India is both the home of 4% of the world’s billionaires and 16% of the world’s billions living on less than $2 a day. The latter represents a portion of the population who are illiterate and without education. In rural India, only 20% of children graduate from high school. Access to quality education is abysmal: many cannot afford private education yet public education is plagued with problems of teacher absenteeism, lack of supplies, and ineffective approaches to learning. Given the facts, is there a way to extend quality education with an ultimate goal of improving the livelihoods of that 16%?
In response to problems in government schools, which are slowly undergoing reform processes, certain organizations are building affordable quality private schools for the poor. But regulations in India such as the requirement that schools must be nonprofits make scaling difficult to create a greater impact.
Hippocampus Learning Centres (HLC) is a Karnataka-based education company with a unique scalable model that can improve education for rural children at a monthly cost of Rs 60-100 (USD 1-2) per child per month. They build learning centres to run after school programs for children in kindergarten and levels (grade) 1-4. The goal is to provide supplemental education to help children succeed in school.
As a result of such a program, it was found that students were improving on their educational assessments. Kindergarten through level 4 represents the foundation to a child’s educational path and is highly correlated to future earning capacity, which is the reason HLC focuses on early-stage education.
HLC is able to keep costs low by renting rooms in villages at reasonable cost and hiring unemployed locals, typically high school graduate female teachers. Classrooms are equipped with furniture, books, and toys. HLC keeps school fees low and generates positive cash flow to keep schools running.
With a functioning business model, HLC is attracting investor attention. In February, startup investor Unitus Seed Fund launched with an investment in HLC that aims to reach 100 villages, 5,000 children, and employ 300 women – doubling their current capacity.
Last week, Lok Capital, a venture capital firm with a focus on the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) market, and Acumen Fund, a social venture capital investor, announced an investment of Rs 7 crore (USD 1.2 million) to the company. This money will serve to expand the school over the next two academic years.
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