THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Local girl Ann Andrews is earning rave reviews with her education startup Techfunic. The Ed-Tech startup based in the US enables children on the American mainland to be tutored in Maths and Technology by students. ACET (College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram) alumna, most of Ann’s tutors are currently students of CET. Ann, who is back home right now, is working with the Kerala Technological University (KTU) to scale this up by sourcing student tutors via colleges as a merit internship. Ann had left for the US in 2006 after she passed out from CET in Computer Science.
It was in Covid-19’s wake in 2020 that her daughter, Tessa, a ninth grader, was figuring out how to go about the online classes, especially learning math. Ann decided to reach out to her Alma mater-- third year engineering students at CET. At first it was hardly easy, but eventually Ann found the right online tutor. Since then, things have been on a roll, which set her thinking about launching a startup company.
Thus Techfunic, which provides personalised tutoring for children aged 8-15 in Mathematics and Technology, was founded. Until then, Ann was working as Technology Programme Manager with Bank of New York Mellon, an investment banking services holding company. Through word of mouth among Indian American communities, especially the Malayali diaspora, the startup became an instant hit.
“So the children there used to get up early and learn Math for an hour or else, they will sleep until afternoon. The various Indian communities asked me, since I am already taking the trouble to teach my children Math, whether their wards could also be brought in. Then another request came in the form of online tutoring in Malayalam, I was game for it as I had a love for my mother tongue,” said Ann, who was the state topper in Malayalam in Class X.
Thus Bhashafunic took shape. In Bhashafunic, three to five students learn spoken Malayalam, which for them was until then what they heard their parents chitchat at home, through online tutors like Shalin Mathew. The 25-year-old Shalin from Enathu in Adoor had been on the lookout for a job when the principal of her college sounded out her on Ann’s startup.
“Now, it is almost a year since I have started giving online Malayalam tutorials or American students. My approach has always been to have a cool -chill vibe with my students. I feel that it is a sort of a cultural exchange programme I am doing,” Shalin told TNIE.
Though Ann’s online tutors are mostly female students, she has also managed to get on board several male students of CET, which helps them earn while they learn. Ann sees to it that her online tutors are paid really well, twice as much as the existing rates. Abhishek Jayachandran, a third year electrical engineering student from Ernakulam, is one such online tutor.
“Initially, I was nervous, not knowing about the teaching mode for American students. But soon, I fell into the groove and have become a professional over the past year and come up with a storyline about the subject,” he said.