‘Want to help and guide every child towards a career’
Sheetal Bapat, founder of Shyamchi Aai Foundation(SAF) believes that quality education is the key to solving nation’s major issues.pune Updated: May 18, 2018 14:52 IST
Shyamchi Aai Foundation (SAF) has been working towards enabling and empowering adolescents to realise and achieve their career goals for five years. Sheetal Bapat, founder of SAF, believes that quality education is the key to solving the nation’s major issues and the impetus it needs to spurt growth. She spoke to Ananya Barua about how the urge to educate herself while gaining work experience at the same time, widened her perspective of the education sector.
1) What is your educational background?
I completed my BCom from Symbiosis College Of Arts and Commerce in 1993. In 2001, I did mypostgraduate diploma in business management (PGDBM) in marketing and branding from Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT). I have always valued practical experience over theoretical or academic knowledge. Therefore, I had been working at several places during the time between the two courses. My first work experience was as an intern when I was in Class 12. I was academically bright and I would always make it a point to maintain a rich background of work experience.
2) What did you do after you graduated?
After graduating, I opened my own startup on desktop printing and graphic designing in 1994, called Shree Graphics. A few successful years later, in 1998, I began a placement consultancy firm, called M and S associates. I had always been drawn towards working in the education sector. This is why i eventually establishedShyamchi Aai Foundation in 2013. However, in 2001, I was offered a job at PN Gadgil jewellers as the head of branding and advertising. I was working there while I was completing myPGDBM course. I worked there for six years, but the yearning to work in the education sector was always alive. So, I would also teach entrepreneurship atBrihan Maharashtra College of Commerce (BMCC) along with my job.
3) How would you describe your career?
There have been a number of highs and lows throughout my career, but I only think about the positives. One of them is giving birth to my two children in 1997 and 2002. While they are a part of my personal life, they have always contributed to my career. It was all about balancing being a single mother and an entrepreneur. Being a mother also had a lot to do with the founding of SAF. Motherhood is not gender specific. It is about being a strong support for your children and helping them realise their potential. At SAF, we do exactly that.
4) Why did you decide to found a career guidance institute?
There were a lot of factors involved, other than my yearning to make a difference through education. One specific incident though, changed my life. It was when my domestic worker’s daughter was planning to drop out from school in order to help her mother earn money that I realised that such situations are prevalent throughout the country. I began researching more about drop-outs in my locality as a result of the incident. The issue, I realised, apart from being financial, was also the lack of motivation and a clear goal. Hence, I brought a few children, including my domestic worker’s daughter, together and began the foundation. I wanted to use my skills and knowledge to guide them to a better future.
One such story is that of Sona, Sanjeevani and Sahil. In a matter of one year, the three siblings lost their parents and their grandmother, leaving them helpless. We took them in, provided them with shelter, food and education, while also motivating them to have a wider outlook towards their future. Today, Sanjeevani and Sahil are studying in Class 12 while interning at SAF, and Sona is three years into her BA course atIndira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).
5) What are your future plans?
We want to reach out to every single child in India and guide them towards a quality education and a career. Only then, can we build a strong country.