For Shainaz Jussa, entrepreneurship happened by chance. Today 8 years in her journey as an entrepreneur, Shainaz has come a long way. In this interview with Techstory, Shainaz talks about how her entrepreneurial journey started by chance, about her venture Phonickids.com and about what entrepreneurship has taught her ! Below are the excerpts from this interview
The Accidental Entrepreneur
“When I was in UK, I used to drop my son to his school nearby. Since I was not working in the UK, I volunteered to help the school and offer my free time. Initially they asked me to paint the picket fences and later in clearing weeds in the garden; both I enjoyed doing. But slowly I was asked to take kindergarten kids walks and read storybooks. One fine day, because of my ability to bond well with children and speak good English, I was requested to assist in the Phonics Class. Over a period of one year, not only I learnt Phonics, but also started teaching it once in a while. While it was still voluntary and free, the fact that an Indian was teaching British children with English was an honor by itself.
Soon we re-located back to India. Given that I had free time on hand, I explored if there were opportunities to teach Phonics. I approached one nearby Playschool exploring whether they would be ok if I introduced Phonics Classes and be an instructor. I started the Phonics Classes and within a short time it grew significantly. After 3 years of partnering with this Playschool, I decided to start on my own and that’s when Phonickids was born; in 2007. Today Phonickids offers Phonics & Grammar courses for Children, Teacher Trainings delivered via open private workshops and exclusive to Teachers in Schools.”
Creating And Scaling Phonickids
“Phonics is a method of teaching children to “read” with the help of sounds (phonetics). This helps the child establish a sound foundation for a smart personality, high self-esteem and self-confidence.
Globally, children are able to read in English by the age of 5 years (Sr. KG). Unfortunately, if you look at the overall India statistics, more than 40% of Indian children are unable to read well in English even by 4th Standard. In India, children are taught alphabetically and to pronounce whole words with the help of a picture (e.g A for apple). However, due to this ‘look-and-say’ method (causing ‘rote’ learning) children are not able recognize words that are not taught. Unfortunately because of this limited exposure to alphabets, Indian children are weak in reading and in correct pronunciations.
However there are various variants of how some have developed unique methodologies to deliver Phonics in an organized way. Jolly Learning Ltd. of UK published Jolly Phonics as one such methodology authored by Sue Lloyd and Sara Wernham. Phonickids follows the Jolly Phonics Methodology and I am certified by Jolly Learning Ltd. of UK as a ‘Professional Jolly Phonics Trainer’.
My vision is to have every child in India between the age of 4 to 6 years exposed to phonics way of learning to read, spell and speak in English, irrespective whether are in urban, semi-urban or rural schools. So to achieve this vision, our goal is to train as many Teachers on the methodology so the children are taught the right way to learn.
Development of the company till now – when did it start, how many people have you affected, team size, turnover, revenues, cities you are present it future plans for the company.
Phonickids has its main Center in Goregaon East in Mumbai and its 4 branches across Mumbai. These branches operate under Franchise program of Phonickids. Collectively Phonickids trains over 3,000 children and over 800 Teachers annually on Jolly Phonics. Apart from training children, Phonickids conducts Teacher Training workshops across India and abroad.
Apart from commercial interests, Phonickids conducts several Not-for-Profit trainings across India and Abroad. Many of such programs are done in with national & international NGOs in the early childhood education domain. Phonickids advises and conducts training programs along with state Governments, especially for Municipal schools in the respective states. Some of the not-for-profit trainings include Ethiopia (with NGO Link Ethiopia); Nepal (NGO Universal Learning Center, UK), Meghalaya (Sarva Sikhsha Abhiyan, Govt of Meghalaya); Uttar Pradesh (Project Maya, a Government initiative); Mumbai & Pune Under-privileged schools (with NGO Akansha) etc.
Phonickids is a Women Oriented Business with core employee strength at its head quarters of about 15. Combined with the employee strength of Franchisees, the total virtual strength of Phonickids can be aggregated at about 30. Phonickids is self-funded and is at a run rate to cross Rs.1 crore in revenues in the current financial year.”
Learnings Along The Way
“One of the biggest learning I have gained in my entrepreneurial journey is that ‘nothing is impossible’ if you are willing to give your 100% to your tasks at hand and having faith that sincerity and hard work will always pay.
Interestingly for the best of my last 8 years journey, I still do not know how to really develop complex projections on an Excel Spread sheet; or look at variety of financial ratios from my monthly MIS that my CA sends. I continue to only understand that it is most important to measure and keep track of the value your end customer gets from your service or product. And one should continually rectify, enhance and spend money to ensure that value is delivered beyond the promise; No Matter What!”
Being A Woman Entrepreneur
“That a woman has to work twice as hard and twice as smartly than our male counter parts. Thankfully God also built those tools and strengths in a woman to achieve that gracefully! My advise to women entrepreneurs is to be healthy and fit; because no matter what you do in your office, you will still need to give your best to your family back home and not because you are forced, but because you love that too; and not that the males don’t or cant do, its just that they love you doing it for them!
So finally as a woman entrepreneur, you are multi-faceted Founder; building companies and building homes!, all at the same time…J”