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In conversation with Ashish Jhalani, Global CMO & MD of Square Panda India

In an interview with TechGraph, Ashish Jhalani, Global CMO and Managing Director of Square Panda India said, “We are looking to impact 500K primary school teachers and 5 million primary school children in the coming year.”

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TechGraph: What does Square Panda look like these days?

Ashish Jhalani: Square Panda has evolved into a global foundational learning specialist. Whether it is pro-establishment work with various governments or working alongside large private preschools; we have managed to add value across the chain.

In the US, we are rolling out our programs across the education landscape and very recently we started the program in the 5th largest district, Clarke County. It is a mature market where Square Panda has the opportunity to implement school to home programs which bridge the learning gap,  owing to the pandemic.

In India, we aim to drive early childhood education to new heights, with our early learning focused academic programs and educator empowerment programs for primary teachers in government schools and Anganwadi workers. We are looking to impact 500K primary school teachers and 5 million primary school children in the coming year. 

TechGraph: Why Square Panda? How did it all get started? 

Ashish Jhalani: I joined Square Panda, a silicon valley based edtech for early learners, in 2018.  As an involved parent of two young boys, I always perceived the need and the current gap in foundational learning and its importance on the overall cognitive growth of a child. While I was able to utilize every tool available to give my boys the needed foundational literacy and numeracy skills, 100s of millions of children in India and abroad don’t have such access. 

Thats when I got introduced to Andy, the founder of Square Panda. His beliefs on how & why early learning matters and that every child deserves the opportunity to have the best foundational education possible- strongly resonated with me. His personal story on why he started Square Panda and his social commitment to help children across socioeconomic backgrounds acquire foundational learning & skills was inspiring.

Square Panda gives me an opportunity to join hands to make an impact on the lives of millions of children thus improving their life’s long-term success. The recent National Education Policy’s focus on early childhood education has reaffirmed my belief and has given wings to my vision!!!

TechGraph: What differentiates Square Panda from other platforms that are already working in this space?

Ashish Jhalani: Being the leaders in early English Literacy and numeracy programs, we understand the nuances of early learning, the neuroscience behind it, the skillsets & the techniques required for teaching i.e the importance of inquiry-based, experiential, activity & play-based learning.

This gives us leverage to bring about robust & effective foundational learning programs and educator empowerment programs. We also bring in the latest technology and best practices in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to provide unique learning experiences.

All our programs are specially designed by our highly trained and qualified team of in-house experts, comprising school administrators, educators, teacher trainers, counselors, and more, who work alongside cognitive neuroscientists, child psychologists, technologists, game developers, and coders, giving us an advantage in the field of early childhood education and teacher training. We also partner with several universities and organizations to understand the science behind early learning. 

Enabled with vast experience in the field of ECCE, we believe that we are well-positioned as experts and a perfect partner for the government to improve the overall learning outcomes in India and build an effective & inclusive education system.

TechGraph: Could you please walk us through  Square Panda’s product portfolio?

Ashish Jhalani: We have a comprehensive Educator Empowerment Program for the primary and ECCE teachers in the Government Schools and an Upskilling Program for the Anganwadi workers. We also own a one- of- its- kind foundational learning program for children aged 2-10 years.

· Anganwadi Workers Upskilling Program – Our goal is to empower the Anganwadi Workers with holistic knowledge, in turn providing nourishment to the child in their care, for both for the body and mind

· Empowerment and Enrichment Program for ECCE Educators – Our goal to empower educators to build holistic knowledge and transform the way they teach

· Foundational Learning Program – Literacy & Numeracy for children – The objective is to build foundational skills in young learners i.e. children’s ability to read with meaning and do basic math calculations through innovative classroom techniques and pedagogy. Our educational games & foundational kits have an adaptive platform that assesses and engages learners through personalized play experiences. All our offerings are grounded in a neuroscience research-based curriculum. The product portfolio includes Square Land, Square Tales, Square English, School-to-Home, Numeracy Activity Kits, Smart Sheets, and many such innovative products.

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Also, Our programs are aligned to NEP 2020 and ensure that all NEP’s criteria and policies get executed smoothly.

TechGraph: Why do children need technology like this for study?

Ashish Jhalani: The first 8 years of a child’s life are critical, as the rate of development is most rapid in that period.  Neuroscience research confirms that 85% of brain development has already taken place by the age of six.

India’s evolved New Education Policy 2020 talks about the primacy of ECCE – this is a telling sign of the importance of early years, and the fact that our policymakers are giving due recognition to this part of education. The need of the hour, says the document, lies in experiential gamified learning, which incorporates aspects of storytelling, activities, play-based education, music, and visual aspects of learning. A good ECCE program is a telling indicator of success, and this fact is backed by much research in the field.

The innovative technique of teaching and learning used by Square Panda eliminates rote learning and brings a higher level of retention, engagement, and ultimately, academic success to the children. They don’t simply learn, they enjoy learning.

Also, one noteworthy feature of our foundational learning program is that it creates a level playing field for all the learners especially in the current Indian education context. Through the use of an adaptive platform, the program is self-paced and personalized.  This ensures the unique needs of every child are met, individualizing the learning path for him/her.

TechGraph: The past few months have been challenging for many industries. How did you deal with the pandemic?

Ashish Jhalani: While this was and continues to be a difficult time for the entire world, we at Square Panda chose to utilize the time to empower educators with various robust and innovative online seminars and courses. We trained thousands of educators during this time- as a part of our community service. 

As children were studying remotely, we launched our school-to-home program. The children continue their learning from home and the teachers can remotely monitor what each child is learning and how well they are learning.   

Alongside, We also worked on building robust Educator Empowerment programs for various state governments to aid the smooth execution of the NEP 2020. 

TechGraph: What kind of growth Square Panda has registered during this phase?

Ashish Jhalani: Even though most of these numbers are not shared publicly, we expect to close the year at least 5X of revenues of last year globally. 

TechGraph: Is there any plan to enter a new vertical?

Ashish Jhalani: We want to transform & impact millions of lives through foundational literacy and numeracy. For India, we’d only want to concentrate on delivering quality ECCE programs for teachers, educators, and children. 

TechGraph: What is the roadmap for Square Panda going forward?

Ashish Jhalani: We plan to continue to expand both our education and consumer offerings in the US. 

Currently, in India, there are 240 million children under the age of 8, 7.4 million in Pre-Primary and Primary within Government Schools & Anganwadis, who can benefit from our foundational learning program & educator empowerment programs. 

We are working tirelessly in executing our mission of supporting the Government to build a new India, grassroots-up, where every child has acquired foundational skills.

Globally we are also looking to expand our existing opportunities in China & Korea while adding new markets such as Japan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Vietnam, and many other ASEAN markets.

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