abroad and causing brain-drain, but times have changed and seeing the strict immigration laws in countries like USA, reduced employment opportunity due to Covid and increasing anti-immigrant wave sweeping the world, its good that we stay or return back to India and work for it. India needs startups, India needs innovation, India needs to win in Olympic Games, India needs excellent writers, teachers, researchers, sports psychologists etc..India even needs well educated and professional politicians…and only my generation can provide this and solve all the above mentioned problems which we are facing even today. This is our responsibility and burden. But as I said, we got no alternative.

Interestingly and coincidentally,’Young India’ was the weekly paper/journal published by M K Gandhi from 1919 to 1931. It was Gandhi who inspired the then youth of India to fight for freedom until we won in 1947. Similarly, I hope this young Indian generation also works and strives for making India a strong nation by 2047 when India will mark its centenary of winning independence. I hope the history will get repeated again….

© Abhishek Karadkar and, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Movie review: Yeh Ballet

The story of talent getting noticed and hope for a better life..

You can also listen to this blog post as a podcast

Yeh Ballet | Roy Kapur Films

Over this long weekend, I found some time to watch this amazing movie: Yeh Ballet. Another thing I did is that I completed reading one book ( What young India wants), and I plan to write its review in the next post.

The movie is superb and heart-touching in almost every aspect of film making. The story, the actors and their background in Mumbai, their struggles and finally, making their dream come true has been filmed wonderfully. Kudos to Soni Taraporewala for making such an amazing movie.

The topic of this movie is infact very unique because even though ballet is world famous in many parts of the world, but somehow, it never entered India. Maybe India already had a lot of its own ethnic and cultural dance forms, that there was simply no space for Ballet to occupy. This movie however is based on a true story. An Israeli-American ( Saul Aaron, based on real life ballet teacher Yehuda Maor) is invited to Mumbai by a dance academy to teach ballet to its students. The dance academy has quite a number of rich kids from affluent parts of Mumbai, but somehow, two guys ( Amiruddin Shah and Manish Chauhan) both of them being from slum areas of Mumbai, are miraculously allowed to enter this academy. And by their talent and a bit of luck, the teacher, Saul spots both of them and finds that amongst all the students, only these two guys have the perfect talent and physique to become a ballet dancer. Both of them are exceptionally talented in other dance forms as well, including b-boying, hip-hop and whacking. But the only thing they lacked is money and parents support. Manish had to leave his house as his father disapproved of him and he chose his dreams of becoming a world famous ballet dancer over other comforts. The movie shows how much hardships he had to endure to make his dream come true.

Amiruddin or simply as Amir, also came from slum area and suffered from bias, street fighting and lack of family support for his dancing skills. Later, Saul took care of both of them and allowed them to stay with him in his house. They both learnt a lot from Saul and he stayed with them in their times of need. Infact when they both got selected to attend the ballet course in America, but couldnt make it to the US visa due to their lack of financial assets, Saul deposited his own money in both of their accounts to make sure his poor yet talented students get to attend the ballet course. I wonder who does this in real world which is filled with cynicism and jealousy. This scene touched my heart!

Finally, they did make it to the ballet school in America and the movie ends with an happy ending. But it does teach a lot of lessons and insights. After watching this movie, I got to know how much talent the poor kids living in slum areas of Mumbai and even other parts of India have! This often goes unnoticed most of the times. Amir and Manish were lucky to get discovered by Saul and finally they could make their dream come true.

The film portrays the typical expectation of Indian parents to ignore their kids talents in all fields, except academics. Both Amir and Manish family disapproves their sons dancing talent. Only later do they realize how fortunate they are for God and Allah to bestow them with a son having such an incredible talent which is found in one in millions. I wonder how many Amir and Manish are there in India, who would be having some gifted talent in arts, dance, music, writing or painting, but often gets neglected just because the Indian Dream only allows Engineers and Doctors to be respected and paid well. The rest professions according to the middle class parents are ticket to poverty and joblessness.

Finally, the most touching character is that of the ballet teacher, Saul Aaron. Where can we find such benevolent and selfless teachers in this world today? On one side the academia and teaching profession is tainted with obsession for money and promoting nepotism by supporting only those kids whose parents are rich and elite, while on the other side, the world still has teachers like Saul who are kind and professional enough to support their students, purely on talent, and irrespective of their background. The film does have a scene where one of the rich students parents, whose daughter could not make it to the ballet course due to lack of her talent, tries to question the academy owner if those slum kids got an admission based on reservation! This is hillarious as the academy owner had to clarify that there is no concept of reservation in ballet schools in America. Even in 2021, the fact that Indian society is obsessed with medieval concepts of caste and reservations, and often sidelines talent is deeply troubling. But inspite of all this, both of them could successfully make it to the ballet school. Indeed, fortune favors the brave and the talented…

I end this movie review here and would like to tell my dear readers to watch this movie on Netflix. Its simply worth watching!

© Abhishek Karadkar and, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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