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The edtech founder who wants students to discover their innate talent

Topics EdTech | Online education

Saurabh Saxena, Founder, Uable
In early 2000, when Saurabh Saxena was at IIT Roorkee, he realised that the education system is like a conveyor belt. Everyone is put on that conveyor belt and never gets the time to understand what she or he really wants to do. “I worked so hard to get into one of the top engineering colleges in the country and while I was there, the last thing on my mind was engineering. I spent four years learning something that was not my passion,” says serial edtech founder Saxena. 

Six months into his first job, he understood his interest was in education. He could see the gaping holes in the education system. So he got together with three of his friends from IIT -- Vamsi Krishna, Anand Prakash, Pulkit Jain -- to launch Lakshya in 2005, an offline test preparation company. This was his first step into the education industry. 

Later, this team went on to roll out one of the country’s largest online tutoring platforms, Vedantu, in 2011. At Vedantu, an underlying ideological conflict remained with Saxena. According to him, the fundamental offering here was the same that is preparing children for board examinations and competitive examinations and thus enabling the same conveyor belt model. “I strongly felt the education system needs a fundamental shift to look beyond preparing children for exams, marks, ranks, or college entrances, but rather focus more on the real-world skills,” he says.  

As his vision of building an innovative curriculum outside of school education grew stronger, he took a huge step of leaving a prospering startup like Vedantu, which today has a valuation of over $600 million, to follow his own path and calling. He formally stepped down as the company’s co-founder in 2018. 

Setting up Uable

With an aim to design scalable active learning models that are focussed on developing life-skills for the children of today, he worked for over a year in designing play-based learning experiences, researched and collaborated with experts from all over the world to create a system upon which his latest venture Uable is built on. It has already raised a seed round from 3one4 Capital. “Their focus on the overall development of children is something that aligns with our focus in this space,” says Anurag Ramdasan, head of investments at 3one4 Capital.

With Uable he wants every child to achieve Ikigai, a happy place in the world that is not defined by marks and score. “Doing well in life might mean different things to different children. That’s why it’s important for them to find their calling in life at an early age when there is no external pressure of fitting into the norms of society,” says Saxena.

With younger age groups, Uable dives into talent discovery through exploration. It gives them an opportunity to explore different domains, step into the shoes of real-world careers and create exciting projects and prototypes. The more they explore, the better equipped they will become to cope with an uncertain future. At Uable a child can role play as an author, an entrepreneur, an experimenter, a detective, a game designer, an astronaut, a journalist, a scientist etc. She or he gets to work on innovative projects with peers like designing space suits, writing a novel, a news report, come up with scientific inventions, and even pitch startup ideas. Saxena through Uable wants to bridge the skill gap even before a child graduates from school.

When it comes to the older age group, Uable wants to nudge them to follow their passion. It will soon be launching a product for this age group that will encourage them to collaborate with peers, learn from mentors, and bring their own ideas to life. “Our biggest achievement will be to see them turn into innovators and independent thinkers who will be leading path breaking projects and creating their own path in life,” says an excited Saxena. He strongly believes that creativity manifests when a person has enough empty pockets of time, a multifaceted exposure and mindfulness in general. “So I make sure I take time out for yoga, playing tennis, spending time with my family, reading and writing.”

He feels while the business that he was in at Vedantu and Lakshya were not his true calling but setting up the academic processes, building the teacher community to over 1,000 educators, working with the tech team to build tools for teachers and scaling marketing and sales online, were precious lessons. 

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