Connecting the dots in children’s education

After completing her graduation from The London School of Economics (LSE) and becoming an award-winning journalist, she was quite content in the calling that she had found. 

However, the birth of her daughter changed the status quo. Wanting her daughter to access the best of education she struggled to find a school that confirmed to all her requirements. And soon she realized that she was not alone in this struggle.

Pakistan has 28 million children in school and after seven years of learning more than half of them are still at a second-grade level in math and reading. In a sense the education system is broken. 

With a determination to change this scenario, along with her best friend and business partner Lina she converted her parents’ garage into a small experimental lab for learning workshops. The journey from that garage into the head office that they occupy today has been a humbling one and she believes that they still have a long way to go. 

Maheen Bashir, Co-Founder & CEO at Dot & Line based in Karachi, Pakistan shares her story in this exclusive chat with AsiaBizToday.

Your motivation to get into this

Even back in the garage we had a vision. We wanted to spark curiosity in children to connect information in textbooks to the wider world outside of those pages and bring something truly world-class to our doorstep. We began with math. Our workshops took flight, and with that, our message to the Pakistani parents reimagining education. 

The activities that you undertake 

Dot and Line is an ed-tech start-up that builds scalable learning centers. Our USP is our learning programs that were put together by some of the brightest minds in the country. Our agents of change are highly educated women. Using technology, our teacher training modules and our learning programs these women set-up Dot and Line level learning spaces in their homes. They become teachers and micro-entrepreneurs in their communities and start to earn! Technology is the binding force that brings accountability and transparency to the network across the different cities. 

Your experiences in this leadership position

I’ve had a steep learning curve. We went from a three-person company to a team of twenty. Over the years we continue to evolve, but so far I can say as a leader our experiences have shaped the values that govern the culture at Dot and Line. We seek courageous team mates and leaders, who speak honestly and are not afraid to ask for help; our devotion is to our customers as well as our team mates as we think creatively of ways to optimize and get better at what we do every day. We prioritize skillful listening so everybody in our company is heard and valued. I can say for myself and for other leaders at Dot and Line that we are ambitious in our vision, values, performance and character.

Important factors that keep you going

It is definitely the incredible women of Dot and Line. The women who have built this company with me, my partner Lina, our COO Fariha and all our formidable managers and colleagues. There are also the incredible women, Dot and Line teacher partners. These highly educated women who were previously mathematicians; software engineers; doctors; bankers; but are also wives, caretakers and mothers. As a mother of two, their struggle resonates with me and it is a privilege to be able to grow this company with them and bring quality education to the children of Pakistan.

Obstacles or challenges because of being a woman

We are still a young company and have faced so many challenges none of which I would be able to attribute to being a woman if I’m honest. 

Your proudest moment so far

Hmm, that is a tough one but this would be a good chance to highlight one particular project we did. Dot and Line was chosen to curate The Children’s section in the National History Museum in Lahore, Pakistan more than a year ago. Seeing our ideas come to life and be open to thousands of children to see fills me with gratitude. Our vision was for children to celebrate Pakistan through immersive exhibits that spark the senses and inspire. 

Your definition of success

Well, we are ambitious for Dot and Line. In the next two to three years we want to grow our learning centers to 4,000 and reach close to 40,000 students. The aim is to reach half a million students of Pakistan and help them realize their full potential.

 Your advice to other aspiring Entrepreneurs, especially women

Don’t be afraid to dream BIG and go after it. You will fall, fail, get up and try again! But in hindsight the string of memories you make by taking risks in your life will actually be the moments you treasure the most.