When arts meet science: The building of Da Vinci Group with Amutha Saravanan

In the month of International Women’s day, Connected to India (CtoI) meets another woman entrepreneur who has amalgamated arts and neuroscience to conduct workshops that engage all your senses and stimulate your creativity, abstract thinking and problem-solving.

Amutha Saravanan, with her partner Saravanan Manorkorum, co-founded Da Vinci Group Singapore in 2012. Combining their academic backgrounds in psychology and neurobiology with their passion for the arts, they aim to provide innovative and holistic education for individuals in all stages and walks of life.

Amutha Saravanan ​
Amutha Saravanan. Photo courtesy: Da Vinci Group

Connected to India asked Amutha about her journey of creating Da Vinci Group. Here are excerpts from the interview:  

CtoI: Please tell us about the inception of Da Vinci Group.
Amutha: After earning a Masters in Psychology focusing on clinical neuropsychology, I went to work in the largest health cluster in Singapore called SingHealth in a research capacity. I was at crossroads to choose between working on a PhD or developing another skill set and ended up at Egon Zehnder, a senior level executive consultancy that matches jobs at the CEO level and two levels down to individuals. I was there for four years, but something was missing from my life. I was too disconnected with academia, which was my first love. I missed the intellectual rigour of learning and then picked up pottery as a hobby.

Soon after, I started Amooo’s – an original’ – my first company, and then I realised that there was something about the medium of clay. My husband’s background in neurobiology led to our research roots and we discovered Neuroeducation, a field of study under Neuroscience that looks at how the brain optimally learns. That’s when we started Da Vinci Group in 2012 and created NeuroCeramics® and NeuroTheatre®.

CtoI: What is NeuroCeramics?
Amutha: Da Vinci Group (DVG) is a premium educational and training services provider, whose mission is to stimulate creativity and productivity through the concept of Neuroeducation using pottery as a platform. Neuroeducation is a field of study that combines neuroscience, psychology and education to understand how the brain optimally learns. This involves understanding how neural networks are created and strengthened by associating information gathered from our five senses in our environment to content. Working with clay is a hands-on experience that engages the senses, creates emotions, stimulates creative expression and heightens awareness. Pairing such a medium with learning creates an engaging play-based experience, which stimulates abstract thinking, problem solving and creativity. We have created NeuroCeramics based on this concept where we use pottery as a platform to engage children, teens, adults and the elderly.

Saravanan Manorkorum and Amutha
Amutha Saravanan and Saravanan Manorkorum with their son Dronan. Photo courtesy: Da Vinci Group

CtoI: How did the idea of NeuroCeramics come to you? How does this work?
Amutha: The global climate in leadership is changing now. Children today are more aware, have opinions, are not afraid to challenge and somehow do not see how following directions would make them successful in life. With the widespread use of technology, the world has gotten smaller and children are being exposed to many different things happening in the world.

We worry that our children, the leaders of tomorrow, will not stand a chance at the global level given the type of learning undergone during their formative years. We see DVG as the answer to plugging the gap between hardcore rote-learning and creative expression. Our programme is designed to make children think and express. We believe in empowering children by making learning fun. We believe education gives access to children to shape their lives powerfully. We also assert that there is no need to think out of the box as there is no box to begin with. We possess the know-how to stimulate and foster creativity through marrying cutting-edge neuroscience and psychological findings with art mediums.

CtoI: What research was carried out to build Da Vinci?
Amutha: Prior to starting the business, we did extensive market research with key target audiences. This involved door-to-door surveys, reading all the research papers on neuroeducation, understanding the biology of learning and data mining to make sure that what we are creating is revolutionary to the current education systems around the world. I would say that 2013, 2014 and 2015 were developmental stages, 2016 was really when we went out and brought this to our clients.

Amutha Saravanan with young participants
Amutha Saravanan with young participants. Photo courtesy: Da Vinci Group

CtoI: Who are your target audiences?
Amutha: Anyone from 18 months to 96 years old.

CtoI: How was your experience of setting up your business in Singapore?
Amutha: It was fairly simple to incorporate a business in Singapore and get supported. The infrastructure is great. However, I think there is more difficulty in getting supported after a certain number of years for the next phase or wave. 

CtoI: Have you raised any funds in Singapore?
Amutha: We have been self-funded since the start. Now we are raising funds for our next milestone. 

CtoI: What is the vision of the company?
Amutha: Our mission as a premium educational and corporate training services provider is dedicated to cultivating and nurturing creativity in a competitive and globalised world. We at Da Vinci Group really believe that our programmes are revolutionary and rooted in science to cause the beginning of the next paradigm shift in the focus of our current education system.

Saravanan Manorkorum
Saravanan Manorkorum during a workshop. Photo courtesy: Da Vinci Group

CtoI: What are your future plans?
Amutha: Da Vinci Group now has four pillars with programmes catering to children, teens, adults and the elderly. They are called Da Vinci Education, Da Vinci Youth Development, Da Vinci Consultancy and Da Vinci Silver Line. We also have Da Vinci Foundation that works with corporates who want to run our programmes for beneficiaries as part of their CSR initiative. We have also created Da Vinci Products, which has KlayKit™, a homegrown Singaporean product that allows families to experience NeuroCeramics® in the comfort of their homes. ‘Amooo’s – an original’ is now a sister company of Da Vinci Group.

We aspire to open the DVG Academy that will encompass many platforms that are suitable to apply neuroeducation principles to. This academy will also be pivotal to collect local data in the field of neuroeducation and augmenting as well as improving learning methods to ensure play, fun and pertinence in the process.