Wavemakers: School of Meaningful Experiences – Rakesh Godhwani, PGSEM 2004
The learning never stops, its an unending journey. SoME (School of Meaningful Experiences) is aiming to make this journey of learning a joy. SoME is an online edtech startup that offers leadership programs for teenagers founded by Rakesh Godhwani. He also teaches courses on Communication for Leaders and Business Communication at the PGP and EEP programs of IIM Bangalore and IIM Udaipur.
Rakesh has authored 4 books and also has a podcast, where he talks about how can one fulfill their dreams and passion by taking the Plunnge. He has also served as the Head IIMB Alumni Association from 2008 -2015.
We spoke to Rakesh about his entrepreneurial journey and the becoming of SoME.
How did SoME come into being? What was the idea behind it?
The idea for SoME (School of Meaningful Experiences) just fell into my lap. I have been teaching communication for two decades now, and on requests from neighbors and friends, I organized a summer camp for their kids and mine. The plan was to help the children build on their essential life skills like confidence and communication. The success of the camp got me thinking that maybe there is a need for an initiative along similar lines. Thus, SoME was born.
Through SoME, we want to create life long learners. We want to take our participants’ learning and life skills development to the next level by encouraging them to embrace the six Cs – confidence, curiosity, communications, collaboration, creativity, and competence.
It wasn’t an easy start, but I had the support of my wonderful wife, Simran Godhwani who is a Kathak dancer and entrepreneur, and close friend Murari Sharan Gupta, a Kathak maestro. I had to break my Public Provident Fund, which I’d saved for my children’s higher education to finance SoME. Both Simran and Murari also invested funds to get the project operational. We launched in 2018, and after two successful batches, I can proudly say SoME is doing exceptionally well.
What is the main focus at SoME?
Our primary focus is to create fearless problem solvers of tomorrow who can skilfully tackle various issues using critical thinking, emotional maturity and scientific temper.
As we brainstormed to create the SoME philosophy, we decided our main goal would be to build a curriculum that would help teenagers and young adults become more confident, learn persuasive communication skills, and be more collaborative. However, we realised that just sticking to these three traits would not lead to a holistic mental and emotional development of our participants. We also needed to ignite their curiosity, creativity and competence; that’s how the six Cs came into being.
My PhD in Education helped me create courses that targetted the unique needs of today’s teens and young professionals. In 2018, after the conclusion of our first batch, we asked our students for their feedback. We found that they felt more confident at school – unafraid to ask questions in class and even stand up for themselves. One of the participants who stood up to their bully will now write a case study and present it to the next batch. We can’t wait to read their work!
What are the different programs offered at SoME?
SoME’s courses are designed for teenagers and young adults, working professionals and entrepreneurs between the age groups of 13 and 19 and 20 and 30, respectively. These include a 21-weekend leadership programme, a nine-day summer camp for teenagers to help them recuperate after an intense academic year, Debato, a national debating championship for teenagers and a nine-weekend executive program for working professionals, young adults and entrepreneurs.
I am also deeply grateful for the support provided to SoME by IIMB alumni and the alumni association. Last year, we did a one-day workshop, organised in collaboration with the alumni association, at the institute. I was thrilled to meet the teenage children of our alumni; many of whom are close friends! It was a fantastic day, and I hope to do more such events for our lovely IIMB family.
Can this new school of thought and conventional methods of education go hand in hand? And how?
Absolutely! I have tremendous respect for our Indian education system. After all, we are products of it, and it has given the world some fantastic changemakers. However, I also firmly believe that today’s students and young professionals are facing a new, constantly evolving world that brings with it unique challenges. Therefore, they should be provided with tools that would empower them to deal with these new issues deftly. I have been teaching at various Not For Profits and academic institutions like IIM Bangalore and IIM Udaipur since 2008. My stint as an educator helped me recognise the gaps existing in the Indian education system like the lack of innovation and a curriculum that fails to satiate curious minds successfully.
SoME was not created to challenge or compete with the conventional/ traditional education system, but to fill these existing gaps. We aim to enhance students’ existing skillsets, enabling them to be more confident in school, seek answers when in doubt and increase their knowledge, work well with teammates and formulate and present their ideas to others coherently.
We believe SoME, along with traditional education, will help students grow into critical thinking adults capable of dealing with the rigours of a dynamic world.
Did you always want to teach? Who has been your inspiration?
Probably yes. Even though I am an introvert, I enjoy communicating and connecting with people. I did well in my corporate career but always felt something was missing. Then in 1999, I started teaching communication on weekends to colleagues and slowly began to enjoy the experience. By 2004, teaching felt so exciting that I almost quit my job. By 2008, it became an all-consuming passion, and I finally left the corporate world and took the Plunnge; incidentally the name of my first book! I haven’t looked back since then. I started travelling all around the country from Kochi to Udaipur on teaching assignments, and have never been happier.
My parents and wife have been my biggest inspirations. I also find inspiration in the pages of the Bhagavad Gita.
What is your favourite aspect of being a teacher?
Connecting with people, inspiring and nurturing young minds, and leaving a lasting impression on my students are some aspects that make me passionate about teaching. It may seem mushy, but when I see my students’ eyes widen with fascination at an explanation I am giving, I feel ecstatic. Similarly, it is fulfilling to see students implement the learnings they have gained from my classes in their lives, thereby – hopefully – improving their overall emotional well-being. The best compliment I have received was from a young girl who said SoME’s programme helped her stand up against a bully!
It is not all roses, though. I do get my fair share of brickbats and negative feedback, which is essential because it keeps me grounded and encourages me to learn further.
If life is a journey of continuous learning, what are some aspects all of us should evaluate from time to time?
Here are my two suggestions
- Every four weeks, take some time out to pen your accomplishments of those few days. Then gauge if those successes had an impact on the lives of others. Revisit older achievements and see if they positively affected others. If the answer is no, then it is probably a good idea to reevaluate your life and the philosophies that guide it.
- Every few years, sign up for a new course. Our brains get rusted and two big enemies of personal growth, complacency and laziness, sets in. Register for an online course or attend one in a classroom. Learning something new cleans up the rust, making you feel like a new, improved person.