Are You a Teacher?

“Are you a teacher?” This was the question that several people asked me at a Diwali party I attended a few months ago.

The host had asked me to do a presentation for the thirty or so children in attendance, about Diwali. I spoke for about 5 minutes and shared what each of the five days of Diwali means. And I told them a short version of the story of Krishna and Giri Govardhan, that the main day of Diwali celebrates Lord Ram’s return from the forest and for (us) Jains there’s the additional significance in that it’s when Mahavir Swami attained Nirvana.

Afterwards several people came up to me to compliment my presentation and I thanked each of them for their kind words. A few people asked, “are you a teacher?” And I replied, “yes”, because I am currently teaching conversational Hindi, full time, to children across the United States.

Later as I drove home I mulled over that question in my mind and asked myself, “am I a teacher?” And the answer I said to myself is, “no, I’m not a teacher. I’m an entrepreneur.”

Virtual PreSkool is the 3rd iteration of my career. In the 20+ years that I’ve been working, I have immersed in 3 entrepreneurial ventures that were wholly different from each other. First, I owned a print direct marketing agency. Then, I founded a tech company in the wedding space. And in 2020, I started an EdTech company which is what I’m doing now.

When I founded ShaadiShop people thought two things: that either I’m a matchmaker or a wedding planner. And understandably so…I guess? I mean all one has to do, is go to the “About” page on the website to understand what the company does. But one hears the word “Shaadi” and one jumps to conclusions.

What I created was innovative…for the Indian wedding industry, and that’s why most people didn’t understand ShaadiShop was, for a very long time. I was interested in solving a very specific problem: how to make securing a venue for an Indian wedding easier.

I saw a clear path to make the venue process easier and better for consumers and venues…a win-win, right? ShaadiShop is a great product and I’m very proud of what I built. But it’s more of a public service than a business. I learned, the hard way, that consumers and venues want what ShaadiShop offers…they’re just not willing to pay for it.

I get calls from friends and family who are planning weddings asking for my help. Even though I’m not a wedding planner I can help them because I’m an entrepreneur. I came from direct marketing. I had no experience in the wedding industry, but I immersed myself in it – constantly learning, put myself out there to meet industry professionals and continuously provided features and services that customers would value. Today, ShaadiShop is the preferred website in North America for couples to find information about planning an Indian wedding.

At the beginning of 2020, when everyone realized that COVID 19 was not going away any time soon, and the whole world changed and weddings were on hold for the foreseeable future, I had to face some tough decisions.

In the spring of 2020 I founded Virtual PreSkool. When you hear that name, you don’t automatically think, “oh that must totally be a Hindi school.” And there’s a reason for that. Originally my idea was to create a…virtual preschool. I found some teachers and a few students to start taking classes online. But after a few weeks the teachers that I partnered with were called back to their full time jobs at their schools.

After an exhaustive search, I couldn’t find teachers that were a good fit. So I needed to pivot. And that’s when I started Hindi classes. What I just described is an entrepreneurial journey. I have no teaching background but I knew that I could figure it out. And just like with direct marketing and the wedding industry I have immersed myself into teaching – learning everything that I can to offer my students a fun and productive space to learn Hindi.

I enjoy addressing needs and solving problems. I love thinking about and trying new methods to teach my classes, market Virtual PreSkool and how I can make the experience better for my students and their families. That’s how an entrepreneur thinks.