A website started by three Chennai-based professionals is helping students across India overcome the English language barrier to learn programming, and to launch their careers in the field of information technology.
Even as English continues to be a popular language in our country, it is still not the first language for many students, often acting as a deterrent to these students’ professional growth.
Now, a website called GUVI (Grab Your Vernacular Identity) is helping them learn programming and specific computer languages in vernacular languages.
GUVI provides video tutorials, college courses, assignments, and practice papers to students who aspire to build careers in the field of information technology, and does so in English and vernacular languages, currently Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada.
Founded by Chennai-based software professionals Arun Prakash, S P Balamurugan and M Sridevi, GUVI was born four years ago. “We went to our college in Madurai for an alumni meet, and because we were there after a long time, the expectation was that everything — right from the infrastructure to teaching methodology and other aspects of the learning environment – would have improved. But we were disappointed to see that things were actually worse. While the infrastructure had improved, the amount of exposure students received to the outside world remained the same. So we wanted to do something about it,” Arun Prakash recollected.
Dealing With the Language Barrier
“One thing that stood out was the fact that there were many talented students, but they were held back by the language barrier. Their sparse knowledge of English made it difficult for them to follow lessons, particularly those related to computers,” said Arun.
The trio returned to Chennai and began thinking of ways to help these students. Soon, GUVI was born, initially just as a YouTube channel. “We started a YouTube channel and started uploading instructional videos in vernacular languages. For instance, if you wanted to learn coding or programming in your native tongue, you could do that,” said Arun. The channel soon had over 4,000 subscribers and more than a million views. Many students from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities wrote in, letting them know that the videos had a positive impact on their lives. This motivated the founders and they decided to quit their jobs to launch an official GUVI platform that would make available mentors, practice material, and job opportunities.
A One-Stop Solution
Arun had 14 years of experience in the IT industry, and had worked with Symantec earlier; Balamurugan and Sridevi had worked with PayPal. Leaving behind this cushioned corporate life, the three of them registered GUVI in November 2014. Soon enough, the start-up received a chance to work with the QEEE project, which aims to teach the Python programming in 150 colleges in India in local languages.
In order to utilise GUVI, students must create their accounts on the website, and in turn, they gain access to most of the videos free of cost. Students who opt to sign up for special packages, advanced courses, practice assignments, etc., have to pay fees ranging from Rs. 800 to Rs. 3,000. All the videos are made by industry professionals who work in the particular technology field. “If it is a video about Android programming, a developer who has some six years of experience in the field makes it, or provides a voiceover for it. The content is made only by experts who have hands-on knowledge,” said Arun. GUVI has courses on programming (from the beginner to expert levels), databases, web development, and mobile development.
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“The platform has evolved with the needs of the students. When we were doing only videos, we got requests to include some theory lessons and exercises for students to practise. So we included those. Soon, start-ups began to approach us about hiring our students, so we set up a recruitment channel,” said Arun.
Changing Lives with Every Click
Today, GUVI has over 40,000 users, of which 10,000 users pay for the advanced courses. Students with little knowledge of English or with no background in programming can simply use personal computers to log on to the portal and learn using the available instructional videos. They can also use the various learning exercises to hone their skills. Their performance in these exercises is reflected in a ‘profile’, which is used as a resume by prospective employers to assess their skills. The platform also gives reward points to users who practise and finish their courses, which is again visible on their performance profiles.
Arun estimates that at least 30,000 students have benefitted from the portal and are now proficient in computer programming. They use PCs to practice what they learn and are equipped with the right set of skills for different jobs. “The pay package these students attract is anywhere between Rs. 2.5 lakh to Rs. 12 lakh annually, depending on their skills and the field. Given that many of these students are first-time graduates from their families, it’s a huge step forward for them.”
Murgan is a GUVI student who comes from a family of daily wage earners. Every day, after college and even during the weekends, he used to help his family members with their work to earn a living. A smart but shy student, Murgan didn’t have good communication skills. Once he enrolled himself with GUVI and developed his skills using a PC, Arun and his team recommended him to a company, asking the employers to test him on his technical skills and not just his ability to speak in English.
Murgan got the job and has been the star performer in his company for three years now.
GUVI has a core team of nine people and an extended team of experts to help with content creation. The team also works with colleges in Chennai and Coimbatore so the latter can purchase their content and let their students use it for practice. This helps spread the word about the website too.
Arun is proud of the fact that the widespread reach of GUVI has helped many talented girls gain access to a platform where they can learn, practise, and challenge assumptions about their expertise. “Once, a hi-tech startup company was hiring from GUVI. Many people assume boys are better at programming than girls. But we shattered this stereotype during the hiring process when the first person selected for the job was a girl. This is a platform where girls too come and showcase their skills and this is mainly because they find role models here. One of these is a girl who we mentored and who now works as a developer. She says if it were not for GUVI, she would have been married and without a job by now,” said Arun proudly.
GUVI has made knowledge that is useful to many students seeking careers in the IT industry, accessible, regardless of their linguistic backgrounds. With hard work and dedication, there is no reason that they cannot go forward, rise in their careers and fulfil their untapped potential.
Visit the website here.
This story is part of our series with Intel India’s initiative Ek Kadam Unnati Ki Aur, in collaboration with national and regional governments to empower non-urban citizens through technology, in 10 states of India.
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