Business For Good | Social Enterprise

ReadToMe in class

Over the last few decades, global wealth is estimated to have nearly doubled. Unfortunately, inequality has also increased. In other words, a small percentage of people have gained disproportionately.  Meanwhile, as the world gets ‘richer’ a significant number of the global population continues to be denied even the basics of food, housing, health and education. With increasing size and spread, there is an increasing need for Business to balance between greed and need. It is with this backdrop that a new, emerging form of business should be viewed. This is the ‘for profit’ social enterprise. This alternate form of commerce aims to provide the poorest sections of society with services and products hitherto denied to them.

Balancing social objectives with the demands of capital, especially when customers are from low income segments, is a difficult ask. Products, promotion and pricing must respond to the context of the consumers. In these circumstances, failure is much easier than success. 

It is therefore important to constantly identify those who have made positive ground to learn from their lessons. Micro-finance has been an illustrious pioneer helping change the lives of the lowest income populations. In India, the challenge of education has reached crisis proportions. There is an urgent need for sustainable private enterprises that can effect change at scale. This is a story of how a social enterprise, EnglishHelper, is solving the hitherto unsolvable.

RightToRead is an initiative by EnglishHelper (a social enterprise) to deliver technology-enabled English literacy to government school students. The proof of concept was launched in 2013 in 100 schools. Success provided confidence for larger-scale expansion. The next phase reached 5000 schools impacting over one million students. This was possible because of the engagement of multiple stakeholders including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Today RightToRead is spread across 27 Indian states with a growing global footprint. The Sri Lanka government has approved implementation in all 10,000 schools in the country. In India, many state governments have begun allocating budgets to support the program. 

EnglishHelper and the RightToRead initiative provide some interesting insights:

  1. The Technology Opportunity:  Technology cannot be ignored. Besides offering innovative solutions to solve difficult challenges, it enables deployment at scale, efficiently and effectively. The RightToRead program has grown from 20,000 students to over 5 million in just 5 years.
  2. Affordable and Engaging: Affordability is key and so is value for the customer. Feedback from teachers and students reflect high engagement and affinity for the RightToRead program.
  3. Keeping it Simple: The program leverages existing textbooks and is integrated with school timetable. The software is simple to implement and use in class. In Maharashtra, thousands of government school teachers have downloaded and installed the English reading and comprehension software, ReadToMe® from the ‘cloud’. 
  4. Measurement of Outcome: Independent evaluation by qualified third parties have demonstrated the significant impact of the program on students’ English reading skills. This has led to wide scale acceptance of the program.
  5. Playing the Long Game: To prove impact, to demonstrate scale and to build credibility needs time i.e. there are no short-cuts. It has taken over 5 years of determined effort for the RightToRead program to achieve massive scale across the country and beyond.
  6. Partner for Success:  EnglishHelper has focused on its core competencies i.e. developing unique technology for learning English. The company has partnered with various stakeholders to enable the expansion and execution of the RightToRead initiative.

This article has been written by Sanjay Gupta, Global CEO, EnglishHelper. For more interesting articles, please click here.

For more information about RightToRead projects, please connect with us on LinkedInTwitter, and Youtube.

Click here for our innovative Spoken English program: EnglishBolo™, a joint Initiative of EnglishHelper and Schoolnet. To know more about EnglishBolo™ connect with us on YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook.