This startup endeavours to inculcate sporting values in students while also nurturing their aptitude and interest in conventional academics.
--By MUNA SUNWAR
Bikash Neupane’s nephew once disclosed to him in a casual conversation that he was attending school at his parents’ behest and did not enjoy the rote educational system. “My nephew expressed how he had no motivation to go to school. There is more to education than the repetitive rote learning system provided in schools,” says Neupane. Nepal’s education system follows the traditional method of teaching and grooming students. He concluded that nothing had changed in the education system over the past ten years, from the time when he was a student himself. He, along with Prakash Basnet, therefore, established Play Nepal Pvt Ltd, a sports education company, with an aim to bolster the education system with a healthy dose of sports. Play Nepal’s sessions not only allow for students’ physical development, the subtly weaved educational concepts organically improve students’ learning capabilities. The company started its operation from 2016 and was registered in 2017.
Motivation for Children
Neupane believes that the zeal to learn that is inherently found in children is currently missing. As a result, Play Nepal is an initiative to create an environment where children are encouraged to attend school on their own volition. Neupane says, “When my team sat down and discussed what could be done to help motivate children to attend school, sports was the answer we came up with.”
The Play Nepal team, with the vision to achieve something substantial in the sports arena, worked on certain drawbacks they traced in the traditional education system. They designed sports that were inclusive irrespective of gender and sporting experience. Everyone can take part in the activities. They worked on the games for the whole of 2016, and their formal inception took place in 2017. The team designs games appropriate for children studying in different grades. 35 students can take part in a Play Nepal session. “Most of the schools like academic games so we have simple, fun and interactive games; however, children prefer games that involve physical activity,” he points out.
Bikash Neupane and Prakash Basnet are the co-founders of the company which has 14 team members. “Most of them are trainers while we deploy some for marketing,” Neupane informs, adding, “We visit schools after securing appointments with principals.” According to the company, the response it is getting is positive. In an attempt to sensitise Nepali society to the importance of sports education, the company is continuously trying to involve more schools in its programmes.
The new batch of individuals working in the education sector understands the importance of sports education. They are well aware of the benefits of the concept and have attempted to introduce changes in the education sector, but financial constraints, lack of space and resources in private education have paved the way for Play Nepal to provide its services. “We design the curriculum according to the needs of the children at different levels and also provide the resources used in the sessions,” adds Neupane. The country is doing exceptionally well in certain sports like cricket making it easier for the company to move forward with its concept of sports education. He feels that the country is finally starting to establish a stable sporting outlook providing him and his company with opportunities to bring changes in children’s lives. He mentions that his clients are beginning to understand them.
One way it all began was when Neupane noticed children’s physical development was not taking place as it is supposed to. Children spending too much time on electronic devices and their exposure to uncontrolled content have brought about a sense of rapid maturity. According to him, even parents are concerned about their children who spend most of their time using electronic devices. “They reminisce about the times when children used to play outdoor games. They have felt the absence of the rich childhood they experienced in the present context,” he explains.
Established with a seed capital of Rs 2.5 million, the company has been providing its services to 11 Kathmandu based private schools. A grade and upper B grade schools are the target clients of Play Nepal. The company has an annual agreement with schools and most of them pay on a monthly basis. The annual turnover of Play Nepal is Rs 5 million.
With little awareness of physical education among parents and school administrations, the attempt to bring changes is a challenge for the startup. However, Neupane says he does not see it as a challenge but rather an opportunity. There are operational challenges, like finding appropriately qualified people, and this Neupane feels is the main thing holding back the company from growing. “Skilled manpower, be it trainers or any other professional, is hard to find,” he says.
The company claims it is providing a motive for children to attend school by making them feel rewarded. “Children unwittingly learn something from our educational games. There is academic development too when they are engaged in our games,” he emphasises. The programmes conducted by the company are curriculum based. The trainers track student progress while focusing on the physical and mental development of children. The company believes that this format will allow the students to greatly improve in their academic endeavours.
Neupane hopes that the Nepal government will work on the management of skilled human resources and brings clarity to the policies related to venture capital, capital investment for the good of startups.
In 2074 BS, the company had two schools as clients, now it has increased to 11 schools. The company aims to acquire 35 schools as clients by 2076 BS. The company plans to expand its presence in districts around Kathmandu. Neupane says he plans to work with community schools in the future. “Five years down the line, we aim to be recognised as one of the biggest sports education companies across Nepal,” he states.