Bangalore-based C S Sudheer, the founder-CEO of IndianMoney.com and ffreedom.com, is a well-known name associated with the spread of financial literacy in India at the grassroots. When only 22, he set up Suvision Holdings Pvt Ltd and launched IndianMoney.com, a financial education company in 2008. In March 2020, the company launched ffreedom app, a livelihood education app with over 820+ curated courses on Agripreneurship, emerging small businesses, new businesses and professions, personal finance, etc. He spoke to Autar Nehru on why livelihood education is important in context of freedom as India celebrates 75 years of Independence
Your story of entering into the field of financial literacy by a chance conversation with a person, who was cheated due to his financial illiteracy, is like a legend. Do you think, 14 years down the line, you have become a change for such people?
Lack of financial literacy and understanding of concepts ‘Save, Spend, Invest & Borrow’ by a large adult population is a big challenge before our society as the informal financial system and even organized system often works to the disadvantage of the ignorant masses. So, it is an enormous challenge and we in our own way are contributing to mitigate and tackle this challenge and importantly having an impact as well. I think we have impacted over 10 million users and are continually spreading awareness through our videos on YouTube, robo advising, phone and other formats.
Two years back after meeting and hearing thousands of people, we upgraded to being a Livelihood Education Company rather than just a financial education company alone. So, we launched this app called ffreedom.com. We have already made huge inroads towards success with 1.8 lakhs users who have benefited from our app in improving their livelihood. In the near term, we are looking to create 1 million micro entrepreneurs and make them successful. This journey is a continuing mission.
You have created 800+ courses under this livelihood education transformation. Can you tell us what and how of it?
We have 820 courses on our platform as of now. These courses are developed in collaboration with practitioners who are already doing the particular venture such as farming, trade or business. The process to developing the courses is that first we identify the course mentors (practitioners who are already successful in the field) through primary research. We collaborate with him or her and prepare the modules. Then, our content team and production crew visits the mentor and the location for shooting followed by post production. The video lecture module-based course is checked and reviewed by our inhouse team of experts and then it goes live on our app.
Are there any support services like consultancy or mentorship part of these offerings?
As of today, we don’t provide any consultancy services to our users. However, we have developed various courses/content to help our users clear all his queries. Apart from this, we have an active community of learners and practitioners who help each other with their queries with respect to the topic.
A user can buy a subscription to our platform. With the subscription, the users can access all the courses available on the platform. Currently, we have 3 subscription packages with 3 months, 1 year and 3 years access.
Fine, you have travelled so much, heard thousands of stories, what is the big message?
Most people don’t have a sense of individual identity. By that I mean people don’t bother about how they should be recognized—productive and good or just a bad person. I have to take care of my future attitude is missing.
There has to be aspiration first. Then role models who can inspire. Once a person is inspired then he develops aspirations. People work hard because of the end result. And that end result must act as an inspiration and motivation. Another wrong notion that is widespread is that we confuse skill with talent. Only skilling can achieve replication and scale, so skilling must be recognized as a bigger need. Opportunities always existed but with individual aspirations and skilling, these can be transformative for a larger number.
Is Skill India mission on course?
Skill India is a directionless initiative. Skills can be taught by a skilled practitioner only and not by someone, who reads the skill and then teaches it. I can tell you NEP will be also a disaster if we don’t work on teachers. We need to assess and change teachers every three years. Everything changes around us except our teachers and their way of teaching and curricula. Today even teachers aged 30-35 are out of sync with the changing external world what to talk of seniors? Apart from teachers we also need to create equal opportunities in education and not create a discriminatory system that will eventually create ‘us versus them’ situations.
In your view, what is the meaning of freedom for a common man?
I tell this often that 75 years back we achieved transfer of power and not the real freedom for the common man. In my view, every person should have freedom of what to eat, freedom of what to wear, a house to shelter, provision of good education for his or her children and affordable healthcare when he or she requires it. These are five freedoms all of us yearn for. To ensure these, one must be able to earn his or her livelihood in a manner that prepares for life and the future. Idling, freebies and not developing an attitude of caring about oneself and others will give rise to social tensions. We need to empower the individual to develop and harness his potential. And of course, as I said inspiration, motivation, opportunity and societal aspiration to be progressive remains the key. Product development and one-district , one product kind of emphasis can provide large scale jobs and also develop regions. We as a vocational education and livelihood education company will continue to provide our support through research and curated courses.