A young Hong Kong firm has found a way to teach computer coding skills to children and adults in more than 20 countries around the world. To read about the company, BSD Education, click here. Or scroll down for an essay profiling Nickey Khemchandani, one of the firm’s co-founders. Meno Mentier reports.
HONG KONG IS A CITY of many defining traits. But one that sets it apart from other metropolitan hubs is the speed with which it adapts to innovation. This community actively attracts foreign talent to learn from and then keeps those lessons to pass on to future generations. This creates a cycle of upward mobility for those with the force of will to be successful.
But there’s a small but fascinating sub-group of the city which gets less attention. These are the locally born non-Chinese, generally known as “the ethnic minorities”. The government estimates that eight to ten per cent of Hong Kong’s people are non-Chinese. Other than domestic helpers (from the Philippines and Indonesia), the largest part of this group are South Asians. Many of them thrive, and have a special talent this city also happens to create, this writer suggests.
Hong Kong-born Nickey Khemchandani, 34, (below) is just such a product of this community’s ability to leverage its adaptability into commercial success. Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of BSD Education, founded in 2013, Khemchandani has led a team providing content and software, plus training and support, to enable any educator to teach coding and digital skills in Hong Kong and beyond.
His team’s mission is to arm youngsters with the digital skill-set necessary to find jobs in a world which increasingly values such skills. Starting as a business solely focused on the Hong Kong market, BSD Education now operates in 22 countries across Asia, North America and the Middle East.
Khemchandani accomplished all this from right here in Hong Kong with nothing else than a problem-solving mind, a passion for technology, a team of like-minded individuals, and the support (and sometimes sacrifice) of his family.
SPIRIT OF ADAPTABILITY
This writer spoke with Khemchandani over a period of four days to learn of his journey from locally born ethnic minority entrepreneur, to co-founder of a company that remains on the cutting edge of technology education, and, since its inception, has evolved a culture embodying Hong Kong’s spirit of adaptability.
The sad truth is that most tech firms come and go. “Many of the tech-ed companies that sprang up around the time we did are not around any more,” he said.
Khemchandani wants to dispel the myth that for Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities the barriers to success are insurmountable. The youngest of three children, born to Indian parents who arrived in Hong Kong during the tumultuous 1960s, the genesis of his mindset is arguably more important than the success it has created for him.
STARTED AT LOCAL SCHOOL
He started his educational journey like many others of his community, at a local public school. From the beginning of his formal education until 2005 he attended Delia Memorial School in Mei Foo. But after completing his HKCEEs (the local school exam in Hong Kong), he and a group of his peers moved to the Ontario Secondary School Diploma, a Canadian system offered at Delia School of Canada International in Tai Koo Shing.
He credits the further nurturing of his adaptive mindset to the academic experiences at DSC International. The school allowed students to try out classes before committing to them. While his peers would make choices that showed they viewed schoolwork as a burden, Khemchandani used the relatively free academic reign to learn as much as he could, as fast as he could.
“At Delia Memorial School, the non-Chinese students were segregated into one class, but I definitely benefited from learning the value of hard work and resilience. Like many other local Hong Kong students, doing homework until 9 pm was common. But at DSC International, diversity was celebrated and encouraged, and bringing the lessons I learned from my previous school, really rounded out my view of Hong Kong and the world,” he recalls.
He worked hard, doing a two-year course in 12 months.
Interactions with students from around the world students would come to shape his personality, but it came at a sacrifice for his family—education is not cheap in Hong Kong. Being 16 years younger than his older brother, Khemchandani acted on the wise recommendation from his family and friends to continue his education at DSC International. His older brother, already in Hong Kong’s ultra-competitive business world, helped to pay his younger sibling’s expensive tuition fees.
“My father and brother were both self-made entrepreneurs. My brother even ran a computer fixing business out of our home, and like all curious little brothers, I was right there at his side watching and learning,” the entrepreneur said. “So when the time for secondary school came around, my brother believed in me so much, he invested in my future out of his own pocket. I owe so much to him for doing that.”
Khemchandani recalls being four years old and attentively watching his older brother play computer games on a personal computer. In 1992, this involved insertion of floppy disks and the running of command lines from DOS and BAT files. “I would watch him play every day and memorized the steps and commands. So one day I decided to run the game myself. When my brother came home, he was shocked. He asked our mum if she had done it but was surprised to learn that I had. Since that day, I was at his side, learning everything he taught me.”
To this writer, this showed that his brother saw in his younger sibling what I saw in my conversations with him; two traits in people that are normally mutually exclusive.
One: that his mind always demands something new to stimulate it.
And two: can then muster the discipline needed to excel at what it’s focused on.
At DSC International, Khemchandani chose to do a commonly recommended two-year program in only one–and all while still enjoying the personality-shaping social skills of being an international student in Hong Kong’s multicultural society.
Image at the top is a montage including elements from Dino Busch, Shahadat Raman and Joshua Sortino