Rashmi Mantri: ‘I am blessed to be helping children’ (pic: Terry Murden)
Interview: Rashmi Mantri, education business owner
When she noticed that her 10-year-old son Dhruv was struggling with simple arithmetic, Rashmi Mantri thought that lessons she learned as a young girl growing up in India might help. Little did she know that a wooden abacus and some parental assistance would turn into a global business.
An IT trainer and software developer by trade – with a PhD in computer science – Glasgow-based Mantri drew on an ancient method of calculation using beads. Within a week, her son was able to work out complex sums in his head within seconds.
At first she gladly took him along to schools and community halls where he demonstrated what his school teacher called “magic maths”. An appearance in a television competition followed and Mantri’s abacus method caught the attention of parents who signed up their children for lessons.
“I did a video of me training Dhruv who is shown calculating faster than a calculator. It went viral,” she says.
Since launching the British Youth International College in 2015, the ‘Supermaths’ after-school tuition programme has snowballed into a highly successful online global business, teaching thousands of students around the world. It recently welcomed its 1,000th student.
In recognition of her achievements she was named best entrepreneur at an awards ceremony honouring inspiring Indian women, held in the summer at the Houses of Parliament.
“The abacus is widely accepted as a most versatile tool to train your brain,” says Mantri who came to Scotland with her husband, a chef, 20 years ago. “The pyramids in Egypt were built in a similar way from calculations using pebbles in the sand.”
After studying at the University of the West Scotland she was intent on a career in teaching computer science until the challenge of helping her son turned into a business opportunity. Her home in Bishopbriggs now acts as a base for a network of 100 trainers worldwide.
“I never thought it would become that big,” she says.
While she has given demonstrations and a few seminars, it is mostly by invitation. There have been no formal approaches from the education authorities about incorporating the abacus training technique into the curriculum.
“The children who go through the programme are at the top of their classes,” she says, “but I have not spoken to anyone in the education authorities.”
Nor has she received any financial or other help from the business support network, though she says some funding would help to “spread the message”.
The BYITC has extended its programme to teaching English and cyber security, using memory, concentration, analysis and logical reasoning.
“There is nothing better than providing an education to someone. I am blessed that I am helping children learn new things,” she says.
“Everything is digital these days – we cannot avoid it. But the abacus training method is still one of the best.”
Occupation: Education business owner
Birthplace: Pushkar, Rajasthan, India
Education: University of West of Scotland
What do you do to relax?
Walking, exploring Scotland, going to the gym
If you were to invite three individuals to a fantasy dinner party who would you choose, living or dead?
Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder), Steve Jobs (formerly of Apple) and Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google)