“I find joy in bringing a smile on the faces of elders after they become friends with technology. This feeling of making a difference in someone else’s life is unmatched.”
(Founder & Trainer, The Social Paathshala)
Younger generations outnumber their older counterparts when it comes to using technology but elderlies are also jumping on the digital bandwagon. They are considering adding a smartphone to their lifestyle as they are understanding its potential benefits.
To help older people handle digitisation smartly and independently, The Social Paathshala, helmed by Mahima Bhalotia, is leaving no stone unturned. How the platform came into being is an interesting story altogether. Let’s hear the inception tale from Mahima herself.
1. Explain in brief about yourself and The Social Paathshala. How do you correlate with your company?
I have done Master’s in Luxury Goods & Services Management from Milan, Italy. Post my stint in hospitality marketing, I forayed into entrepreneurship as the Founder and Trainer at The Social Paathshala, a new-age initiative aimed at making older adults of our country tech-savvy by helping them learn how to handle their smartphones independently.
2. Elaborate on the services offered by The Social Paathshala. What makes them worth the investment?
We offer online sessions for older adults where they learn how to handle digitisation smartly and independently. 4000+ students have been trained under The Social Paathshala worldwide. India is a country with a growing population of baby boomers who are now stepping into the new world of technology. Through our classes, they can learn the benefits that this new world of digitisation offers. They do not have to depend on their family or friends to become tech-savvy.
3. The inception tale of The Social Paathshala is an interesting one. How did it come into being?
The idea culminated in an office canteen back in 2019. As an ex-Marriott International employee, my daily schedule at Marriott was to spend 20-25 minutes in the cafeteria, where my colleagues and I discussed prospective side hustle options. On one such day, my super boss’ mother kept frantically calling him to book an Uber for her. He got irritated at his mother’s incessant calls as he could not enjoy his lunch. While at that time, he jokingly told me to start taking tech sessions for this age group (because they are dependent on others in terms of technology), I took it seriously in all respects. While at that, I had lost my grandmother in 2018. She could not reap the benefits of technology due to her health issues, but I took this as an opportunity to serve our dearest grandparents and elders.
That’s how an idea from an office canteen culminated into reality. In less than three months of its inception in August 2020, The Social Paathshala was featured in many top Indian publications.
Unlike many other platforms, our sessions are hands-on and tailor-made to suit our target audience (50+ years of age). Our students are made to practice alongside the trainer and all doubts are solved within or after the session.
4. The name of the company is unique in itself. Is there any story behind it?
When this idea came into my mind, I discussed the same at home. My mother was super impressed with this thought. She suggested using a familiar word to older adults in the company name. I aimed to make this a tech school for seniors but instead used the Hindi version of it- ‘Paathshala’. Since we would impart social media and other tech skills in the Paathshala, we finally came up with the name- ‘The Social Paathshala’.
5. What challenges are your platform currently facing? How is it planning to overcome them?
The biggest challenge that we are currently facing is that elders in India still struggle to join an online Zoom meeting. Even after joining the Zoom meeting, they find it difficult to fully understand the functions of muting, unmuting, and switching the video on/off. Additionally, they are not very well versed with their smartphones. Therefore, they find it hard to switch from one application to the other. We are tackling this challenge by helping them learn the basic functions of Zoom and smartphones.
6. What is your company’s mission?
My future plans comprise expanding this initiative globally so that more and more senior citizens can become digitally empowered. I want to help them adapt to this new normal so they don’t have to depend on their kids to help them. I also aim to bring the voice of many senior citizens online so that people can take inspiration from them and lead their lives with utmost satisfaction.
7. Mention the Milestones achieved by your company so far.
The Social Paathshala has been covered in 12+ top news publications/blogs in India. We recently crossed a milestone of teaching about 4000+ students in our Paathshala. Our cause has been supported by eminent personalities in various fields- the late Chinna Dua, Ghazala Amin, Bhawana Somaya, Nakuul Mehta, Gul Panag, Anita Ratnam and many more.
Apart from this, I was featured in Tata Sky Seniors Channel on TV as a part of their ‘Technoshala series’ where expert tech trainers discuss all things technology for senior citizens. A latest and recent feather that we’ve added to our cap is our coverage on ‘Whatsapp’s official global social media platform with about 5 million followers collectively. This coverage was also supported by the popular blog ‘Humans Of Bombay’.