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“Entrepreneurs should always have a clear vision,” says Meenal Arora

Meenal Arora, who co-founded the Shemford Futuristic Schools with her husband Amol in 2009, says kids are generally kinesthetic learners, and they can learn more by practice than textual education

Meenal and her husband Amol Arora who started Shemford Futuristic School as a natural diversification venture from Shemrock Pre-Schools in Hajipur, Bihar during 2009. They are now in the process of taking it to 90 schools across India, out of which 51 are already operational. This remarkable achievement has been recorded in the 'Limca Book of Records 2013' in the category of 'Most Schools launched in the shortest amount of time". Shemford Futuristic School, with a 14-pillar program like the ShemEduMax, and facilities like science park, history and geography museums, is certainly changing the face of education in India. Meenal believes that a school is successful when a child looks forward to learning, and this has certainly proved true in her case.

Excerpts from an interview by Konica Bhatt of Moneylife (ML)

Konica Bhatt (ML): What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? And what is the thought behind the name 'Shemford' and your brand of futuristic learning?
Meenal Arora (MA): Born in a business family, I grew up listening to talk of business and factories. Inspired and fascinated by this talk, I went on to study in business administration from Shriram College of Commerce, where I learnt a lot about developing and sustaining your own business. After my post graduation, I got married to Amol Arora who was an engineer. His family owned Shemrock Pre-Schools in Delhi. Although they had 20 schools in Delhi, it was an in-house business; my husband was involved with the technical aspects and website designing, my mother-in-law looked into education aspect and my father-in-law looked after franchising. When I decided to get involved with the business, I first studied education leadership and management from Nottingham University in UK and then joined Shemrock in 2002. In 2009, as a natural diversification, we launched our own venture of senior schools. They were branded 'Shemford', where 'ford' means 'Path'. After children receive a rock solid foundation in Shemrock Pre-School, they find their path here at Shemford. Hence, the name was only appropriate. We started with two schools and as Shemrock had already established goodwill in the market, we didn't have to struggle for franchising. This led to establishing the chain of schools.

ML: Tell us something about your experience of being the founder of a school?
MA: During the first year, I didn't have the feeling of being a founder. I was more worried about giving the best to the children who had enrolled. It was exhilarating, as we had personally created everything, right from the curriculum 'ShemEduMax', to the in-house software 'ShemFast'. I was excited to see the result as to how children were developing and growing using ShemEduMax. I used to spend the whole day working, never going home before 11pm in the first year. It was excitement coupled with hard work, which was a very rewarding experience.

ML: How different was the experience setting up schools in different parts of India?
MA: Most of our branches are in North India, which is geographically and linguistically convenient. In South India, as they allow only state board schools, so we could not start Shemford, which is a CBSE board school in Kerala. Opening branches in Tamil Nadu was not much different than that in North India, except the language barrier. We had to hire some business development managers to overcome these barriers.

Anantnag in Jammu Kashmir was completely different. Though we did not face any safety issues or threats, although, we read in the newspapers that it was a little disturbed area. We still have to take precautions during traveling. The real challenge we faced was cultural. People in Jammu and Kashmir are conservative, especially with women. The girls have to wear stockings and scarves to school. We had to design different uniforms, where the skirts were below the knees. We had to respect the culture and their decisions, but we managed it and the school is running successfully.

ML: How did you come up with the concept of the science park and history and geography museums, something that most schools don't have? Can you throw some light on the concept?
MA: We have different labs for different subjects like biology, chemistry and physics, where students can conduct the experiments related to the studies. Here at Shemford, we believe that knowledge develops better in an open environment. Acting on this belief, we formed the science park. In this park, we installed developed instruments made out of metals where students can study experiments like colours of light or convergence of energy or sound travel through actual metal objects and do it yourself model. Kids are generally kinesthetic learners, and they can learn by practical more than textual education. We encourage the kids to enjoy the learning here.

ML: Are parents generally open to new concepts or ideas in the educational system? Did you ever face any criticism regarding any concept in your schools?
MA: All parents want their children to understand and observe the concepts very well. They should grow up to be confident, self assured and expressive. It is not all about marks anymore. Parents want all round development of the child. They like it when the school is thinking out of box, spending for the children and investing for their child's future. Here they get the value for money. They like it when their child gets more practical knowledge instead of just theoretical. Also, thanks to our programs, the kids get more exposure and develop connect with the parents. The curriculum and activities at Shemford are child-centered. Also, due to ShemFast, we bridge the gap with our parents and branches. Everything about the child's progress to the functioning of the school is uploaded on this software. This is why we never had any criticism or complaints. Instead, parents praise us for our effort and commitment.

ML: Has your school life reflected your career choice in any way?
MA: When you start your own venture, you want to fill in the gap of what you didn't get. I wanted to do what I liked in my school and fill the gap of what I lacked then. My convent school had a lot of different activities and it groomed me very well in academics and cultural activities. But we were lacking in sports. They didn't have infrastructure, and we didn't have a lot of sports activities or competitions. Here I wanted it to be different. I wanted to create a school where children can participate in activities for physical growth as well, which I lacked in my school. This is why we have a lot of outdoor activities, sports competitions along with studies.

ML: What were the biggest challenges, generally as an entrepreneur and specifically as a woman entrepreneur?
MA: Every franchise has a working model school which they can look up to, but the land we planned to build the model school on was under litigation. We had to manage the franchise without a working model school. This was certainly the biggest challenge we faced. Another challenge I faced as a woman entrepreneur was a lot of planning is required for traveling. There are constraints and safety issues. Also, sometimes getting people to listen to you, follow the system and getting them on track becomes a challenge. There are minute branch level challenges as well.

ML: You have gained entry in the Limca Book of Records 2013. Would you like to share a few insights regarding the experience?
MA: It was a very unique experience. There was this category under we had applied -- so many branches in a short span of time. To get the entry, you have to fill an application form and provide the evidence of actual physical existence of your school. After a few months, we got a call from the 'Limca Book of Records' saying we were eligible for the award and the entry. Interestingly, it was also their 100th year of cinema. They had invited many celebrities and we got to meet them and gain some good exposure.

ML: How would you encourage other women entrepreneurs who want to start their own business?
MA: Entrepreneurs should always do extraordinary things. They should ask questions and do unusual things as people don't expect regular work from them. They should be able to handle stress and do many jobs at once. This is where women have an upper-hand over men. As women we are blessed with the ability of multi-tasking. Women are also very innovative. Even when they are not working, they are very creative. They like to do things differently. You will never find two houses decorated in the same way. If they use the same innovation and creativity at work, they will get great rewards. We have good communication and negotiation skills, and high Emotional Quotient, which makes us good leaders. Remember to always have a clear vision. The most important thing is to establish your target audience, research and planning. You need to use all that in the business to be a successful entrepreneur.

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Kh Ibomcha Singh

3 years ago

Our organization Society for Advancement and Rural Development Activities(SARDA) Heibongpokpi,Imphal West,Manipur State(INDIA) is very highly interested in organising to start a School specially from Pre-Nursery to 10+2 stand. with door opening ypur kind cooperation. The twice below poverty line families could not pay the high rate of Admission and Tuition fees. So villagers are frequently ask to start a School . Unfortunately,our organization is being poor in this kind and valuable projects.
Therefore you are requested to kindly yearned us to implement such valuable projects through your good service and financial assistance for betterment of the weaker section of the society.

Yours faithfully,
General Secretary (SARDA)
Society for Advancement & Rural Development Activities
Heibongpokpi Lamkhai/Lamsang,Imphal West
SPO Lamsang-795146, Manipur State(INDIA)

We promise to empower women entrepreneurs says Usha Ananthasubramanian

Speaking at the Women's Day celebration at Moneylife Foundation, the first CMD of Bharatiya Mahila Bank said that the bank is determined to be of assistance to women entrepreneurs the way traditional banks can’t

Usha Ananthasubramanian, the first Chairman and Managing Director of the Bhartiya Mahila Bank, said, the bank will promote women entrepreneurs across the country including tiny to enterprises. BMB will be able to do this because, it sees the world through the eyes of women’s issues the way traditional banks cannot.


She was speaking at a function organised by Moneylife Foundation to celebrate International Women's Day and supported by DSP BlackRock's Winvestor initiative. The CMD of Bharatiya Mahila Bank also felicitated two extraordinary activists, Sheela Chitnis of Multiple Sclerosis Society of India and Dr Ketna Mehta from Nina Foundation.


Speaking about special challenges that women entrepreneurs’ face and how to deal with them, Ms Ananthasubramanian, said, India has a poor culture of encouraging women to get into business and we want to change that to the extent possible.


This year, Moneylife Foundation felicitated two extraordinary activists, Sheela Chitnis of Multiple Sclerosis Society of India and Dr Ketna Mehta from Nina Foundation. Both of them have shown incredible courage to overcome major setbacks in their personal life and have converted their experience into a mission to help others cope with similar situations.


Ms Chitnis started as a founding member and Honorary Secretary of MSSI nearly 29 years ago with the help of the late Rehmat Fazalbhoy and AH Tobaccowala of Voltas, after her husband Mukund Chitnis was struck by MS. Over 30 years, she has played a pioneering role in creating awareness about MS and in helping patients and families cope with this stressful and debilitating disorder and the financial burden it involves.

“Working with MSSI gave me great satisfaction to meet and support patients and their families across the country. I am grateful to Rehmat, who was my guru and taught me many things due to which I turned from a housewife to a bread earner,” Sheelatai said.


Dr Mehta, along with her brother, set up Nina Foundation 13 years ago to work for the rehabilitation of economically and socially disadvantaged people with spinal injury. Dr Mehta is a multifaceted personality - she is an educationist, editor, author, speaker, mentor and consultant.

Speaking on the occasion Dr Mehta said, “Although we are working since past 13 years, this is the first award Nina Foundation has received from a non-disability organization. We want to reach and help as many people as we can.”


Dr Mehta has been associated with several management institutes as a Professor and Guide for B-school students over the past 24 years. She is the Editor and Associate Dean of Research at WE School, Mumbai since 2003. She received the NCPDEP - Shell Helen Keller Award in 2002 and her PhD thesis titled "Market Potential Study for a world class Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre in Mumbai" won a Rotary International Award.


During the programme, Sultan Fazelbhoy recited a poem written by his wife late Rehmat Fazelbhoy...


Mirror Mirror


Mirror, Mirror on the wall

What's the meaning of it all?

Isn't there something more to life,

Than to be a loving wife?


I've got a body and a soul

I've got a mind, I've got a goal;

I want to learn, I want to teach,

I want to earn, I want to reach


I want to fly from my cocoon

Put my footsteps on the moon;

I am not angry or rebelling

But there's something strong and compelling


I can give the world so much

With my special female touch


-Rehmat Sultan Fazelbhoy

Earlier, Moneylife Foundation felicitated activists like Jyothi Mhapsekhar of Stree Mukti Sanghatana, Meena Seshu of SANGRAM, Albertina Almeida, an eminent human rights activist and a lawyer; and Dr Nishtha Desai, director of Children’s Rights in Goa, Nikita Ketkar from  Masoom, Preeti Telang of Swadhaar- FinAccess, Chandita Mukherjee, an award-winning short documentary film maker and founder of Comet Media, Indrani Malkani of Malabar Hill Residents Association, Anandini Thakoor of the Khar Residents Association and Sumaira Abdulali of the Awaaz Foundation.


Sensex, Nifty in a highly bullish mode: Weekly market report

Nifty has moved to a new orbit but is highly overbought

The BSE Sensex closed the week that ended on 7th March, at 21,919.79 (up 799.67 points or 3.79%), while the NSE Nifty closed at 6,526.65 (up 249.70 points or 3.98%) for the week. Both the indices hit and closed at all time highs on Friday.


On Monday the market snapped last five days of upmove. The indices closed in the negative on the back of geopolitical tension over Ukraine and an official gauge of Chinese manufacturing dropping to an eight-month low. Nifty closed at 6,221 (down 56 points or 0.88%).


Back home, up from 51.4 in the previous month to 52.5 in February, the headline HSBC India Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) signalled a solid and stronger improvement in business conditions across the country's goods-producing sector, Markit Economics said.


With the global bourses mostly closing in the positive on the news that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops back to base which raised hopes of a peaceful solution to the recent geopolitical tensions in Ukraine, the domestic indices also moved higher. Nifty closed at 6,298 (up 77 points or 1.23%).


The data on manufacturing expanded at a faster pace than projected in February.  The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index rose to 53.2 in February from 51.3 a month earlier.


The Nifty continued to move higher on Wednesday and closed at 6,329 (up 31 points or 0.49%). Private sector output across India rose for the first time in eight months during February. The seasonally adjusted HSBC India Composite Output Index posted 50.3 in February 2014, higher than 49.6 in January 2014, indicating a fractional rate of expansion.


State-run banks' bad loans are anticipated to be slightly higher by March-end from a year earlier, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said on Wednesday after reviewing their quarterly performance. He added that the banks recovered bad loans worth Rs18,933 crore during April to December 2013.


For the third consecutive session, Nifty closed in the positive. On the data on shrinking of India's current account deficit the Nifty closed at its all time high of 6,401 (73 points or 1.15%). India's CAD narrowed sharply to $4.2 billion (0.9% of GDP) in Q3 of 2013-14 from $31.9 billion (6.5% of GDP) in Q3 of 2012-13 which is also lower than $5.2 billion (1.2% of GDP) in Q2 of 2013-14. The lower CAD was primarily on account of a decline in the trade deficit, as merchandise exports picked up and imports moderated, particularly gold imports.


Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, on Wednesday said he was concerned about "eye-popping levels" of some stock market metrics, and said the central bank has to monitor the signs carefully to make sure another bubble isn't forming.


The indices again closed at a new high after a massive rally on Friday. Nifty closed at 6,527 (up 126 points or 1.96%) with investors betting that a BJP-led government, headed by Narendra Modi will assume power within a couple of months.

For the week, among the other indices on the NSE, the top two performers were Realty (13%) and Bank (10%) while the worst two performers were Pharma (5%) and I T Sector (3%).


Among the Nifty stocks, the top five stocks for the week were D L F (18%); Hindalco Industries (18%); Bank of Baroda (18%); I C I C I Bank (15%) and Jaiprakash Associates (14%) while the top five losers were Dr. Reddy's Lab (6%); H C L Technologies (6%); Wipro (5%); Sun Pharma (5%) and Lupin (3%).


Of the 1,393 companies on the NSE, 945 companies closed in the green, 407 companies closed in the red while 41 companies closed flat.


Out of the 27 main sectors tracked by Moneylife, top five and the bottom five sectors for this week were:


ML Top sector


ML Worst sector


Real estate






Software & IT Services




Consumer Products


Non-Ferrous Metals






Foods & Beverages




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