The Talking Yak Story
From humble beginnings on Sundaramurthy Road in Bangalore, four talented people, including three former Teach for India fellows, began work on a project to change the way English is taught in India.
We had a simple goal, albeit difficult goal: to remove the barriers to learning English by making the most intuitive, effective and accessible system ever created.
Our effort included a deep, systematic dive into curriculum, content, skill assessments and interactive communication. It required a nuanced understanding of the means by which technology can enhance education, and, of course, it required an intimate, local understanding of our audience, the Indian learner.
Those who contributed weren’t limited to this initial team. Through its history, our company has benefited from the efforts of nearly 100 people, including:
Teachers with expertise in curriculum design, lesson crafting and actionable assessments, writers fluent in English, Hindi and Tamil, translators and script editors, filmmakers and video editors, sound engineers and sound editors, animators and illustrators, graphic designers and UX/UI experts, actors (including some remarkably funny comedians and accomplished stage performers), voiceover artists, content producers, statisticians, program managers and a handful of mature and responsible interns. And, of course, bringing our product to life was the role of, unarguably, some of the best software developers in India.
And, that was just inside our walls.
We’ve also been greatly assisted from the outside community. We’ve received invaluable inspiration, help and insight from NGO partners across the country and from university and government advisors, foundation leaders and industry giants. We are especially thankful to the schools and colleges that welcomed us into their institutions for research and field testing.
There is an old adage that 15 rupees and the greatest idea is still worth only enough to buy a cup of coffee. Great ideas require leaders. We have them. There are two in particular to whom I would like to express my personal appreciation and admiration. Their superior talents and contributions are only eclipsed by their ethics and dedication to our cause. It is safe to say that without these two, Talking Yak would not have soared to the heights we have reached.
The first, Arpita Raveendran, is our head of operations. Utilising a code-level understanding of the entire product stack, she leads all technological implementation while fine tuning existing systems for efficiency and effectiveness. As daunting a responsibility as that is, she also coordinates hundreds of deployments and runs our partnership and support programs. If our company’s role is to lead individuals on a learning journey, she is the person that ensures all the trains run on schedule.
The second, Yamini Ravichandran, my Co-Director, has been with Talking Yak from day one. Those intimate with Talking Yak know Yamini as the backbone of our organisation. She has taken the lead in nearly every major aspect of our product and company development. Among her many areas of responsibility, she has spearheaded and managed curriculum, content, production and product design. She has also led our most important outreach to governments, academic institutions and corporate partners. She has been, and remains, in title and function, my partner on this journey.
To all those who contributed, you should proudly know that through our combined efforts, we have changed the way English is being taught in India. We are working wonders.
And best yet, there is so much more to come!
On behalf of myself, our organisation "and the billions of English language aspirants worldwide," thank you.
Thomas Latinovich is the founder of Talking Yak. Following a multi-decade career in Silicon Valley, including leadership positions with @Home Network, Excite@Home, Matchlogic and the successful co-founding of Jingle Networks / 800-FREE411, he dedicated nearly 10 years teaching English to South East Asian and Central American adult immigrants in economically disadvantaged areas of Northern California. His expertise is rapidly readying students for employment placement in 100% English speaking environments. In 2015, he brought that understanding to India and founded Talking Yak.