As two Punjabis who are proud of their language and heritage, Sonam and Raminder Sandhu had a rude awakening while growing up in an India that gives preference to the English language for professional and educational communication. For the former, it was the ceaseless teasing she endured when she tried to speak English in a professional situation for the first time and for the latter it was his experience at a prestigious Engineering college where his classmates were proficient in English and excelled at the course taught in that language, while he languished behind everyone. These life situations propelled them to devote time to learning and mastering the English language – both for the purpose of education and communication. Once they had reached a certain level, they took to teaching the language to others by simplifying it. And so was born the successful digital English language teaching brand IELTS Made Easy, which they run together. The duo joins Sunday Guardian for a chat about their work and the fascinating leaps they have taken in this sphere so far. Excerpts from an edited interview:
Q. Why did you decide to enter this profession?
A. Raminder Sandhu (RS): Sonam studied at an English Medium school yet did not know how to speak the language when she entered the workforce with a job in corporate gifting. She had lost her father at the age of 11, and felt responsible to stand on her own two feet professionally from a young age. Learning the English language was necessary to achieve that. In my case, I studied at a Punjabi Medium School, so when I got admission to an Engineering College where all the subjects were taught in English, I really struggled a lot in comparison to my classmates. However, with the help of my friends, I was able to pass and get a good job in the corporate sector but I was falling behind my colleagues because I could not speak English as well as they did. That was when I decided to learn the language too.
Sonam Sandhu (SS): While learning it, we also picked up on how teach the language in a simple manner and so in 2018, we launched IELTS Made Easy. Initially, we worked on the same offline classes model as many others do but this was very challenging for us, as it was very difficult to find high-quality, good teachers. Most of the teachers we came across had a 6 or 6.5 band rating as per the IELTS rating system, but the basic requirement for most students to clear the exam is to achieve a 7+ band. This led to intense competition for grabbing good teachers in the coaching business. So, soon we moved online and that made a huge difference to our business and catapulted us to the top.
Q. What is the specialty of your platform?
A. RS: As Sonam said above, we stopped our offline model and switched to a digital format. This model allowed us to change our hiring policy and now we only take 8777 band teachers, which means they all must have at least an 8 in the listening module of IELTS and three 7s in addition to that. We are proud to say that we have the best teachers from around India as well as international countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and others. We have 25 teachers at the moment.
Q. How has your growth been so far?
A. SS: The growth has been phenomenal so far! Apart from our first mover advantage in the digital space of English language coaching, we are also one of the only companies to offer one-on-one classes at an affordable price. Most other coaching institutes play the bulk game, so in a single batch they cover all modules. But they forget that every child has different abilities and different levels, and so should not be forced to study with others of different levels. Our one-on-one classes are our speciality. We also conduct daily live classes on our YouTube channel for free – at 8 PM. These are aimed at helping those students who cannot afford to pay for classes yet have the desire to learn. They can ask questions in the chat so there is still a level of interaction between the student and teacher.
Raminder is the one who coined the name for their business, and I completely agree with its ethos. We want to spread the message that learning the English language is very easy when done correctly.
Q. How does one access your classes?
A. RS: Apart from our extremely popular and free to access YouTube coaching videos, people can contact us through our website www.ieltsmadeeasy.com as well as on Whatsapp at +917347081010. Our team is very responsive and gets back to the interested person very quickly.
I’m also happy to announce our latest venture – we are now providing access to pre-recorded courses at a throwaway price of Rs 499. There are very few such recorded courses available in India and we are proud to offer it to our students. Not only will the low price point help us reach as many students as possible, but it will also encourage students to learn by themselves at their own pace as these recordings come with planned homework schedules and study material.
SS: I believe it is our progressive practices and student-centric outlook that has made us so popular. In fact, I feel proud to say that we have students from all around the country and many are even from abroad, as the quality of our teachers, our approachability, and our steadfast commitment to deliver the highest possible scores is unsurpassed. I just hope that we can continue on this path and keep serving the deserving candidates who are either taken for a ride by others or simply don’t have access to learning opportunities. If you are also one such student, do visit our website at www.ieltsmadeeasy.com to sign up for a course that suits your pace and your requirements.
Noor Anand Chawla pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com.