Ashish Jhalani is the global chief technology officer and managing director of the Mumbai-based Square Panda (India) Pvt. Ltd (SPI, estb. 2018), the India subsidiary of Square Panda Inc, USA (estb. 2014). The California-based company designs auditory, visual and tactile learning systems to enable children in the 2-8 age group to develop reading readiness skills and fluency in English language through the guided phonics method. Globally, the company’s multisensory phonics learning products have enabled 100,000 children and over 2,000 schools to develop English language skills.
Newspeg. SPI recently launched two new products — SquareLand and SquareTales — to boost early literacy and English language learning.
History. Square Panda Inc. was founded in 2014 by Andrew Butler, a Stanford-educated Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Frustrated by the lack of learning resources for his dyslexic daughter, Butler ideated engaging games to help her identify, spell and read the English alphabet. Butler’s success with his daughter prompted him to develop phonics-based learning play-sets based on latest neuroscience research and AI technology, to enable English language learning and cognitive development in preschool children.
Subsequently, in 2016, American tennis legend and eight Grand Slams champion Andre Agassi came aboard as an investor in Square Panda. The India operations of the company were launched in Mumbai earlier this year (February) by Agassi. The company’s year-old India operations led by Ashish Jhalani, who shuttles between Beijing, New York and Mumbai, has quickly transformed it into Square Panda’s largest office worldwide with a headcount of 107 employees.
Direct talk. “English is the global language of business and communication, and India with its large population of almost 500 million children and youth, is one of the world’s biggest markets for English language learning. But unfortunately, in the overwhelming majority of schools, the shortage of English teachers and obsolete pedagogies prevent children from developing English literacy skills. The objective of Square Panda (India) is to enable young children to learn English through a neuroscience research-backed multisensory learning system which engages their auditory, visual and tactile senses. Most important, all our products are interactive and adaptive, adjustable to every child’s learning level, and provide feedback to monitor progress. For the Indian market, we have localised our products and early next year, all our products will include instruction in Hindi and English,” says Jhalani, an alumnus of the blue-chip Stern School of Business, New York, with 20 years experience in sales, marketing and entrepreneurship in the US and India (MySolitaire, eTailing India, and International School of eBusiness). In 2018, Jhalani joined Square Panda India as managing director and is currently its global chief technology officer as well.
Future plans. The SPI management has planned a nationwide roll-out of its products beginning next year (2020), targeting parents and schools. “We are confident of impacting our products quickly because Indian parents and schools are eager to help children develop English literacy skills. It is a known fact that the foundation of language learning is built in the early years, before the age of seven. Utilising the latest neuroscience research, and harnessing artificial intelligence, Square Panda has developed a slew of products to enable children to learn joyfully and quickly in their earliest years,” says Ashish Jhalani.
Way to go, Bro!
Dipta Joshi (Mumbai)