Man on a mission to automate schools in Nepal on a budget

When Roshan Limbu was growing up in Damak, one the biggest cities in eastern Nepal, he would face a big problem every time exams were around.

Limbu and his friends would pocket the money they received from their parents as school fees and go around town spending on things they wanted to.

“Our parents would think that we paid our school fees with the money they gave us,” recounts Limbu. “We could do that for at least three months,” he remembers. “But when exams came, the school would ask us to pay the fees before we could sit for the exams. That was when trouble would begin.”

Limbu believes that the problem arose because his parents and his school teachers could not communicate in real time. They even did not know each other, and that made it easier for him and his friends to make the wrong choices.

Limbu and Pradhan

When Limbu passed his SLC exam, he came to Kathmandu. “I did not want to stay in Damak, partly because of my school experience, and partly because of a desire to do something in life. I left Damak in 2002, the day after the SLC results were announced.”

As a 16-year-old who had a handful of poems published in Madhuparka, a popular literary magazine of its time, Limbu wanted to study literature. But he also wanted to start working and earning money. He started off as an office assistant at a cargo company and soon found his way into a software company, where he learnt the basics of Photoshop and designing.

“When I was doing my Bachelor’s, I got a job at DAV School in Lalitpur. My job was to manage the school’s computer lab,” he shares. “Later they transferred me to the examinations department.” Working with computers for a long time, Limbu found himself learning to code. He’d spend more than half of his salary buying programming books and tutorials.

The system comes with a CMS and an app.

It was during those days that Limbu wished the school used less paperwork. “I saw hands-on how difficult it was to manage the school and to communicate with the parents. I wanted to do something about it, but didn’t know what and how,” he shares.

A few months into his school job, Limbu received a call from a BPO company to work as a graphic designer, but with a caveat. “They said they could only pay me half the money the school was paying.” But it was easy for him to decide. He chose the BPO job as it was closer to his interest.

From then on it was a smooth ride for him in the IT industry. From a graphic designer, he had now established himself as a ‘user interface’ specialist. He even established his own BPO company and money began to pour in as he worked day and night on freelance projects.

“I used to work all night. That was when I put on a lot of weight. I soon realised that this was not my calling. It was something higher.”

He decided to shut all of his businesses and focus on one thing that he had always wanted to do–build a school automation software. Along with his friend Prabal Pradhan, a Teach for Nepal fellow, Limbu started working on the project. Thus the Sajilo School Manager was born.

The cloud-based software is the first step towards fully automating a school, says Limbu. The software can be used to track the attendance of school children, manage the school library, maintain student records, and manage classes. These are things almost all school management software have these days. So what extra does the software have?

According to Limbu, a mobile app that is connected to the software can be used to send urgent notification to parents. Similarly, parents can communicate with their children’s teachers using the app.

“For example, there are thousands of Nepalis who live abroad. Their children go to school in Nepal and because of the distance, the parents cannot keep tabs on what is going on in their children’s school.”

“Our software allows report cards to be sent directly to the app, and if a parent wants to have a word with the subject teacher concerned, he/she can send a note using the app.”

In addition to that, Limbu’s business model is a bit different from other companies in the market. His company, Eton Technology, wants schools that have a limited budget to take steps towards automation. That is why the basic package software costs as low as Rs 25,000. The yearly renewal charge is Rs 15,000.

“I am not here to make quick money,” says Limbu who lives in the office to save his company money. While his company pays more than 15 employees their monthly salary, he hasn’t taken anything as salary.

“My mission is for the long run. I want Sajilo School Manager to be one of the top five school management software in the country. For that I am willing to wait.”

Limbu’s company has sold the software to more than 70 schools across Kathmandu in the 11 months of its operation. It is soon to receive its first renewal fee from its early bird customers.

“The system we have built is just the beginning. In the next few years, schools across the country will have little option but to go digital as telecommunications infrastructure improves and costs of running schools the old way spiral out of control,” explains the founder and CEO of the company.

If the software were there when he was in school, would things have been different for him?

“Well. my parents would have immediately found out that I was using school fees for other things. They would have caught me, and it would have saved me a lot of trouble!”

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