Interview: Ms. Fatema Agarkar, Educationist & Founder of Ace Sports Edu

Fatema Agarkar
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This is the interview of Ms. Fatema Agarkar, Indian woman entrepreneur, Educationist & Founder of Ace Sports Edu.

Who is Ms. Fatema Agarkar?

With close to 20 years in the field of education and what started off as work experience in the corporate world, I have had the pleasure of being part of and co-founding 3 educational start-ups.

I was a State and University topper as a part of the prestigious Mumbai-based Sydenham College of Commerce & Economics at graduation, hold a degree of Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Birmingham (UK), apart from B. ED and ECCE degrees.

Powered with strong educational background and work experience with a media house, consultancy, and a bank, my journey in the education space started with amassing the necessary educational qualifications and blending in academic and administrative expertise to set up close to 50 educational institutes pan India (national and international curricula) – pre-schools, high schools and a school for special needs.

How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

Fatema Agarkar: As a veteran of 3 educational start-ups, the ideas were strategically aimed at a market need. Initially, setting up pre and high schools was given that the private education sector was in a nascent stage and the need for quality infrastructure, new pedagogies, and a more holistic vision meant more families could benefit from professionally run institutions.

The second was aimed at upskilling, school audits, improvement strategies, and parenting workshops, as the schools had achieved a level of consistency and the need of the hour was more hands-on work with all stakeholders.

The current one is about an extension of the previous two, and bringing in the end-to-end solutions to school leaders including a sports orientation and blending sports with education.

The ideas have also resulted in experience and passion that comes from working with students and providing them with more ‘real’ opportunities to excel and ‘ be more’.

What services do you offer?

Fatema Agarkar: We have an education vertical – school consultancy & management – pre and high schools (both national and international boards), curriculum design, school audits, student engagements, and parent workshops.

The sports vertical has an in-school sports curriculum, after-school hours academies, and also a specialized sports division management for middle and high school students.

What is unique about your business?

Fatema Agarkar: It’s based on research and is scientific, works with managing budgets, customizable and futuristic, and innovative in terms of solutions based on years of being in the industry as a team.

It’s focused on relevance and providing solutions for every stakeholder be it teachers, educators, parents, or students.

What made you choose this type of business?

Fatema Agarkar: After my Master’s when I returned to India, I did realize that there were certain gaps in terms of the way children were taught and what was globally prevalent. Always a life-long learner and the need to create, and professionalize the way school management was organised was purely the basis of passion and learning on the job meant, solutions were generated with a deep understanding of the market.

I love to wake up in the morning and get to work, that comes from the confidence of helping so many families over the years.

What was your mission at the outset?

Fatema Agarkar: To create systems and processes that worked with time, and in many ways were futuristic. The more I researched and worked in the industry, the sheer joy of working with students and watching them evolve and grow, and enjoy the process gave me the courage to do more and that’s really been a big goal.

How many employees in your organization?

Fatema Agarkar: We have 20 employees in our organization who work consistently to meet the unique requirements of businesses.

What’s your company’s goals?

Fatema Agarkar: We would like to bring more dynamism into the industry, transformations based on customization, create better platforms and opportunities for teachers to fast track their careers, parents to be equipped with better strategies, and students to emerge more confident, aware, and responsible citizens.

Fatema Agarkar

This means that we need to constantly invest in system upgrades, R & D, and strive to differentiate the basis of the need. We are focused on a southeast Asian presence and create a Made in India brand that is recognized by the global community.

How do you build a successful customer base?

Fatema Agarkar: It is always about human connection and building relationships. It is about delivering as per a need, but also about quality. It is the ability to customise and personalise and go that extra mile to ensure that the customer gets more than envisioned.

It is about patience, hard work, and creating solutions even before the customer can anticipate a problem. It is about relationships.

What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

Fatema Agarkar: In a business, you tend to take a few risks, and at times they do not work out because of the partnerships, associations, timing, or even client expectations.

I have learned one thing – Under-promise but over-deliver and always remain ethical to the client’s need. Failures are opportunities turned inside out and can become huge learning curves with the right mindset.

Fatema Agarkar
Fatema Agarkar

I have not gained, but I have not lost either and that is because these learning curves keep me grounded.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Fatema Agarkar: My father is and always has been my inspiration. His work ethic, his patience, his spirit for any adventure, his foresight, and his passion to create have been part of my journey.

As a young entrepreneur, he strategically and carefully charted his path to provide for his family and leave them with a legacy and that also came with those sacrifices that I have learned to appreciate.

“Never save for a rainy day, avoid it at all costs” is what my father always says and in that is a journey of 45 years of building and growing from strength to strength.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?

Fatema Agarkar: The speed with which I work, I think many cannot match the pace and that is my regret. Some decisions were made quickly, and those always come back to remind you that the speed is great but also is patience. Older, and wiser!!!!

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Fatema Agarkar: While passion drives people and you need that to convert a brilliant idea into an action plan and grow a company, one needs to invest in thorough market research and build on ‘gaps’ that exist and not what you think they are.

Contingency plans, know when you bow out in a situation, drive the team by example as a role model, led by putting in the long yards. Enjoy the hard work, it does make that difference in the product offering for sure.

Does your company help the community or society?

Fatema Agarkar: Working with stakeholders in the community enables a society to be transformed. That’s what ACE is all about – creating platforms for all.