Working Lives: schools entrepreneur
- 7 February 2014
- From the section Asia
Manjula Pooja Shroff is an entrepreneur who runs about 30 private schools and education institutions across India.
She is tapping into the boom in private education in a country that has recently passed a bill making free education between the ages of six and 14 a fundamental right.
"The problem is quality," she says of the state education system.
"We don't just focus on academic results but we aim to develop the whole person. Sport is a big part of our schools, for example basketball and football for boys and girls. State schools here don't do that," she says.
By law Ms Shroff is required to make a quarter of her school places available to non-paying pupils from the local area, selected purely on the basis of age and geography by the municipality.
However, this does not always go smoothly.
"India is still a very divided society and often parents who pay for a place will say, 'My child is picking up bad language, bad habits, from those children'," she says.
"It is something we have to handle."
At her modern home in a quiet compound near the city, Ms Shroff says that though she is very focused on her work she still finds time for cycling, which until fairly recently was a means of transport for many, but is now a leisure activity for the wealthy.
She also loves the traditional Gujarati folk dances that form part of one of Ahmedabad's festivals.
When she started her company she quickly realised that her normal attire of jeans was not going to work.
She explains, laughing: "You see, Manjula is kind of an old lady's name and being in education people were expecting a more serious-looking person.
"I started wearing sarees and even got some glasses, even though I didn't need them, so I looked more like a kind of school principal. Believe me, it worked."