When his lack of English speaking skills proved to be a deterrent in his career, Saroj took up the challenge to learn the language with the help of the app, English Dost.
Saroj Kumar was forced to quit his studies as a child because of a financial crisis in his family. He always regretted this decision and tried to make the best use of all learning opportunities that came his way.
To progress in one’s career, to read quality literature, to interact with more people and, most importantly, to help your children with their homework, one needs more than just an elementary understanding of the language of communication, business and instruction.
In Saroj Kumar’s case, this language was English.
English has become the preferred language of communication, both for general use and for business use, in most countries, and it’s no different in India. English has gained importance in India for two prominent reasons. First, not everyone in India knows the official language, Hindi. Second, we have a large number of regional languages – some even based on different scripts – and not everyone knows, or understands all these languages. In most cases, especially at work, knowing elementary English can help fill the communication gap. But, basic knowledge of anything, particularly a language, cannot take you far.
Saroj Kumar constantly tried to quench his thirst for knowledge by interacting with, and listening to, people talk and discuss various topics. He grasped information from every interaction, saying “Every bit of information is knowledge, and you never know when it may come in handy!”
Last year, Kumar began working as the front desk security officer at NASSCOM’s 10,000 Start-ups Warehouse in Bengaluru.
When he started, he had a rudimentary understanding of how to operate a computer and only a passing knowledge of English. This limited knowledge was holding him back from progressing in his job and turning it into a career. But being ambitious and resourceful, as well as a keen learner, Kumar decided to acquire this knowledge at the first opportunity he got to do so.
During this period, English Dost, a resident start-up at the 10,000 Start-ups Warehouse, was looking for people to test their product.
English Dost’s application helps people acquire Spoken English Skills by enabling them to converse with a language teaching ‘Bot.’
The app is based on the concept of role-play, where the user plays Ram – a sales manager, who has recently moved to Mumbai. The app takes the user through various situations that one may have to face in life, and the conversations that he will have in those situations. Currently, the app is available with translations in Hindi and Kannada. It has been designed keeping in mind the language needs of people from blue collar backgrounds. The app targets cab drivers, sales people, delivery folks, etc., as a part of its customer base.
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One day, while talking to Ram Kakkad, the founder of English Dost, Saroj learnt about their App and the fact that they were looking for people like him to beta-test their product. This invitation was all that Saroj needed to start using the app.
He would regularly practice the exercises in the app and converse with the ‘Bot’ in Hindi and broken English. The ‘Bot’ would then reply with the English translation of the conversation, helping Saroj diligently practice the same.
Gradually, Kumar’s command over the language improved, thanks to the app. His work at the warehouse also made him more comfortable in using the computer.
In a period of one year, he successfully overcame his two limitations – lack of command over English and skills to use the computer – both, limitations that were holding him back from reaching the next level at work.
Saroj’s enterprising spirit, positive attitude, and hard-working nature soon got him a job offer from ‘English Dost,’ for the position of Admin Manager. Currently, he manages the resources for 30+ employees at the English Dost office and gets two times the salary he was drawing previously!
Kumar’s new job has not only helped increase his financial standing but has also earned him a lot of respect among his family and friends. Today, he is a role model for those who blame lack of resources and opportunities for their inability to progress in life. The financial growth provided by his new job has also enabled him to bring his family to Bengaluru and admit his child in a good play school.
Saroj’s story teaches us two things. One, how much we can achieve by being open to learning new things, by working hard to overcome our limitations and by grabbing every opportunity that life gives us. Two, how someone’s care and concern about the needs of people like Saroj, can enable them to develop life transforming products.
This story highlights the opportunity that Saroj got to learn English from ‘English Dost’, a boon to those who are eager to learn but do not have either the means or the time to get personal coaching.