Frontier Markets joins the ACT collective with a Skilling x Women grant

Rural India has experienced a significant surge in phone and internet access in recent years. But despite this progress, communities in these areas still face significant challenges in accessing the benefits of e-commerce – with only around 12% of rural internet users being able to address their needs online. On the other hand, rural women continue to encounter barriers to accessing livelihood opportunities that provide the flexibility they need and are unable to exercise the agency to drive household spending. This impacts the rural markets as a whole because women channel their earnings towards community building activities like children’s education etc. that help build overall economic resilience.

Frontier Markets (FM) offers a solution that addresses these challenges by harnessing the economic and social potential of rural women. FM’s innovative solution enables them to leverage their community relationships to aid their livelihoods, by using a tech-first platform, the Meri Saheli App, that connects products and services with rural communities. Through partnerships with local NGOs and government entities, FM recruits women from Self Help Groups (SHGs) and equips them with their e-commerce platform as well as comprehensive training to market, sell and service necessary products and services. These women not only address real needs within their communities but also become catalysts for local economic growth. 

Till date, Frontier Markets has built a network of 20,000 digital rural women entrepreneurs called “Saral Jeevan Sahelis,” who are using their platform to share relevant insights that help companies design and deliver solutions for rural households at the last mile. For instance, over 1 million families have accessed impactful climate friendly solutions at their doorstep through FM. Sahelis have become trusted influencers and champions of change voicing community needs, emerging as leaders in their villages as well as contributors to their families’ income; earning over $30MN of income and garnering the ability to invest in their children’s future.

FM’s recent ‘She-Leads Bharat’ initiative further seeks to formalise partnerships with the Indian government and NGOs across seven states, with the goal of adopting this model nationally. Over the next five years, FM aims to equip 1 million women to impact 100 million households in 25,000 villages, giving rural women the agency to drive economic decisions, voice their demands, and shape national policy.

The impact of FM’s work extends beyond economic empowerment, benefiting rural consumers by providing access to quality solutions at affordable prices. We are excited to support Frontier Markets with a Skilling x Women grant, which aims to accelerate FM’s scale by expanding its network of women entrepreneurs to 50,000. This grant will enable FM to strengthen its leadership team and execute its growth strategy across multiple states!

Empowering the dreams of students in rural Maharashtra: How VOPA helped Annapurna aspire to become a District Collector

In Maharashtra’s Jalgaon district, the story of 15-year old Annapurna Jadhav unfolds—a tale of determination amid life’s challenges. Annapurna had lost her father due to severe health issues, leaving her mother to single-handedly support their family by working at a mat-making company.

Amidst the turmoil of pandemic-induced lockdowns, education for millions of students nationwide almost came to a standstill, particularly affecting children like Annapurna in India’s remote regions. Amidst this uncertainty, a beacon of hope emerged when VOPA, an ed-tech startup, visited her school and introduced their free solution called V-School – which aimed to democratise digital learning among underserved students in Maharashtra’s rural areas.

VOPA’s innovative super app, that hosts educational content in vernacular languages like Marathi, Urdu, and semi-English, was looking to transform traditional learning paradigms. For Annapurna, V-School transcended beyond an app; it became a catalyst for change. Its free, accessible resources, from videos to MCQs, offered a lifeline to tackle the structural challenges that in-person learning presented. Subjects like Maths and Science, once daunting, became comprehensible with V-School’s engaging modules and interactive features.

Instead of having to rely on expensive tuition which her family couldn’t afford, V-School gave her the flexibility to study at her own pace, propelling her to become the top user of the V-School App in the Taluka. Beyond assessing her learning levels, V-School equipped Annapurna with resources to bridge learning gaps, circumventing the limitations of traditional student assessments conducted by school teachers.

“The lessons on the V-School app helped me a lot in my board examinations. The MCQs were also helpful in scoring high marks,” Annapurna reflects, “I was able to secure 93.6% only because of V-School and my school teacher. I dream of becoming a District Collector someday. I know I can!” 

With the integration of cutting-edge technology like the ChatGPT API, VOPA is addressing existing gaps in the ed-tech industry, particularly in providing contextualised learning platforms that offer affordable education to India’s underserved populations. As online learning becomes increasingly integral to India’s education system, VOPA’s solution endeavours to bridge these disparities and make learning more accessible and impactful for all. 

Annapurna’s story underscores the transformative power of technology in empowering students to shape their dreams into reality!



ACT welcomes Karya to the collective with our first Education x Women grant

As per the UNDP’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, 15% of India’s population, i.e ~200 million people, live in poverty. This is, by far, the largest number of underprivileged people in any country. However, with the massive growth of AI across businesses, there is a huge demand for data to train AI/ML models for which tech companies spend billions of dollars each year. Karya is leveraging the opportunity that this need for regionalised data presents, by providing simplified data work to rural Indians through its microtasking platform – the Karya App. Their solution essentially democratises digital data work that has the potential to generate up to $1500 in supplementary incomes for data collectors from underserved communities within a year and accelerate their social mobility.

We’re excited to support Karya on their vision to bring 100M individuals out of poverty by building ethical ways of data collection that fairly compensates its workers, primarily from rural India. The Karya app is an innovative platform that assigns individuals simplified AI/ML data training microtasks and helps them generate income through Karya Earn. Additionally, they provide upskilling opportunities via Karya Learn and career guidance through Karya Grow. Since its inception in 2021 at Microsoft Research, Karya has impacted over 32,000 individuals (60% of whom are women), across 25+ states/UTs, who have received wages totaling INR 4.5 crore for completion of 35M+ digital tasks.

While offering its workers as much as 20 times the prevailing minimum wage in the country, Karya ensures production of better quality Indian-language data that tech companies can use for their AI/ML data work.

To further augment supplementary incomes, Karya is gearing towards generating higher demand for its data work. Through its focus on an ‘earn then learn model’, Karya is supporting its workers to generate enough supplementary income to be able to focus on upskilling and career counselling. Given Karya’s strong focus on enabling career opportunities and learning avenues, ACT is proud to support Karya through an Education X Women grant to:
Focus on building a sales team for higher demand generation among international and national tech-focused organisations
Publish insights on the impact of upskilling and well-being for workers earning supplementary income, with an emphasis on gender-specific nuances
We’re thrilled to be part of Karya’s journey in revolutionising the landscape of tech-driven livelihood opportunities for rural communities.

Enabling a one-stop shop ed-tech solution for low-income children with VOPA

We are excited to announce the next leg of our journey with VOPA! As we renew our partnership for a second year, we continue to support our shared mission of enhancing education for disadvantaged students in the most rural and remote parts of Maharashtra. VOPA, with its innovative approach and pioneering spirit, is on its way to becoming the ultimate tech-led educational resource in India.

Founded by Prafulla Shashikant, VOPA is an ed-tech non-profit that’s making a significant difference in the education of the most marginalised students in Maharashtra. Their mission is to democratise digital learning and they’re doing it by leveraging technology and the network of government school teachers to create vernacular educational content in local languages.

Their V-School app is not just a regular app – it’s a super app with use cases for students, teachers, and district officials. It hosts educational content in Marathi, semi-English, and Urdu languages; covering all chapters, multiple choice questions, automatic assessments, and even scholarship exams for students in grades 1 to 10. The app has been used by more than 1.6 million students and teachers since its launch in 2021.

VOPA has integrated cutting-edge technology into V-School, including the ChatGPT API – thus enabling AI to generate revision questions and word meanings automatically. This tech prowess has been instrumental in reaching and engaging with students and making their learning accessible and impactful.

In addition to their tech innovations, VOPA has worked closely with more than 2500 Zila Parishad teachers to create over 10,000 educational videos. They have established partnerships with 6 different districts in Maharashtra – training teachers to use the app in the classroom and encouraging students to use it at home. The data from app usage is collected automatically and the dashboards with insights are shared with district government officials; enabling them to address any issues promptly.

At ACT, we are excited about VOPA’s vision to reach 10 lakh monthly active users on their platform by 2024. Their goal to become the super app of education, serving as a comprehensive resource for students, teachers, and district officials, aligns perfectly with our mission. We are here to support their vision and are eager to see the transformative impact of our continued partnership.

ACT For Education doubles down on early childhood education with Rocket Learning

We are thrilled to announce the next chapter in our exciting journey with Rocket Learning! As we renew our partnership for a third consecutive year, we continue to fuel our shared mission of transforming early childhood education in India.

Rocket Learning is an ed-tech enterprise that aims to play a key role in enabling India to become the world’s largest, most effective early childhood development system that’s anchored with the government. Their innovative approach involves two WhatsApp-powered solutions – one that engages parents in their children’s learning and another that transforms Anganwadi workers into educators – and aims to impact over 20 million early learners annually.

Rocket Learning’s journey has been nothing short of inspiring. From a team of 20 members two years ago, they have expanded to become a robust team of 150+, reaching nearly 2 million children directly across India. They have created more than 70,000 dynamic digital communities on WhatsApp, that provide easy-to-do content for children in their homes or learning centres, and developed 2,000+ audiovisual pieces and worksheets, which are shared with parents and teachers to enhance their learning experience. This progress has led to a huge impact on parents who are part of the Rocket Learning program. “We have seen significant behaviour change in parents who are part of our program. Parents engage twice the number of times, spend a lot more time with their children, and are a lot more confident in their abilities.” says Azeez Gupta, Rocket Learning’s co-founder.

Rocket Learning has also empowered over 50K Anganwadi workers across the country, transforming them into educators and providing them with the support they need to do better in their classrooms. They are a leading voice in changing the way we see the 1.3Mn Anganwadi workers in India – from caretakers to educationists – through their “Poshan Bhi, Padhai Bhi” campaign, which was recently launched by Smriti Irani (Minister of Women & Child Development).

At ACT, we are excited about Rocket Learning’s vision to help more than 10 million impoverished children achieve foundational learning and life readiness over the next three years. As Rocket Learning transitions from a new tech non-profit organisation to one of the more established players in the country, ACT’s support becomes even more crucial. We are committed to supporting Rocket Learning in their endeavour, and look forward to seeing the transformative impact of our continued partnership.

ACT For Education renews its support to Top Parent

As an ed-tech enterprise, Top Parent is emerging as a powerful force in the space of FLN (Foundational Literacy and Numeracy) – striving to revolutionise education for underserved children in rural and remote parts of India. A free mobile app that equips low-income parents, who have limited knowledge and resources, to support the early years of their children’s development – the newly launched Top Parent 3.0 is driven by an advanced Accelerated Learning Framework (ALF) that empowers children with self-paced learning, ensuring steady progression across key learning competencies.

Under the guidance of Dr. Ryan Baker – Director of the Penn Center for Learning Analytics – Top Parent has undergone a transformative evolution. Drawing insights from an extensive analysis of 1.5 lakh data points, Dr. Baker’s expertise has enabled Top Parent to develop 13 competency maps in the Accelerated Learning Framework across numeracy, literacy and logical reasoning. Through comprehensive assessments, the app identifies individual competency levels and tailors the content accordingly. This personalised approach not only fosters engagement but also provides children with appropriate support, thus fostering continuous growth mastery and preparing children for grade school.

Top Parent’s impressive growth trajectory – from 90K to 500K installations – has proved that a B2C (business-to-consumer) model can indeed thrive in Bharat. Remarkably, Top Parent achieved this milestone with a low CAC of just Rs. 7 per download. This achievement demonstrates the app’s sustainability and scalability, making it a strong contender in the ed-tech space that specifically caters to the Bharat audience.

Top Parent aspires to become the go-to platform for parents in small towns, addressing not only FLN but also expanding to cater to additional needs such as spoken English and 21st-century life-skills supplemented by add-on services like live classes. Expansion into new regions and languages based on demand, such as the recent venture into Marathi, further signifies Top Parent’s commitment to broadening its reach and impact.

ACT For Education is excited to renew its support to Top Parent with a follow-on grant and fuel their journey by investing in product development and leveraging deep user insights to develop more personalised pathways according to children’s learning levels. This grant will also aid the expansion and scaling of its user base to one million, as well as the exploration of additional services such as live classes and an AI-powered chatbot.

ACT For Education brings English Quest on board

In India, English is often seen as an aspirational language. However, for many students who attend vernacular medium schools in small towns, communicating in English can be a struggle. While some may argue that the poor quality of teaching in government or affordable private schools is to blame, the curriculum itself also plays a role. Fluency in any language requires more than just grammar and vocabulary; it is closely tied to speaking and listening. Without a foundation in oral communication, students are more likely to struggle with English in the future.

It’s time to give students in small towns the tools they need to break down the language barrier and unlock a world of opportunities – and this is where English Quest comes in. With a mission to bridge the gap, they’ve developed an innovative curriculum that combines verbal and non-verbal cueing techniques to help students improve their English communication skills – available at an affordable price point of just Rs. 600 per student.

By using a combination of English Quest app and projectors in schools, local teachers are trained to use scripted lesson plans and supportive images to help students develop relationships with text-to-speech. The pedagogy is based on Direct Instruction, Spoken English (DISE) – an approach that has proven to be highly effective in teaching English in other countries. This active learning approach helps students become confident and fluent in their spoken English.

In the past 5 months, 85% of students learning with English Quest have achieved mastery over the English level of A1. Over a 4 year course period, English Quest aims to take every child from a beginner level (A1) to an upper intermediate level (B2).

ACT For Education is thrilled to partner with English Quest to help them scale their solution to 500 schools by 2024 and enable 1 million students become confident English communicators!

Vidyakul joins the ACT For Education collective

Since the pandemic, the online tutoring space has picked up immensely; with online classes rapidly replacing the traditional tuition centre model.

While this opened up access to quality teachers for students across the country, these e-learning solutions primarily catered to students in tier 1 cities – those whose families could afford to pay upwards of Rs 20,000 for such services per year. Furthermore, being designed for the English medium CBSE curriculum, they were unable to serve the needs of students from state board schools.

Having studied in a Hindi medium school near Ambala in Punjab, Tarun Saini set out to create an affordable solution that is custom created for state board students.

Vidyakul, his entrepreneurial idea, is a mobile app that offers both live & recorded classes, along with lecture notes and quizzes, for students in grades 9 to 12. Currently operating in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh & Gujarat, Vidyakul employs local teachers to create vernacular educational content for all subjects (including math, science, english & commerce) with contextual examples to help students learn better.

With all courses available only for Rs. 3000 for a full year, not only is this edtech solution highly affordable but also highly effective. Earlier, many of Vidyakul’s current users in remote/rural areas had to travel 20km+ to their nearest physical tuition centre whereas now, they can simply log in to the app on their parents phone for 1-2 hours a day and be taught by trained teachers.

ACT for Education believes in enabling high-quality edtech solutions for Bharat and we look forward to supporting Vidyakul in making theirs more holistic by adding doubt solving mechanisms, personalising the content for students and generating clear evidence of learning outcomes through both in app data and researcher led studies.

ACT For Education portfolio comes together to reimagine edtech for Bharat

We believe that when mission driven individuals come together as a community, magic can happen!️

August saw our entire ACT For Education portfolio come together in Delhi to learn from each other and collaborate with each other. The 2 days were an immersive mix of expert sessions & discussions which galvanised our EdTech For Bharat entrepreneurs around positively shifting the landscape in the time to come.

With over 30 attendees, the event consisted of 8 sessions that were led by different entrepreneurs and explored a variety of topics such as collaborating with the government, role of digital public goods and how to leverage YouTube to scale. We debated key challenges in the current system & brainstormed on enablers that could help us achieve educational social impact at scale – each of us leaving with a thousand ideas on building the future of edtech for good – together.

Our heartfelt gratitude to Manan Khurma (Founder – Cuemath), Sanjay Purohit (Chief Curator – Societal Platform), Gouri Gupta (Director – Central Square Foundation), Rahul Kulkarni (Chief Technologist – Samagra), Erica Arya (India Head – Project Tech4Dev), Mekin Maheshwari (Founder – Udhyam Learning Foundation) & Mohit Bhatnagar (MD – Sequoia Capital) for sharing their wisdom with our incredible group of social entrepreneurs.

At ACT, our community is our superpower. We hope to create more such spaces in the future as we continue to grow our portfolio and catalyse more edtech innovations for Bharat!

Josh Skills joins the ACT For Education portfolio

India’s labour force participation is strikingly low as many youth are unable to secure jobs due to their inability to converse in English – a common requirement for many well-paying jobs.

This language barrier often restricts them from leveraging high-quality skill development courses which are mostly available in English and even for those who can navigate English courses, the user experience is theoretical and doesn’t build confidence in spoken English.

India is very unique given that the majority of the youth know some English but don’t have an environment where they can practice it freely to gain the confidence to speak. Based on this key insight, JoshTalks created the Josh Skills mobile app that offers affordable English courses which are custom created for the youth of Bharat.

Josh Skills certainly isn’t the first app made for spoken English but the high cost of acquisition & the need for live classes are big reasons why many other such courses are expensive and inaccessible to the masses.

With over 17Mn subscribers on their YouTube channel, the Josh team has a strong comparative advantage to attract users and have created a seamless peer to peer learning feature which allows them to practice English with each other; thus reducing the dependency on teachers.

ACT for Education is excited to partner with the JoshSkills team to open up affordable access to the app for youth from low-income backgrounds and develop intelligent content to personalise their learning journey!

ACT Capital Foundation For Social Impact is a not-for-profit company incorporated and registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013. All donations made to ACT Capital Foundation are eligible for income tax deduction under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act.

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