Jawahar Lal ( MBA ’08) didn’t have to look any further for a business idea than his daughter, Shruti. As a kindergartner, she could do second-grade math. Lal and his wife worried she wouldn’t be challenged and motivated in school.
“I realized there might be thousands of exceptional kids in the same boat,” Lal says.
His solution to the problem was eMath360, a business he started in 2009 that offers customized, online instruction in mathematics and test preparation for advanced learners and struggling students in all grades. The North Carolina State Board of Education recently approved eMath360 to provide supplemental education in public schools. The company, based in Morrisville, N.C., with an office in Lal’s native India, works in 18 North Carolina school districts so far.
EMath360 uses Web technology to deliver real-time instruction in a student’s home. The user-friendly interface allows students and teachers to talk and share the computer screen as a whiteboard. The recorded sessions are given to pupils. With about 25 tutors, most in India, eMath360 has hundreds of students around the United States.
Part of Lal’s motivation to start the business was concern about pupils in American schools falling behind other nations in math and science achievement, which he says could jeopardize the country’s ability to compete with emerging economies.
“Our education system is not flexible enough to address the challenges our next generation is going to face in the 21st century. Our kids are lacking skills to be competitive,” says Lal, president and CEO of eMath360. He also is a full-time technical marketing manager for an IT company.
A visit to China and India while Lal was in business school underscored the issue of academic preparation. He developed a business plan for eMath360 in Kenan-Flagler’s Launching the Venture program.
Lal focuses on financing, marketing and sales while his business partner handles operations and customer service. In the competitive tutoring services market, branding is a challenge. “Our main focus is on differentiating ourselves from the crowd based on values such as aligning our service with a student’s learning style, ability and academic needs,” he says.
Operating a business in a virtual environment with team members in different locations and time zones requires strong leadership.
“Leadership is an ability to translate intention into reality and uphold it with your actions and behavior,” Lal says. “Actions speak louder than words, so your actions should align with your beliefs. Once people see action, they believe in your vision and trust you. Your team’s trust and commitment make you a successful business,” Lal says.
EMath360 helps students be successful, too. On average, pupils improve by a grade level in three months.
EMath360 has started a pilot program for physics, chemistry and biology. “Our online model offers us extreme flexibility to deliver high quality service at a low cost,” Lal, 42, says.
But the business is more than the bottom line for Lal. “As a citizen and father, I have a responsibility to give back to the country and my kids. The best thing a parent can do is make his or her child successful. I believe helping students excel in math is an excellent way to give back to the country.”
And Lal’s daughter, now 8, is speeding ahead in eMath360. The second-grader is learning 4th-grade math.