Duo Watches Dad Fight With Google Maps Helping 3000 Seniors Get Tech Skilled – The Better India | Hot Mobile Press

Beta yeh google maps toh hai phone mein, but iska istemaal kaise hota hai?”

That’s the question her father asked 44-year-old Neelam Mohta over breakfast one day. While she spent half an hour explaining how the app worked and how he easily reached his destination, it got her thinking.

Many people in their fifties and beyond were intimidated by the technology. The gap widened. Something had to be done.

Neelam Mohta and Pinky Bhaia (Co-Founders of Mobile Pathshala)

Share your thoughts on this topic The better India, she says: “Our parents’ generation has high-end phones with all these fancy applications that ironically aim to make life easier. But they always get hassled when it comes to using them.”

Soon after this revelation, Neelam spoke to her cousin Pinky Bhaia and discussed the technology crisis with her. “She also shared the same thoughts as me,” says Neelam.

The Kolkata-based duo, united by a common goal, decided to launch their company, Mobile Pathshala, in 2019 to help seniors get to grips with technology and various mobile applications.

Today, her company has helped over 3,000 seniors achieve their dreams of becoming self-reliant and tech-savvy.

A school for seniors

Neelam Mohta teaches technology to seniors
Neelam Mohta teaches technology to seniors

Neelam says the timing was also perfect to start something new. “Both Pinky and I are housewives with grown children. Starting a business felt like the perfect way to fill that empty space while doing something constructive.”

Pinky adds that becoming an entrepreneur and sharing your knowledge to uplift others has been exciting at the same time. “Our kids even helped us with the logistics,” she jokes.

Thus began the duo’s journey to building their platform. In their initial research, they came across facts and figures that would shock them.

Pinky asks, “Did you know that India has around 117 million phone users, 65 percent of whom use a smartphone?” had made the right decision.

“Technology has become an integral part of our personal and social lives,” she says, likening it to a knife – use it well and it will make life smoother. Use it unwisely or without knowing all of its features and it will hamper your productivity.

With their goal set in stone, the next mission was to get the word out about their newly launched ‘pathhala’ and get ‘students’ on board.

how hard was it

The students of Mobile Pathshala
The students of Mobile Pathshala

“Incredibly easy,” says Neelam, adding that even at 65, people are still excited to learn something if it helps make their lives easier.

“In the beginning we would post on our Facebook page,” she says. “But then we realized that our target audience wasn’t scrolling through Facebook. They have been to yoga clubs and associations and of course online groups,” she adds.

The duo learned a lesson in their early days: never underestimate the power of a WhatsApp forward.

As word spread through the community that these two women were willing to train elders in the use of technology and applications, more seniors became interested.

Mobile Pathshala had officially started in 2019. The duo began teaching in a small room in Kolkata equipped with a projector and a few chairs. While there was no “routine,” batches were held at the seniors’ convenience.

“It was perfect,” says Neelam. “These people were so happy to start ‘school’ again.”

But just as their classes were picking up steam, the COVID lockdown hit in March 2020 and they were concerned.

But what they feared would be a spoke in the wheel of fully functional classes had the opposite effect.

Classes at Mobile Pathshala are conducted offline and online
Classes at Mobile Pathshala are conducted offline and online

“The lockdown has proven to be game-changing for us.”

“Really, it has,” Pinky says, adding that they’ve now started running classes on Zoom, where they’ve been able to reach a wider audience, and also teaching seniors, a whole host of other apps besides WhatsApp and Facebook etc to navigate.

“Lockdown was a time where everything was online, including her yoga sessions and meditation clubs etc,” she adds. “Even with their families back home, they would be interested in knowing how to use apps like Canva to create birthday cards or edit pictures and we found an opportunity in that.”

Now their target audience was not only experimenting with apps, but also fascinated with ordering online and using platforms like Amazon, eBay, etc. The duo saw this as a wonderful time to teach their students the intricacies of e-commerce.

“We’ve started looking at issues such as how to do bank fraud, banking systems, privacy regulations and basically how to use the cell phone without getting into trouble.”

Neelam says of teaching Mobile Pathshala, “We focus on one app per session so they get a full understanding of it. We don’t want to make it unnecessarily difficult for them.”

Giving an example of a workshop on Google Chrome, she says: “The session included an introduction to the app, how to save a page, bookmark a page, log in via profile or as a guest, search for recipes, etc. and go back to home page.”

Other sessions conducted include using financial apps, storing passwords securely online, managing WhatsApp storage, exploring the features of YouTube, etc.

Sometimes the duo also venture into quirky topics like tricks on how to read deleted WhatsApp messages.

“They just love the little hacks,” says Neelam. “Nothing is too simple or too complex for them. Once they get the hang of it, they become pros.”

She tells how some of her students often complain that they have to delete pictures from their gallery because their phone is busy. “Their requests are sometimes the simplest things,” she says, adding that by the end of the session, they’re thrilled as they become experts at managing their storage space.

Pinky agrees, adding, “Something we might think of as ‘Oh, it’s so easy’ isn’t so easy for them. Everything we’re trying to do about this platform is to get them to look at it as something simple, too.”

The apprentices also praise the duo. Dimple, a 60-year-old from South Africa, says: “Before I became part of this platform, I was always fascinated by the ‘add effects’ option that images have. But now that I know how to use them, it’s like a whole new world has opened up for me.”

“I even created and deleted my Facebook page multiple times. It’s fun,” she laughs.

However, for Dimple, the best thing about Mobile Pathshala is that learning doesn’t stop after one session.

“Whenever I encounter a problem using an app, I turn to Neelam and Pinky and they help. There is no time frame within which you must ask your doubts.”

Another learner, Naresh Goenka (65), says after weeks of classes he now has GBoard installed and can send messages in Hindi. “I’m so happy with it.”

He adds: “The sessions are very fruitful.”

With classes being conducted both offline and online, the seniors are enthralled. For a private offline course the fees are Rs 1,000 while for an online course in a group the fees are Rs 399. For their usual online batches, classes are conducted three times a week in the afternoon.

In addition to teaching, Pinky and Neelam also conduct workshops whenever time permits or requests are received.

While class sizes vary from 10 to sometimes 72, the duo say the quality of instruction does not.

We know we’re doing well and we see around 15-20 new additions every month, most of them women. This, they say, is an additional reason for them to be proud. “Apart from our goal of having tech-savvy seniors, we also want all women to be self-reliant and financially informed,” says Neelam.

Mobile Pathshala has learners from all over India – Kolkata, Delhi, Madras, Mumbai, Bangalore – as well as Nepal, South Africa and Switzerland. Neelam and Pinky plan to expand their reach and reach out to organisations, associations and large communities in the coming year.

“We feel fulfilled to reach a generation that has taught us so much,” says Neelam, apologizing as her group of excited 60-year-olds can’t wait for classes to begin.

Edited by Yoshita Rao

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