They were impressed by the impact-driven work we, a few young people, were doing. So they decided to invest in our work.
When Aryan, a Class 1 student at a government school in Mudaibettu in Belthangady taluk, pleads with his father to use the ‘Cherri Learn’ app on the cellphone, the parent is happy to hand it over. He is assured that, at the cost of a rupee, Aryan will revise his lessons for the day, and even learn new concepts.
Similar to the first grader, several students in the region spend some time after school on Cherri Learn, studying math and grammar in Kannada. “Through colourful animations and games, the app helps students from Class 1 to Class 5 to go over what they have learnt in the classroom,” explains H S Veeupakshappa, Block Education Officer, Belthangady taluk.
The tech wizard behind the app, Shrinidhi R S, is a 20-year-old with a mission — creating internet-based solutions that break barriers of access and provide educational and entrepreneurial opportunities for communities. Over the years, his digital innovations have impacted not only students, but also farmers.
From struggling to afford even public computer access himself to bringing coding, math and science to the homes of others like him, Shrinidhi has made strides, enriching the lives of many.
Growing up, Shrinidhi’s father Ravishankar Bhat worked as a taxi driver. His mother Saraswathi supplemented the family income with her tailoring job. Every day, Shrinidhi used to get Rs 10 from his mother to use the computer at a nearby internet cafe in Kalladka in Bantwal taluk. This is how the teen built his prowess in programming.
Since its launch in September, the app has become increasingly well-known among parents and children alike, for how it combines entertainment and self-learning. “We are pleased with the impact this resource is having on students’ capacity to study independently,” adds Kishore Kumar H K, headmaster of a government higher primary school in Dakshina Kannada district.
“The Cherri Learn app has over 70,000 users,” Shrinidhi says, with a distinct pride in his voice. He developed the app to encourage self-learning at an early age and make school subjects enjoyable through gaming.
What makes Shrinidhi’s Cherri Learn unique among the hundreds of apps for primary school students? “The app is in Kannada and at just Re 1 per day, it is much more affordable than other options,” says Veerupapaksha.
The emphasis on self-correction is a game changer, says Kishore Kumar. “I have researched several apps like this, in order to reach out to my students during the pandemic. Cherri Learn is different as it helps students realise their mistakes,” he explains.
If students get all correct answers to ‘match the following’ questions, they move on to the next level. If they do not qualify, they can go back to correct their answers and qualify for the next level.
This has helped children reflect and think outside the box, says Swathi Adinja, a member of the app development team who visits schools to interact with students and demonstrate the working of the app.
Buoyed by its success in Kannada, Shrinidhi has also launched Cherri Learn for English-medium students, with an annual fee of Rs 999. His team also launched Cherri Kart books a month ago, to help students solve mathematical problems through quizzes.
The young entrepreneur is not just a one-app wonder. His previous successful apps include ‘CompiLearn’, an app for students preparing to take competitive exams with over 40,000 users, and MY MPCS (My Milk Producers Co-operative Society), an app for dairy farmers.
At the age of 15, Shrinidhi was already developing websites for small enterprises. He reflects on what prompted him to shift over from his financially lucrative web-designing work to product development. “Though I was making money with zero risk, I really wanted to launch a product of my own,” he says.
While in 1 PUC, he launched the MY MPCS app, drawing 8,000 users. Shrinidhi noticed that farmers used to obtain details of milk brought to the dairy on slips of paper. Seeing their practical problems, he created the app to enable them to access data documented throughout the year. Since then, the government has built a portal for this purpose. Shrinidhi now plans to repurpose the app to provide a different solution for the agro industry.
Tracing his journey as an app developer, Shrinidhi recollects that he developed a passion for science due to his exposure to frequent inter-school fests organised at his school. From then on, he began to view mobile applications as potential solutions for community problems.
While in high school, he began making videos explaining science concepts using a secondhand 2G cell phone. He uploaded these on his YouTube channel ‘Science Studio’. In one such video, Shrinidhi is seen explaining in simple terms how in ‘quantum entanglement’ (when two particles link together no matter how far apart they are in space), particles travel faster than light.
These videos became a hit among his classmates, earning him the nickname, ‘Sarvajna’ (meaning all-knowing). This moniker has stuck with him, he explains, pointing to two of his ventures which bear the same name. Years later, at the age of 18, Shrinidhi launched his first company, Sarvajna Info Tech LLP. Within a span of 18 months, he launched three more companies - Sarvajna Edutech Private Limited, Abstract Technologies LLP and Riddhi Teaching Solutions Limited. These four companies collectively employ more than 40 people.
The initiatives are financed by a venture capital fund. “They were impressed by the impact-driven work we, a few young people, were doing. So they decided to invest in our work,” says Shrinidhi.
Commending Shrinidhi’s leadership and quick thinking, the infotech company’s chief product officer Raj Manohar says, “In fact, it is difficult to keep pace with his high energy levels and passion for acquiring knowledge.” Described as a problem-solver, Shrinidhi grasps concepts with ease, and gets to the root of issues immediately. “His dedication, patience and humane nature have ensured almost zero attrition in the company,” adds Manohar. He has now enrolled for a distance learning Bachelor’s degree in Data Science, at IIT Madras. The young tech wiz cleared the Company Secretary Foundation examinations recently. “This course will give me an idea about the formation of companies,” he says.
Shrinidhi’s initiatives are not limited to the digital space. While studying in PUC, he networked with the forest department, nurseries, friends and teachers to realise the goal of planting 10,000 plants. He led a team of his friends in volunteering in Kolambe village, which was devastated by floods in 2019.
Currently managing both studies and four companies, he has interests outside of coding and programming and is a trained classical vocalist and Yakshagana artiste.
Shrinidhi says his companies are yet to break even. But that does not dampen his goal of generating a minimum of 10,000 jobs in the next three years and positively impacting 10 million Indians through his internet-based solutions by 2025.