Smita Deorah’s daughter was six months old when her mom started reading to her.

And as she kept at it, one day, her daughter lapped it up, becoming an independent reader even before learning to speak.

At this point, most parents would have thought their child was special. 

Instead, Smita concluded that her daughter was just the same as most other kids. What was special was that she was privileged enough to be exposed to the right stimuli and resources at a young age by her mother.

This was one of the key motivators that drove Smita to start LEAD, an ambitious company trying to solve for better school education in India. Smita is the co-founder and co-CEO of LEAD School.

Of India’s nearly 280 million school-going children, just around 5 to 8 million might be getting a quality education. 

She says the rest are either in government-run or affordable private schools that simply aren’t equipped to engage their curious and boundless minds. 

Instead, they’re subjected to mindless rote learning, often by underpaid teachers and ill-equipped administrations. 

To change that, you have to relook at everything, including their curriculum, pedagogy, technology, teaching aids, government policies, parent mindsets and child psychology.

In this episode, Smita explains how she lives on this mission. We talk about unique business models, working in education as parents, continuing to be a believer even when knocked down, and much more.

Full Episode Transcript:

Rohin Dharmakumar  

Smita, you and Sumeet started LEAD, as I understand, based on a bunch of things that happened in your personal lives.

You as parents, your experiences with people who work for you, and how they send their children to school. The fact that Sumeet’s parents were teachers.

Tell us a bit more on these experiences that lead the two of you to create LEAD.

Smita Deorah  

LEAD and the work that both of us do is a very, very personal journey for us.

For Sumeet, as you rightly mentioned, he comes from a family of teachers who grew up in a very small town. 

He was amongst those few rare kids who actually went out, you know, and then lived in Singapore, and hence, he could see the difference between the opportunities that were available to kids who were coming from bigger cities, me being one of them, as compared to kids back home.

Rohin Dharmakumar  

Which city did you grow up in?

Smita Deorah  

I grew up in Mumbai, especially from Singapore, every time he used to travel back the gap that he saw in what was available to children in Singapore, and what was available to kids, especially in small towns was glaring.