How We Started

It all started with many of us independently volunteering in a few neighborhood government schools. The headmistresses and teachers in these schools consistently requested assistance to teach English.

We found that the English reading skills of the students in Std. 4 and 5 were significantly lower than the government textbook level. Our independent efforts didn’t yield impact proportional to our best intentions since there was no cohesion between multiple teaching strategies.

We realized that there was a need to teach English and that there are committed volunteers keen to do this, but more importantly, that there is a real need for a solution that takes into account the unique constraints of the volunteers, the students, and the system.  Thus, Step Up For India was born.

We created a highly structured curriculum that is easy to follow and enjoyable. We also designed a ‘Volunteer Team Teaching’ system that enables short-on-time volunteers to effectively teach students who have no help otherwise.

2013-2014 saw the launch of our flagship English program. Since then, our volunteers have inspired and empowered an ever-growing number of students — to become confident and, more importantly, independent learners who love to learn.


Nandita Aras

Nandita Aras has a doctorate in Political Science from Columbia University, New York, and a Masters in Economics from Bombay University. A rank holder throughout her academic career, she was a recipient of several fellowships including the Wildavsky Award for the best doctoral dissertation on Religion and Politics from the American Political Science Association. She taught at the University of California, Irvine, where she received recognition for designing innovative curricula for courses in the department. In 2004 Nandita returned to India to work in the development sector.

She headed Research in Janaagraha and by 2012 she turned her full attention to education for the underprivileged, an area she has always been passionate about. Nandita is also an accomplished actress with over 700 stage performances across India and an international best child actor award.

Shanthi Nair

She worked as a financial analyst in London for about 18 years before moving back to India in 2012. She teamed up with Nandita to set up Step Up For India in 2013. A CFA charter-holder, Shanthi’s first degree is a B. Tech in Electronics & Instrumentation Engineering, after which she did her MBA at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and a Masters in Finance at the London School of Economics.

As an Executive Director with Lehman Brothers and Nomura International in London, Shanthi was an active participant in diversity-related activities and mentored several college students from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic minorities.

Sangna Lakshmi

She has diverse experience in the fields of architecture, software engineering, and in writing articles for newspapers. Her long-held dream to help the underserved prompted her to work with government schools located in her neighbourhood.

She joined the team in setting up Step up For India in 2013, thus pursuing her vision of reaching and changing the lives of a large number of underprivileged children.


Shyla N. Reddy, Executive Director

has over 25 years of extensive experience in the elementary and secondary level education sector in India. She has a strong practical knowledge of Classroom Teaching, Educational Planning and Management, Teacher Development, and Curriculum Development. She was one of the lead persons in developing Interactive Radio Instruction programs and EDUSAT programs in Karnataka.

Additionally, she has been significantly involved in the implementation of the SSA and RMSA programs in Karnataka. She has experience both in the government and in the development organizations across the different states in India.

Step Up For India has been privileged to have been supported by numerous individuals who have volunteered their time to build its various aspects.