Featured case:
iDiscoveri Education Private Limited

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The case

Who – the protagonist

Ashish RajpalAshish Rajpal – born in 1968 and raised in Delhi. A successful MBA graduate who eventually became global marketing director for the French food company, Groupe Danone – until his passion for education led him along a completely different path.

What5step

The iDiscoveri system (XSEED) is a five-step experiential learning system developed in consultation with the world’s leading educators. It takes into account the different ways in which children learn and emphasises learning by doing – replacing the traditional ‘teaching by telling’ approach.

Why

The birth of Ashish’s children in 1997 and 1999 led to a watershed in his life. He wanted to understand how two children with the same biological parents and brought up in exactly the same way could be so different in the way they learned. Ashish and some business friends organised summer camps for children in the hills of India and the transformation observed in the children amazed and inspired Ashish.

Eager to make a difference in the world, he applied to study at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, resigned from Groupe Danone, and moved with his family back to Delhi.

When

Ashish and his fellow Harvard student, Anustup Nayak, set up iDiscoveri in mid-2002. By 2012, more than 800 public and private schools, representing more than three million students, had adopted the iDiscoveri system.

x seed

Where

iDiscoveri was designed to renew education in India. Ashish had always been aware of differences in Indian society and knew that the pockets of prosperity in his home city, Delhi, were islands in a sea of urban poverty. India’s vast public sector education system was seriously under-resourced, and the cost of private education was prohibitive for most people.

Key quote

kids‘The company today is valued at a substantial amount of money. But the purpose was not to make money: the purpose was to make a difference.’ – Ashish Rajpal

What next?

Could the iDiscoveri project be scaled up to reach more children in India? What about Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia? And what next for Ashish? He’d been involved in every aspect of iDiscoveri, from business development, product design, and sales, to finance and recruitment. He knew his role would have to change. How could the dream continue?

The author

Iqbal Quadir

Iqbal QuadirIqbal explains why he chose to focus on iDiscoveri and the qualities an entrepreneur needs to succeed.

Inspiring

I contacted the protagonist, Ashish Rajpal, through my former student at Harvard University, Anustup Nayak, who has been on the iDiscoveri team from the very beginning. iDiscoveri has an effective product, and Ashish’s story can inspire others to start similar ventures.

Distinguishing traits

Ashish has been driven by a cause. While there are other ways of creating successful ventures, this way is important and provides something from which students can learn. Intelligence, persistence, and team-building capacity are a few of the relatively more common traits that Ashish possesses.

The traits that distinguish him, however, are being driven by a mission and having a knack for devising a practical solution to address it. The entrepreneur is usually better off being ‘married’ to a mission rather than to a specific solution.

Striving for solutions

x seedPeople should give up if they have been fundamentally wrong and were seeking to conquer the impossible. However, real problem-solvers learn from their failures and utilise that learning for better solutions. They see progress through failures, and their experiences can be very valuable to future venturers.  The issue is not necessarily ‘not giving up’ but rather ‘not giving up on thinking and striving for a solution’.

Teaching objectives

There are several good teaching objectives in this case. They include: (a) the value of the entrepreneur having a sense of purpose that will provide a good compass when specific solutions do not work; (b) the example of a private company successfully inserting a product into a very regulated environment; (c) proof that private companies can profitably offer what is often treated as a public service; (d) the importance of a competent and committed team; and (e) the possibilities of technology-enhancing education services.

Learning from struggle

While cases with lots of data and structures can help students learn about decision-making, there can be cases that are also inspirational. Students aspiring to be entrepreneurs can certainly benefit from learning such stories. Case writers should take careful note of such stories—the entrepreneur’s struggles can be useful and inspiring to students.

In this interview with the protagonist, Ashish, he offers personal insights into his vision, struggles, disappointments, near-bankruptcy and ultimately amazing achievements. It’s an excellent additional resource for anyone teaching this case.

The authors

Iqbal Quadir, Professor of the Practice of Development and Entrepreneurship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Founder and Director Emeritus, Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship, MIT
e iqbalquadir@mit.edu
tw @mitlegatum

 
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iDiscoveri Education Private Limited
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Teaching note
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This free case is part of the Legatum Center Case Collection. Legatum Center case studies illuminate the thought processes of entrepreneurs, the challenges they face, and the solutions they devise as they develop their businesses. These cases are available without charge to help teachers, students, and aspiring entrepreneurs. At the same time, they may demonstrate to academics and governments the value of entrepreneurial activities in low-income countries.

 

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