From Banker to Busy Bee: How Xiaoyang Built a Thriving Language School Empire in India

Aditi Kotkar was born in Pune, India, and her Chinese name is Xiaoyang.

14 years ago, Xiaoyang worked at the State Bank of India, the largest bank in India. There was a strict hierarchy there, and she dared not speak out against the boss’s opinions. Xiaoyang is a person who can have fun in language learning, but he faces boring data every day. This kind of life leaves little room for her hobbies.

Xiaoyang is now the founder of four innovative language schools. These schools teach 6 Eastern languages, including Chinese, and offer a variety of courses. Although Xiaoyang now has to worry about various school affairs, he is much happier than he was at the bank. After all, he is still busy, and he is always happier when he is busy with something he loves.

All this changed when she came to study in China.

After working in the bank for three years, Xiaoyang seemed to have been drained of energy and finally resigned. After resigning, what’s the next step? She decided to follow her inner guidance—she just loved learning languages. If there is any benefit left by her job in the bank, it may be her understanding of Sino-Indian trade and China. She realized that Chinese language was a very important tool in trade activities between China and India.

Before coming to China, Xiaoyang learned a little Chinese from an Indian teacher who had studied in China. The teacher’s advice to her was that if she wanted to make rapid progress in learning Chinese, “it would be best to go to China and learn in person.” So, Xiaoyang came to China.

If Xiaoyang, who spent her days in the bank, was like a wilting plant, then studying abroad in China was like “good fertilizer and good water”, which quickly kept her with spreading branches and leaves and full of vitality. She goes to class every day with great interest, using both her heart and brain, and does not miss out on the hard work she deserves. After school, she and her classmates walked out of the campus, walked through the streets and alleys of the city, and chatted with the mother-in-law who sold vegetables; during the school holidays, she put on her backpack and traveled to experience the customs and customs of different places. She is always full of energy, like the rising sun in the morning. That’s how the name “Xiaoyang” came from.

Xiaoyang was very comfortable studying in China, but at that time in Pune, India, there were far from such sufficient learning resources. Xiaoyang found that learning Chinese is very important, and there are many people who have the same idea as her. However, not everyone has the opportunity to come to China, and not everyone can find suitable courses locally: there are no Chinese courses in their universities, and there are not many training schools in society that offer Chinese courses. Even if there are suitable courses, not everyone can find the right time. It was in this contrast that Xiaoyang encountered her “aha” moment – she wanted to teach a basic Chinese course for Indians who couldn’t come to China to study!

After returning to India, Xiaoyang began to do market research. She discovered that there was a group of Indian businessmen in her city who often traveled between China and India. Guangzhou and Yiwu were the cities they often visited. Although some people will find a translator or agency to accompany them, it is not as convenient as speaking a little Chinese on their own. Xiaoyang set his sights on this group of people. The earliest course was to teach them to speak some simple Chinese, not a complete, systematic, and scratch-based language learning. For example, how to express confirmation and denial, how to negotiate price, delivery date, payment date, how to indicate that you do not eat a certain type of food when eating, etc. The scenarios are critical and limited, so the course only takes 16 hours to complete. From a professional perspective, such a course may seem a bit childish. But as a business, it was off to a successful start.

Xiaoyang officially started his entrepreneurial journey. At first, she worked alone, borrowing venues, recruiting students, taking classes, and managing students all by herself. Later, the local chamber of commerce lent her a room, and she took classes there. After there were more students, she began to recruit teachers, and the courses became more and more systematic. When the teaching content exceeds his own Chinese level, Xiaoyang recruits teachers for advanced Chinese courses, many of whom are top students who have studied in China and won scholarships.

Perhaps Xiaoyang inherited the businessman gene from her business father, which allowed her to make the right choice when she started her business. She cut into the market segment with a small incision and captured the precise target group. The product focused on a single selling point and used the “minimum” Feasible product” quickly tests the market response and quickly replicates it after receiving positive feedback. In this way, in 10 years, her school “Oriental Dialogue” taught more than 3,000 students.

Until now, the Chinese courses of “Oriental Dialogue” still serve business needs and have developed a variety of teaching models. The small class system accepts individual learners, and the number of students in each class is small, ranging from 6 to 8 people. There is also corporate training here, providing language courses for employees who will be assigned to China. After long-term teaching, they have figured out a teaching method suitable for Indians to learn Chinese. I took a quick look and found that these methods are different from our systematic Chinese teaching in China, but they work very well for their clients. If Party A is happy, Party B will develop.

They have also developed their own teaching materials, from content selection to layout format, only to serve business personnel’s activities in China. Although there are an endless stream of Chinese teaching materials in China, they still cannot meet the specific needs of each segmented region, so Xiaoyang’s teaching materials are really “no meal replacement”.

In 2018, Xiaoyang expanded its courses in other languages ​​and opened a new school. In 2021, 4 schools teach a total of 6 languages. Xiaoyang took Woyun to visit her new campus on the video call, and we were both excited on both ends of the phone. Anyone who has ever been an independent teacher knows this. Who hasn’t dreamed of having their own classroom one day? What’s more, this is not a room, but a floor!

At present, Xiaoyang’s language school has reached a certain scale, but marketing is still the highlight of her work. Especially since 2020, due to the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, the number of school students has dropped sharply, and it will not be until 2023 that the market gradually picks up. The demand for business Chinese learning is greatly affected by the trade situation between the two countries. She must try her best to maintain the existing customer base while “educating” the market. Xiaoyang often takes colleagues out to give lectures and other activities to introduce to the public: “For us Indians, Chinese is really not that difficult.”

In addition to student sources, Xiaoyang is also looking for local teachers who are more suitable for their teaching methods. She hopes that the teachers will not only be professional, but also understand the learning habits and way of thinking of Indians, who speak three languages ​​per capita, and fully understand the students’ goals: not to become a Chinese expert, but to be able to use it when working in China.

After starting his own business, Xiaoyang returned to China once. She took her students and spent an immersive learning time in an ancient village in Zhejiang. This reminded her of her travel experience when she was studying in China. She has walked through the land of China, made Chinese friends, and seen the fireworks in the market. “China” is no longer just two words in a textbook. Xiaoyang wants her students to have more such opportunities, bringing them closer to the real China.

Now, Xiaoyang spends his day basically like this: he goes to the office at 10 o’clock, handles the management affairs of four schools, meets with the team, participates in discussions on teaching, marketing, administration and other work, and studies the good operation methods of similar companies. Learn from. Sometimes she needs to go out to talk to corporate clients, and sometimes she also goes to the podium to give lectures in person. She is an entrepreneur and a teacher. After get off work, she became an ordinary mother again, going home to take care of her children.

Xiaoyang is busy, but her heart is full of satisfaction. And her satisfaction does not come from today’s small and successful enterprises, but from the achievements of students. There was a student in Xiaoyang who decided to study in China after completing the basic course. He applied to Peking University and passed the highest level of Chinese proficiency test there. Another student also came to China to study, and then went to Beijing to study Peking Opera. Later he was Invited to perform at the Chinese Embassy in India; there is a student who loves cooking and uses Chinese to teach Chinese people to cook Indian food in Guangzhou. He has so many fans that he becomes a food internet celebrity; more of them are businessmen who learn Chinese because It has opened up the Chinese market and opened offices one after another in many cities in China.

When Xiaoyang told me this, his face was full of pride. Of course, looking at Xiaoyang like this, I felt the same pride.

Besides being proud, I am also really happy for her. As a teacher of Chinese as a foreign language, I have taught classes, recruited students, negotiated with clients, and recruited teachers. I know very well how many difficulties it will be to start such a training school from scratch. But when I asked her, she looked calm and calm: It’s nothing, it’s all over. Because she loves it, she doesn’t feel bitter or tired. As an entrepreneur, Xiaoyang has crossed the threshold from zero to one, from one to ten, and is on the way from ten to one hundred. I believed that she had made many correct business decisions and must have learned some lessons, so I asked her to give some advice to similar entrepreneurs. She said: You must love what you do. Only in this way can you enjoy it endlessly and develop your core competitiveness. Only in this way can you regard difficulties as a level of the game instead of a source of suffering.

You see, it’s love again. But not everyone can find their love in the chaos of the world. Xiaoyang is the lucky person. She found what she likes to do early and she does have some talents. She is also the brave person. She has the courage to give up and start things. She turns her love into a career and a life guide. of the North Star.

I hope this love and courage will always be with her.

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