Touted as Bollywood diva Sridevi’s comeback vehicle, English Vinglish was one of the most-anticipated movies of 2012. But when audiences walked out of theatres (or turned off their screens) after watching the film, it was to talk not about the star, but her role: of Shashi Godbole, the Maharashtrian housewife from English Vinglish who smiles through her family’s taunts at her sub-par English language skills. Humiliated for her inability to speak English, Shashi joins a four-week course at a language school, and the movie ends on a happy note with Shashi making a heartfelt climactic speech in fluent English.
The movie is inspired by countless true stories of people struggling in their personal and professional lives due to their inability to interact in English. Vivek Agarwal, CEO of English language product and training company Liqvid eLearning, says almost everyone aspires to converse in perfect English. “In a scene straight out of the movie, a housewife once told me she wished to learn English because her son was too embarrassed to introduce her to his friends,” says the 42-year-old IIM-C grad. In a country where an elementary understanding of the language can increase social mobility, serve as common ground and open up job prospects, failure to grasp English can prove to be a handicap.
Liqvid (derived from ‘liquidus’, the Latin word for fluid, and ‘vid’, the Sanskrit word for ‘to know’) is trying to address this need. Agarwal and his friend Manish Kumar pooled in ₹4 crore from personal savings and loans from friends and family to start Liqvid in 2002. “People want to learn English primarily for three reasons: to secure a better job, to pass an exam or study in an English-medium institute and to be able to interact better with their social circle,” Agarwal says. He reels off statistics in favour of English. “There was an article three months ago in Harvard Business Review that said around 25% of the world’s population converses in English. It has become the language of business and opportunity. For English Edge, the market is no