Video feature: Student venture provides phone-based English language education in India

May 9, 2016 noon
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During their sophomore year, Princeton University students Kasturi Shah and Vaasvi Goyal decided to list all of the problems they wanted to fix in India, their home country. Once they realized that they shared a passion for education, they brainstormed ideas for how to expand access to education to children in India who may not have resources or support in school. Hello, Seekho was born.

Hello, Seekho provides free audio education through a toll-free number in India. By using a basic mobile phone, users can dial the number to connect to over 60 lessons teaching the English language at various levels of difficulty. "Seekho" means "to learn" in Hindi.

"When we decided to tackle education in India, we decided to focus on access and quality," said Shah, of Mumbai. "We thought of all the existing platforms for free, quality education like Coursera and then the wide-reaching impact of mobile phones in India."

Now seniors, Shah, a physics major pursuing certificates in Latin American studies and visual arts, and Goyal, an economics major from Delhi, have been wrestling with the question of whether to continue growing their social venture after Commencement or to pursue careers in fields related to their majors.

Hello, Seekho has attracted support since its founding. The idea won third place at Tiger Launch 2014, a student-run competition, and the funding was used to launch Hello, Seekho in five slums in East Delhi. Over summer 2015, Hello, Seekho expanded to include slums in Mumbai with funding from another student event, the Princeton Social Innovation Competition. Shah and Goyal also participated in the Princeton Keller Center's eLab Incubator Program, which gives students access to work space in the Entrepreneurial Hub at 34 Chambers St. They also have access to experienced mentors in the field as well as workshops, networking opportunities, seed funding and on-campus summer housing.

"Princeton has given us access to the funding to make the start possible," Shah said. "It has brought us together. It surrounded us with people with amazing ideas, and it is a place where ideas are always bubbling."

Throughout the academic year, Shah and Goyal devoted countless hours to developing Hello, Seekho further while completing their senior theses and final classes. In April 2016, Hello, Seekho was featured in multiple news articles throughout India, resulting in a surge of over 70,000 calls to the venture's phone lines.

"It's so gratifying to see kids from now all over the country, not just like pockets or areas where we marketed this, calling into the service," said Goyal.