The new IT crowd is here. Meet Tech Easy Hai.
By fostering a space of understanding and empathy, Tech Easy Hai is, in a time of physical distancing, helping senior citizens and ‘tech noobs’ overcome different aspects of digital illiteracy
During the lockdown, when septuagenarian Nandakumar was inundated by WhatsApp messages brimming with fake news, his brother-in-law suggested a webinar on how to spot fake messages. Said webinar was hosted by a small organisation called Tech Easy Hai, started by young Bengaluru-based entrepreneurs Shreya Bajaj Shah, 30, and Surbhi Bajaj, 26.
Tech Easy Hai was kicked off in May owing to a global outburst of Zoom calls, a platform, which saw many Indians sign up, with quite a few not knowing how to schedule and secure meetings for large groups.
Shreya Bajaj Shah and Surbhi Bajaj, co-founders of Tech Easy Hai
Shreya tells MetroPlus, “It all started with my grandparents who live in Delhi. They wondered how they would get their groceries. There was the Aarogya Setu app that the Government was asking everyone to install. There were rumours about the app and also a clone version that carried spyware, which millions of people downloaded. Fake news on this issue and on COVID-19 was everywhere. We had these two concerns and Zoom. Initially we were teaching our relatives and they invited their friends.”
Eventually Shreya and Surbhi saw how much of a problem digital illiteracy had been, especially during the lockdown when technology was encouraged to maintain contact-less living. Having grown up with technology at their fingertips, they never had to take a formal class on how to use a smartphone or know how to deactivate privacy permissions for an app or to clock that a magnifying glass icon is the ‘search’ tool — it was all intuitive. But not for everyone.
Older people have long rejected technology for fear of making mistakes and around the wider concerns about their social responsibility such as privacy and Big Data. Tech Easy Hai wants to address that in a home-grown way.
A judgement-free zone
Language was a major barrier that had to be disassembled before starting classes.
Shreya explains, “We did a little research; I talked to my mom’s friends to gauge how comfortable they are with their technology, and I was trying to get them to be honest with me in saying ‘I get stuck’, ‘I’m scared to use the app by myself in case I press the wrong button’, ‘Even if I know a little bit, I’m more comfortable if my children are around.’ And many don’t understand cashless payments apps such as Google Pay and Paytm.” Ultimately, Tech Easy Hai is also vocal about reducing parents’ dependency on their children for troubleshooting.
Shreya, who splits her time with her businesses in Chennai, points out they did not need to spend on marketing for the classes. She instead floated a mini newsletter around her friends’ circle. For example, with the class on cashless payment apps, she researched topics including how UPI is a huge disruption to the banking ecosystem, why the aforementioned breed of apps are just for smartphones and not on laptops, what would happen to the users’ data if these apps were to shut down suddenly.
She felt these were valid concerns for participants. “It made me think more deeply about technology as well,” she recalls, “including the troubleshooting aspects because these days apps get updated continually.”
Immersive and diverse
Classes kicked off this summer and people including Nandakumar arranged themselves in front of a laptop for a fun, immersive crash course.
Every weekend, a schedule for the classes would be shared across WhatsApp. Each session costs around ₹150, Shreya and Surbhi kept communication lines open for follow-ups. Nandakumar warmed to the respectful approach of the session teachers and the patience through the session from other participants.
“I learned how powerful empathy can be,” says Shreya, “I also complained of my tech woes when something I tried on an app didn’t work, and students feel a lot less alone and understood they could learn in a safe and accepting space.”
The Deepavali Edit
- Tech Easy Hai is putting together a Deepavali edit for the festive season, given many celebrations for families will go virtual. “We have sessions on how to put together a virtual Diwali party, how to play Teen Patti online, how to make a greeting card, use GIFs, and make stickers for WhatsApp.”
Shreya and Surbhi are thrilled at the different kinds of people they meet— from budding business folk to the elderly. Younger people also signed up, wanting to know more about commercial aspects of platforms such as Instagram, which has been one of their most attended courses. “During the lockdown, many women entrepreneurs wanted to start their own small businesses of home-cooked food or skincare. It was interesting to see how technology stills needs to be tapped into by the current generation.”
Shreya comments that the students across ages grasped the concepts quickly and the in-demand classes include those for Adobe Photoshop, iOS 14, Microsoft Excel Advanced. “Such requests also come from people who have worked in lucrative careers where they had assistants to do their tech admin work for them, but now they have retired and don’t have the help so they want to learn.”
In the past few months, Shreya and Surbhi have expanded their teaching network, adding one more coach and started Hindi sessions. They say, for now, English sessions have seen a good turnout; they have taught over 2,000 people across different cities, including Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Though born in lockdown, there is longevity for Tech Easy Hai with plans to visit students wearing appropriate protective gear.
“We also do a lot of group classes for various organisations including different Rotary Clubs, and two weeks ago, we started taking classes internationally! We have started with a group in Thailand recently, says Shreya. “This is the true power of technology because I can be sitting in my room and reaching so many people and being inclusive at the same time.”
Check out Tech Easy Hai on Instagram @techeasyhai or visit their official website at https://www.easy-hai.com.