Being an electronic and communication engineer, Ms. Pratiksha Pandey was a volunteer at Girls for Tech where she had an epiphany regarding the change that needs to happen in the IT sector. Most training and development were focused on upskilling adults in the IT domain; however, there was a wide gap in the market towards teaching required IT skills to kids from an early age.
Pandemic has redefined the way to teach and learn through remote learning. Despite having both positive and negative affect, Ms. Pandey was determined to focus on her goal of teaching young girls the skills, which can make them interested in this rapidly growing sector. Hence, she established Smart Cheli in July 2020.
A few weeks back, we had a conversation with her about her journey and the difficulties due to COVID-19. Read our conversation to learn more!
Tell me about your motivation to start your own enterprise?
During my college days, I remember having this dream to do something on my own. I did initially contemplate doing something in the engineering field, but it didn’t really drive my thoughts and passion. However, for this concept, the cause matches my area of expertise and I was excited to start a social enterprise that can create a wider impact. In addition, through entrepreneurship, I wanted to be able to take new initiatives and get opportunities to learn from my own work.
How did this concept come about?
When I was 20, I had volunteered for Girls in Tech organization. I got an opportunity to learn about ground-level issues and the gap in this sector. I realized that most trainings were focused on adults, but for overall development, it is essential to teach from a younger age. Additionally, I also discovered my interest to pursue this cause. Through Smart Cheli, my goal was to have fun-based and intensive learning.
What is the inspiration behind the name of your business?
Our main focus was that people aren’t very aware of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field. Hence, we wanted to have a Nepali relatable name. Later, we also discovered that there is already a brand registered as “Smart Chori” so we took the permission of the other brand to name our venture as “Smart Cheli”.
Can you tell me more about the company?
We were established during the pandemic on July 7, 2020. Due to the restrictions, we started with awareness programs to educate on STEM field and virtual coding workshops. We used coding to make wish cards for special occasions and tried to incorporate fun-based learning in our sessions. As the schools slowly reopened, we had started to approach schools in Kathmandu valley.
However, everything shut down again so we are still providing virtual training and our application opening is posted through social media platforms. Our enterprise is concentrated in Kathmandu valley in terms of in-person training, but for virtual training, we have students from all provinces.
What are the services currently being offered?
Our two major programs were coding and robotics. But, the limited resources at home doesn’t seem feasible for robotics so we only concentrate on coding and design thinking program. Our programs last between 1 week to 1 month.
Who are your allies in running the business?
There are currently five employees. As we couldn’t establish a relationship with the schools due to the pandemic, we haven’t confirmed any agreement with any school. Other than that, we have once collaborated with Rotract Club for a short-term event.
Who is your target audience?
Our main target audience is young girls. We focus on girls from age 10 to 19 years old. This age group has higher vulnerability and some additional guidance would help them.
What would be the requirement to join your training?
There are no minimum grade or skill requirements. We just want them to have basic skills to use the computer or laptop. Only the device would be needed. All additional software required as per the course will be provided.
What are the main challenges in starting this venture?
Pandemic brought both benefits and drawbacks. Without the pandemic, we could have reached out to many people and schools. With the schools being closed, it was difficult to reach more people. Schools were also hesitant due to their financial crunch.
How do you deal with competition?
There are other entrepreneurs working in this field. Despite similar concepts, the service delivery may differ. I view the existing competitors as collaborators. Due to different visions, all the competitors are also creating some differences in the market which is a good thing.
Where can the customers find the information about your company?
How has this entrepreneurial journey been so far for you?
For me, it has been a learning experience. We make mistakes, learn from them, and do better the next time. It has been good for my personal growth as well. Although the pandemic has been a major hurdle, we were able to reach young girls from all seven provinces due to virtual training. There has been a balanced growth due to the pandemic.
Is there any additional suggestion you would like to give to other emerging entrepreneurs?
It is essential to reflect on the mistakes and focus on your progress. Things will not always be according to plan. In addition, I also realized that if we don’t enjoy working on something, then we also tend to avoid putting additional effort into it. So, it is crucial to be excited and passionate about the idea.
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Facebook: Smart Cheli