An interview with Aarati Savur | Founder | Speaker | at Parisar Asha

An interview with Aarati Savur | Founder | Speaker | at Parisar Asha

We always strive to bring meaningful and powerful stories from India and around the world to empower and motivate our growing community. As part of this endeavour, we invited Aarati Savur for an exclusive interview with us. Let’s learn more about her incredible journey, her background and her advice for our growing community.

Tell us a little bit about your start-up and your journey, please;

I represent Parisar Asha, a Mumbai based not for profit organisation working in the field of education since 1982. This was started by late Ms. Gloria de Souza a revolutionary school teacher who dreamed about changing the traditional rote learning system to environmental based experiential learning system just not to provide knowledge but to develop life skills and values for life.

My journey with Parisar Asha started almost 26 years ago after I completed my post-graduation in Botany. Meaning of Parisar in Sanskrit is ‘environment’ and Asha is ‘hope’. I thought this organisation works towards sustainability of environment so my masters degree would be helpful, but I was wrong. Parisar Asha is much more beyond than the physical surrounding, it’s all about sustainability of natural, social, emotional, academic, home, work and spiritual environment.

That’s how I enjoyed my initial 10 years in Parisar Asha as a teacher’s trainer and teaching aids designer. During those days we used to create teaching and learning materials for the schools like students’ worksheets, teaching aids and teachers’ training to help them provide joyful education to the students who can’t afford quality education .

And then there was a turning point in my life when I had to move to Indore because of my husband’s transfer. There I got the opportunity to work for the first IB school of Madhya Pradesh . I realised, Parisar Asha also had similar principals like IB , but at low cost; almost at no cost.

Then when we moved back to Mumbai, I got an opportunity to work with very a prestigious corporate  at  senior levels. Life was pretty good and secured but my destiny had different plans.  There was another turning point in my life .I lost my husband in a car accident. I had already lost my parents, no siblings, responsibility of small daughter and old mother in law .

My life changed in a second. But somehow I found myself  and today I feel , I am very much successful in creating a masterpiece with the broken pieces of my life . There’s always a hope till you are alive. So never give up. During that time, founder director of Parisar Asha was terminally ill with cancer. She called me back as a CEO to carry on her dream. It was another tough situation in my life to choose between high paying corporate career as to a philanthropical institution which was going through tough times.  I chose to go with my heart.

 I joined Parisar Asha as a CEO and within few days Gloria passed away peacefully. From that day onwards it has been my baby , my responsibility , my passion and my purpose of life ! I feel truly  blessed as not many can find their purpose of life . 

It’s been 8 years since I embarked on this journey as the CEO of Parisar Asha and the journey has been miraculous .

What new initiatives you started as the CEO of Parisar Asha

With my philanthropical as well as corporate background ,I could bring out many positive changes in the organisation and society at large . Though it’s a not for profit organisation but now we run it like any other business unit; only difference here is the business is for a cause . I had to initially revamp the entire operations of Parisar Asha to suit the needs of the current situation . I was lucky to have my talented team from my earlier organisation joining me to share my dream of education system that will provide equal opportunities to all for a sustainable tomorrow. I introduced art integrated learning in the existing curriculum of Parisar Asha. I am also a post graduate in drawing and painting and love exploring different forms of art .Hence, I feel its very important to integrate it in the mainstream curriculum. I have been also a part of NCERT curriculum team to develop teachers training packages . So we started various initiatives to give equal  weightage to visual arts and performing arts along with mainstream curriculum. We also work for inclusion.

While working with schools, I realised that it’s very important to a educate parents . Today’s generation has lot more problems, challenges and competition and somewhere all the problems have their roots in the home environment. Hence, to deal with child related issues we started ‘Positive Parenting and Child Helpline.’ This is a completely free of cost mental health service . We need to create more awareness about mental health issues in our society which still holds immense societal taboos.  Our licenced mental health professionals – psychologist and psychiatrist manage this toll free helpline.

We also started innovative workshops for parents, teachers and students addressing various aspects of academics and life.

During Covid we shifted all our services on the digital platform and started various initiatives to continue education.

Every year almost lakh of families are getting befitted by our various initiatives .

What service(s) or product(s) do you offer/manufacture?

We work around a social mission of providing quality education to the underprivileged through our internationally acclaimed pedagogy called Environmental Studies Approach Towards Learning ( ESAL ) to replace the age old learning system with a joyful learning process. During this learning process we teach the children through their natural, social and spiritual environment.  This entire teaching learning process is rolled out under our umbrella program Eco-tech World School Program.

The products which are offered in this program have been curated for three primary stakeholders; students, teachers and parents who are directly involved with the program and do get affected.

The products offered under this program are :

Students’ Support Initiatives:

  1. Students’ Worksheets and workbooks for every subject in printed hard copies for all students.
  2. Extra worksheets and practice worksheets for home-based learning in soft copies on our digital portal- Eco-tech Digital Resource Centre
  3. Online workshop sessions for all the students:
  • Visual Art workshop
  • Performing Arts Workshop
  • Mental Health Workshop
  1. Online Clubs :
  • Reading Club
  • Study Circle : A special initiative for Std V to VII to provide handholding in Science and Maths by volanteers from premier engineering colleges

Teachers’ Support Initiatives:

  1. Online training programmes on various teaching techniques and topics
  2. Free Access to detailed lesson plans designed based on the blended learning approach infused with Parisar Asha’s internationally acclaimed pedagogy ESAL (Environmental Studies Approach towards Learning); annual curriculum, monthly evaluation worksheets ( star worksheets), answer keys and question banks through Parisar Asha’s Digital Portal – Eco-tech Digital Resource Centre
  3. Digital Teaching Aids
  4. Special Mentor – A Parisar Asha expert who is always available to help the teachers
  5. WOW ( Wednesday Online Sessions ) : These are special sessions to keep the teachers abreast with the latest teaching technologies and enhance their knowledge and skills through out the year.

Support for Parents:

  1. Online parenting sessions encompassing topics like positive parenting, post COVID-19 outbreak education, home based learning and online etiquettes
  2. Toll Free Helpline (18005322244/9594466461) – Free counselling service by Parisar Asha’s experienced psychologist and psychiatrist to deal with all issues related to mental health, COVID-19 mental traumas, Academic issues, learning disabilities, aggression, depression, addiction etc.
  3. Ask the Expert – A special webinar held twice a month on mental health

Why should people choose your product/services?

We have designed our program with a social mission to provide ‘quality education’. Along with this noble goal our products have been curated backed by year’s of research and a team of expert educationists who understand the needs of the children and have the sensitivity to develop children with not only high IQ but high EQ as well as this is the ‘mantra’ of success in today’s time. Government says right to education , we say Right to Right education .

Our every program is designed considering the needs of the present situation , and 21st century life skills ,keeping environmental sustainability in mind.

These programs are created by highly talented professionals who are part of Parisar Asha’s team .

There are some programs are paid and some are free  .the proceeds of the paid programs goes to the underprivileged .

How do you market your business, and which tactics have been most successful?

We are in to the business of providing joyful, holistic education for a sustainable tomorrow. Most of our publicity is through word of mouth. We have many innovative projects for the schools, students, teachers and parents so providing best service to the old clients  always attracts new business opportunities .

Now of course social media plays an important role but still end consumers go by the after sales  service of the products.

 What risks are you facing?

We  always get compared with book publishers who only sells the workbooks but we are providing entire system of education to help students gain knowledge, skills , attitude and values  including curriculum, lesson plans, teaching guidelines, students worksheets, workbooks, assessments and evaluation , teachers training , parenting sessions , overall a complete learning system but unfortunately  today education has become a big business ,so we have seen people compromising quality. Which is affecting the future of our next generation.

Did pandemic (COVID 19) affect your business? if yes how?

Every individual and organisation have been affected by Pandemic in some way or the other. We are also not an exception. Our business for a cause is with schools and today schools are in deep trouble as parents are unable to pay fees. So they are not opting these additional services.

Many of our CSR partner’s educational funds had been diverted to covid relief , So many projects are suffering because of lack of funds. But we are working out various strategies to overcome this, I know it’s a temporary phase. This too shall pass!

Have you considered any alliance/partnership/funding?

We are currently working with a lot of corporate partners who are funding our initiatives. We are always open to alliances with NGOs, Govt bodies, Civil Society and Corporates to successfully garner support and run our program.Post Covid we are also open for individual donors .

How many hours a day do you work on average & can you describe/outline your typical day?

The answer is in two parts  . Pre covid and Pandemic life

Pre covid lot of my time used to go in the travelling as we were providing all are services at the doorstep. I personally used to travel a lot to conduct the workshops. So my typical day used to start early , office then back home and work again .But I always managed to get time from my busy schedule to meditate , go for walks and read or watch self-improvement books and  videos .During lockdown , life changed to online ,now too much of screen time , but still I manage my routine of walk and meditation without screen.

What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

Because of my personal life experiences my greatest fear is untimely death. Luckily we are now into mental health awareness where we conduct workshops, therapies to help people overcome their mental health issues , so I do practice all the techniques that I teach others .Most important thing is to remember is to keep a positive outlook towards life , cultivate attitude of gratitude ,let go things those are not in our control, face the fears , accept and not expect ,help others,  with these few changes in the mindset and  life becomes fearless , meaningful and happy .

What comes first for you money or emotions?

Of course emotions but money is also important for survival. Life is beautiful when both the things are in right

What piece of advice would you give to college graduates who want to become entrepreneurs?

I feel today our young generation has many opportunities as well as more challenges too. So never give up. Have the determination, dedication and discipline with the innovation and creativity. Be practical but at the same time be human. When your objective is not just earning the money but to serve the community with your product or services , there are better chances of success and happiness , so don’t forget to be Happy !

Please share with us a unique challenge you faced in your early career?

When I took over as the CEO of Parisar Asha almost 8 years ago , the  organisation’s condition was not so good, over the years. Parisar Asha had done great work but there was no visibility. We had lost many schools due to various reasons, technology or digitalisation. I had to rebrand the organisation and the services.

I realised that visibility in any business is very important , s0 we started many direct consumer related services which were already needed in the society .Reworked on the marketing strategies , introduced new products at regular intervals to keep the novelty and interest .

Though we are an NGO but it is driven with equal professionalism that you will find in a multinational company . We do business but with a social cause.

How did you discover your passion?

I think I am really fortunate among a handful who finds passion is their job and their job is their passion .  I got opportunities to follow my passion in my every assignment in the  right direction.

We know that you are continuously engaged in helping others to achieve their goals. Why do you do that?

If you want to be happy , your environment , your people , your society has to be happy . It’s a selfish motive ,

What advice would you give students and young professionals who want to have a successful career?

  • I can share my succsess mantra that will be useful in not just in your professional life but in your personal life as well.
  • Remember ABCD of Life
  • A – Attitude of gratitude, adopt , accept and not expect too much
  • B – Be positive , Be patient , Be passionate, Be sensitive
  • C – Creativity , collaboration , critical thinking, communication , compassion
  • D – determination , dedication , discipline

And lastly …. Never give up HOPE !


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