This article is part of our series ‘The Reinvention’ about women who adapted to the ‘new normal’ during the COVID lockdown and took a new direction in their career during this challenging period.
By Shweta Bhandral
A former banker who always wanted to start her own business, Tanuja Gomes married into a family that runs Furtado, a brand that is well-known for its musical instruments. From here began Tanuja’s own musical journey. In 2011, along with her friend Dharini Upadhayay, Tanuja launched Furtado School of Music (FSM).
They opened music centres, developed music curriculum for K-12 schools, partnered with them to conduct classes, and also give private music tuitions to their own set of clientele.
Daughter of a Gujarati mother and a Sindhi father, business is in Tanuja’s blood, she jokes. Born and raised in Mumbai, Tanuja started doing summer jobs when she was just 16 years old. She believes, “You should never restrict your dreams, and hard work is imperative for fulfilling them.”
The lockdown in March 2020 had something different in store for Tanuja and FSM. There was engagement with the existing customers, but something new happened as well. With the pandemic creating anxiety and other negative emotions amongst people, the value of music and music education was enhanced as people needed a creative outlet to vent themselves.
The FSM team went ahead to realign their priorities to be relevant in these times. In April, they partnered with 63 schools and began conducting online music classes for them. The response was overwhelming. By then, schools were going through a huge transition process and were figuring out how they could manage online education.
And so, the team took a step further and launched Furtado’s online project called FSM Buddy. She says, “We have had the steepest learning curve in the past three months. We have been able to bring moments of joy, calmness and other positive emotions that result from music education to over 20,000 students.”
FSM Buddy conducts live teaching sessions covering music, drama, languages, dance and life skills. Much thought has gone into curating each course, educators have been hand-picked, and the sessions can be taken at the convenience of the learner. Tanuja believes the performing arts can be taught online too.
“We will have to find ways to enable performance opportunities for all our learners whether or not things go back to normal in the near future,” she says.
FSM Buddy is gaining momentum not only in India but overseas too. Out of every hundred enquires on the platform, about 25 are from outside India. Tanuja believes that in the current times, the attitudes of the learner, the teacher and even the parent have changed.
“Before this lockdown, whenever we tried online training, the learners and the teachers both expressed apprehension,” she shares. “Today our teachers say that they find students above the age of 12 even more engaged and focused through the online medium than in person.”
Comparing her challenge with the one faced by online grocery e-stores that have managed to change customers’ shopping habits over time, Tanuja explains, “In my opinion, many customers will continue to learn online as it may be more convenient for them and enable access to teachers from many locations. As an organisation, we will continue with our reach across the world.”
First published in eShe’s August 2020 issue
Syndicated to Money Control