An interview with Dhara Mehta. Founder of The Kids Company.
Tell us something about yourself.
It was 2008, I was a postgraduate, and worked as a media manager in a multinational media house I had a promising career ahead. That’s when I bagged one more qualification, one that needs no college or formal degree, ‘Motherhood!’ From a corporate working woman, I became a stay-at-home, hands-on-mommy, very content with my new responsibility. Little did I know then that the sabbatical taken to enjoy motherhood would eventually turn out to be my final goodbye to the corporate world!
Motherhood for me has been, and still is, an overwhelming experience: I was completely in awe of the wonderful surprises my little K would have for me every day. ‘Get a helper for your son’ was the most clichéd piece of advice given by most of my ‘well-wishers’. However, I decided to go against it. With each passing day, I was convinced of not getting back to the ever-demanding corporate world. However, the question ‘Where am I heading professionally?’ kept haunting me.
‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work’ – fortunately for me it looked wonderful!
How did you come up with the idea of ‘The Kids Company‘?
As my son grew from an infant to a toddler, he and I would often spend our noon’s playing board games or creating ‘robots’ with blocks, or solving jigsaw puzzles! That’s when I picked up a very important insight: ‘play is the work of childhood, and the highest form of education’. This thought that ignited a spark in me: to reach out to pre-primary kids with a service, which would bridge the gap between play and learning. It sounded vague to many but I believed in my dream.
I decided to learn everything about child development and care and took up a formal one year course. So strong was my passion for the subject that I topped my batch with a distinction and became a qualified Early Childhood Care and Education Provider. Theory and practical knowledge both complement each other when it comes to learning something new. To gain practical knowledge, when my son turned three, I took up a job in a day-care-activity-center for kids with only one condition from my side, that my son shall accompany me there after his school. These were systematic and planned steps to help me reach my goal.
The formal course and practical experience both reinforced my belief that early childhood education should be filled with lots of enjoyment and play, allowing children to live their childhood to the fullest and not miss out on the most important ingredients of growing up. Working upon this insight, ‘The Kids Company’ was born in 2013.
So what is the USP of The Kids Company?
‘The Kids Company’ is an intelligence building activity centre offering its fun filled and intellectually stimulating program to children between 3 – 7 years of age. We specialize in academic enrichment, brain games, building logical intelligence, instilling creative thinking and teaching through play.
Our program is designed to enable learning through a surprise mix of curated educational games, I.Q. sessions, puzzles, mazes, crosswords and many more brain tickling activities. The activities are aimed at improving the child’s skills related to logical thinking, problem solving, self – management, communication and inter personal skills.
What were the challenges that you faced in your Entrepreneurial journey?
Shifting gears, and industries from being a media professional to an entrepreneur in the education industry, starting my own venture, and raising a child in a nuclear set up needed a lot of self conviction. My journey so far has been fulfilling and an enriching, along with some challenges.
I started The Kids Company from my house by dedicating a room for the same. It wasn’t as easy and convenient as it sounds. To have a workspace at home, and with a growing toddler around all the time was taxing and challenging. Setting professional standards and overcoming clients’ (parents’) perception, who would misinterpret it as ‘just another tuition class’ was a herculean task. I’ve made a clear demarcation between my personal and professional space though they co exist in the same premises.
Another challenge was switching between professional and personal roles.A strict routine is needed to strike a balance between professional and personal commitments. Work starts when I kiss bye to my son and my husband at 8:30 am. I have an action packed day, juggling emails, planning sessions, filling up on groceries and all the chores, till 3:00 pm when I make it a point to pick my son from school. It’s child and mom connect time and once he’s settled I shift focus to my second baby! Typically, I wind up my work by around 7 pm and am in mommy mode till I tuck my son in bed!
Also, there are a lot of uncertainties associated when you start your own venture. Initially I got anxious and nervous, but I guess motherhood’s made me stronger, and more open to accept surprises that come along! There have been days when my house help took an unplanned leave, or K’s school declared a half-day, and once my husband ended up with a fracture playing soccer! Nonetheless, my work continued seamlessly.
How would you sum up your journey so far?
It has been an enriching and a satisfying journey so far. The Kids Company has also bagged some awards along the way which has always kept my motivation high and mood upbeat. At the RIVOKIDS Parents and Kids Choice Awards 2015, The Kids Company bagged the best activity centre (pan India) second runner up award. In 2016, we were honored to receive BABYCHAKRA Mom’s Choice Service Certificate in the category activity classes.
Sigining off with the thought, that inspired me in my journey: ‘Organize your life around your dreams – and watch them come true.’