He calls himself ‘Fearless’ and we couldn’t agree any more | Sharad Sagar

Lack of quality education has been the root cause of various problems. This issue of all should be the one to be prioritized over others. Sharad Sagar, a young boy from Patna, Bihar who got mentioned in the list of ‘Forbes 30 under 30 Entrepreneur’ in January 2016, awarded with the UN World Summit Youth Award 2011 for the most effective use of ICT for achieving UN MDGs and several others, took a brave decision of declining a Master’s offer from the prestigious Harvard University to come back to Bihar to create an impact and crystallize his dreams. Dream to create a ‘Platform for every child.’

In conversation with PatnaBeats, Sharad Sagar talks about his projects, plans, himself and more.


For those among us who don’t know, could you please explain what Dexterity Global is all about.

Imagine there is a middle/high school kid in some remote area or district of Bihar. This kid is very smart. This kid is good in mathematics and science but This kid doesn’t know what NASA Space Settlement Contest (which is one of the most prestigious contest for Maths & Science) is all about.  What does this mean? This means This kid will never be able to win this contest. There are millions of kids who are losing the race without even getting the chance to participate.
We believe that if you are in Middle/high School and if there were any opportunities for you then you should be the first one to know about it.  Our first platform DexConnect, comes into action there. If there is an opportunity, be it scholarships, contests, workshops, boot camps or competitions from photography, science, leadership, maths, sports, anything and everything from local, national or global scale, the kids should know about them the moment they are floated for them.
Our second platform is Dex Challenge. It is like inter school competitions that helps students build up their skills. The basic skills we are focusing on include communication skills, critical thinking skills (so that students come up with good, intelligent questions) and research skills (how they can do good research).
The third platform is Dexterity School of Leadership and Entrepreneurship. It’s like a business school for a 14 year old. Here kids come and learn the basics of leadership and entrepreneurship. We work on their communication, leaderships and entrepreneurial skills through a curriculum. And there are variousactivities like solving Harvard Law School Negotiations, or learning using Business School Case studies etc. at a very young age that help them grow their skill-sets .We also bring in mentors who can help with their experience. Last year when we were discussing women in leadership; one of our mentors was a project head of NASA women.
In 2015 we created our fourth platform – D2C i.e. Dexterity to college. In this we help students, with whom we got connected in middle/high school, get into elite colleges in the smoothest possible manner by providing them financial assistance, advising them and helping them prepare for these colleges.. We later found out that students who couldn’t pay their application fees won scholarships worth $3oo,000.
The core idea of Dexterity is no matter who you are, where you were born, how educated your parents are or how rich they are, you will have access to every single thing that you need during middle school and high school to move forward.


How do you reach out to these kids?

At this point in time we are reaching out to over 400,000 families in Bihar and Jharkhand through our media partner Dainik Bhaskar.  We have been running this for over 70 weeks now. Every Tuesday, when kids wake up and look into a newspaper in their homes, nearest store or in school library they get to know about various opportunities waiting for them. We also reach out to children in schools and classrooms directly.

 

Kids today are well equipped with Internet. Why Newspaper?

We believe that when you use Internet to solve a problem, you solve the problem of the one who has the privilege of accessing the Internet. The kids we are trying to reach out, most of them do not have the luxury of having an Internet connection. Right now the focus is to reach out directly while these kids are sitting at their home  i.e. . through newspapers. And, the next is reaching kids directly in their classrooms, for which we are signing up various schools.

 

What inspired you to take this up?

I was born in a small village. My father worked for SBI, which is known for its rural branches. These places did not have good schools due to which my parents decided to home school me till the age of 12. When I went to school, I did quite well in school and so I started looking for opportunities on Internet, started competing and I did well and excelled in those areas as well. By the time I reached 7th or 8th grade I was in position where I was travelling internationally, winning debates and competing in quizzes and my school loved me and that was the point when I had to look back and think whether I really was the smartest kid in school or was there something else to the story that everyone was missing. My classmates were equally smart, hardworking and they were equally willing to do good things. And that’s when I realized that I was doing well not because I was the smartest kid, I was doing well because I was the only one who knew that these opportunities existed. I was the most connected kid. That’s when I decided instead of doing really well for myself, here is my chance to go back and work with everyone who has the ability, everyone who wants to work hard and can do well, and enable them to have all those resources and skills that can help them do well in their lives.
That was the point when I decided that we should be giving all our kids the same opportunities to do well because all our kids are equally driven and they want to do well in some field or the other.


How do you fund Dexterity?

There are certain platforms that are sponsored by our corporate partners and organisations who see value creation in this initiative. Some of our platforms have a high number of participants trying to change their lives and that motivates our corporate partners  to keep the lights on and fund us. In other platforms like Dex School which has less participants (like around 40) but is a high impact and valued platform, has some tuition fees attached to it. But Dexterity has a policy that says, ‘if you can pay, good. Else we will pay for you.’ It works like if your parents find value in the platform then you can pay for it and if you are unable to pay then you can simply provide tax returns of your parents and we make it free for them.
But the ‘Platform for every child’ remains consistent. Nobody ever comes to know who is paying for it and who’s not.
 

How do you select the kids?

The basis is different in different platforms.
Dex Connect is just for everyone. They get connected through newspapers.
Dex Challenge is a competition circuit. We run those competitions. The idea behind it is not to find the winners but to enable everyone to find their creative side.
In Dex School, we are a bit selective. We are looking into who they are, what is it they want to do, where do they stand now. We are looking for potential and we are looking for a drive.

How often do you take Dex Challenge around in school?

Dex challenge is an annual phenomenon but we are trying to make this year round event. But at the same time we realise that we cannot be the only one designing these competitions. We need more and more organisations to design platforms for kids the same way NASA has done to helps kids to move forward in their lives. So if any organisation designs similar platforms, we take the full responsibility to help them reach out to those kids.


Where do you conduct Dex Challenge?

We do not necessarily want to conduct DexChallenges in regions that already have access to similar platforms. We are focused on tier 1 and tier 2 cities and our current focus is on Bihar. We also conduct online Challenges.


How satisfied are you from Dexterity’s performance since it started?

We haven’t even reached 0.001% of where we want to reach. There is so much to do. We want to make sure that no child should ever be on the mercy of anyone else for his/her education. If you are born on this planet we want to make sure you get the kind of education you actually deserve.


Tell us about your team.

My team comprises of a total of around 227 people including volunteers, full time employees, and interns. We have 6- 7 people in our core team who are more like front line entrepreneurs and strategist from all over the world and we have around 10 members on our board. One of our interns got into ISB few months ago and he still comes back to work with us because he says this platform is close to his heart. We don’t want anyone working with us who doesn’t care about what we do.


What would you like to say to the students who are awaiting their results or have already theirs?

People who have done great things were not necessarily toppers. If you are a topper, that’s a good thing but even if you didn’t manage to do as per everyone’s expectation, whatever your marks may be, just remember that no one ever became successful in life because of the marks they got in their High School.
Have a purpose in life and move forward in that direction, only then you can truly take care of your dreams and you are the only one who can tell yourself whether you can achieve it or not. No CBSE/ICSE report card can tell you weather you can achieve your dream or not. Know your purpose, know your dream, know your vision, stay focused, do your job and do not listen to anyone including your report card.  Don’t let the board result or ranking bother you. Do what you are passionate about, work harder, do  better but don’t let your mark sheet tell you anything.

How will you describe yourself in 3 words?

Fearless.
Selfless.
Visionary.


How will you describe Sharad Sagar as CEO?

Perfectionist.
Friend.


How will you describe Sharad Sagar as a mentor?

I have a high level of empathy. I can put myself in the shoes of other people and see where they are and understand what they think and why they think.


Tell us about your immediate plans in Bihar.

We have ‘Dexterity to college’ coming especially for students in Bihar. Dex School is coming up in June. We want to extend Dex Connect to an ‘app’ and engage more and more classroom programs. Kajal Aggarwal is our Goodwill Ambassador and it’s a great gesture on her part that she wants more involvement in the initiative rather than just being a face for this extensive campaign.

Comments

comments