One thing that always worried Shiroi Lily Shaiza was the way people of Nagaland were stereotyped.
“There is this belief that everyone from Nagaland is into drugs and violence, but I wanted to change that,” says Shiroi, in a conversation with HerStory.
“I come from a culture where success was not measured by the amount of livestock you possess, nor the land you own. The pinnacle of success was measured by how much you give back to your people in your lifetime. This practice is called the ‘Feast of Merit’ by my community – the Nagas,” says Shiroi, Co-founder, , and it is this very thing that she wanted to bring back.
“My grandfather’s assassination by our own community members made me lose faith in my own people and I failed to understand the bitterness and hatred. This motivated me to look for a better education and a better life outside the state,” says Shiroi.
NagaEd has been incubated by ALSiSAR IMPACT and has been under the mentorship of Anuj Sharma since the past couple of years.
Despite securing a prestigious job in New Delhi, Shiroi then questioned her identity and what success meant to her. Even though it was a difficult decision, she moved back home to Nagaland in 2013 to search for a deeper meaning and purpose.
With a mission to empower the next generation of Nagas, Shiroi established NagaEd in 2020 along with her partner Kevisato to bring quality education to rural and remote communities.
NagaEd is an education technology provider of learning and teaching solutions for students, teachers, and institutions.
“We are the first digital education company from Nagaland to democratise quality education for rural and remote communities,” she says.
Empowering youth through education
The conflict in the Nagaland region has led to a paucity of infrastructure and development. Nagaland ranks lowest in the development indices and continues to have the highest rate of unemployment in the country.
To usher in a paradigm shift of peace, prosperity, and wealth in the society, Neichute, the founder of the Entrepreneurs Associates (EA) in Nagaland, and his friends started up in the year 2000 to promote entrepreneurship
“I was inspired to join this movement of people who saw hope when others saw none. I had the opportunity to start and lead Nagaland’s first non-banking finance company (NBFC) dedicated to micro entrepreneurs when I was 23. My time at EA seeded an entrepreneurial mindset in me allowing me to experience how, with the right mindset, encouragement, and resources, an entrepreneur could solve society’s most pressing problems.
“Without giving in to the bitterness, I was convinced that if I were to see a positive change amongst my people, I needed to do something about it myself. I came to the realisation that while there are never-ending challenges, an entrepreneur cannot wait for someone else to create an ecosystem to solve the problem, but seek out to create it themselves,” says Shiroi.
In 2020, she was in Singapore pursuing a master’s degree when Covid-19 hit. Her partner Kevisato and she were heartbroken to see their own family members – cousins, nieces, and nephews lose out on their education for more than a year.
“We saw a looming problem that could push back our community and many in the rural and remote areas even further. To understand the problem, we started by talking to institutions and educators in our community to understand some of these problems. While there are over 4,200 solutions in the market for digital education, there was low adoption and penetration in rural and remote communities like Nagaland,” says Shiroi.
These experiences prepared her to take up the entrepreneurial route and start NagaEd in 2020.
The startup has come up with solutions that are contextualised to facilitate the transformation from rote learning to deeper engagement, conceptual understanding, and sparked curiosity. They train and uplift the capacity of teachers by providing lesson plans and learning frameworks for teachers to use customise learning pathways for student groups. This is delivered through a multi-tiered delivery model that provides students with uninterrupted learning through online and offline materials that can be used interchangeably.
“At NagaEd, we believe in taking the world as it is. While there are multiple challenges in managing a company, let alone a startup within an environment that is not conducive for business, we look at the resources available and work around them. We have made available our resource to over 6,200+ users who have access to our digital platforms and free resource page,” says Shiroi.
Advising young women entrepreneurs, she says, “Don’t wait for the ecosystem to start something. Take the first step, start up, and be a part of creating the ecosystem.”