The 14-year-old spends an hour every day after school hooked to an app on his mother’s phone. He can drag and drop instructions on the app to get a bunch of devices to respond to real situations, like say, sound an alarm when the sun’s up.
Pune-based Plezmo’s app introduces children of ages 7 to 17 to a platform of wireless devices that can be programmed through it. The platform – the app and the devices – is being put through the grind including by more than 100 children in India and the United States before it will be available for sale, likely early next year. The company is also in discussions with schools in Pune to run a pilot programme.
Other than for gaming, apps have always existed for children to learn new things. Several of the better apps, though, have been from foreign companies and meant for overseas markets. The Indian market for children’s apps is now set to explode, according to various estimates, ignoring advice from educationists and behaviour specialists. They would ideally want to limit the time kids engage with smartphones and tablets.
That’s become possible as several parents as well as schools are embracing apps that, mostly using games, promise to make learning easier, more effective, and diverse.
Tapping into this are domestic companies like Plezmo, which is raising funds from an undisclosed institutional investment firm, according to cofounder Amol Palshikar; the Inventus Capital Partners-funded Avaz app that provides speech therapy guidance for autistic children; and Bulbul Apps that teaches children English and basic Math using mythological tales.
These Made-in-India apps aren’t meant only for children here but across the globe.
Chennai-based Avaz, which launched its app in 2012, has around 40,000 monthly active users globally. The United States is its biggest market, followed by India and European countries including Denmark, France, Sweden and Spain. The app is multilingual–available in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, French, Spanish, Danish and Italian. It is priced at $200 for users overseas and at $100 for the Indian market.
“From 2012 to 2016, we are definitely seeing a change in the Indian children’s app market,“ said founder Ajit Narayanan. “Last year, the government of Tamil Nadu bought and distributed 200 tablets with Avaz’s app on it across schools.“
According to industry analysts, the domestic children’s apps market is growing with about 250 million kids around the age of nine in India. Besides, parents are emerging as strong influencers and schools, too, are opening up to the idea of including apps in teaching, which is making monetising such apps more feasible.
“Children’s apps in India have a fairly huge consumer base and a huge market. The best mix is that of edutainment, where there is a perfect balance of gamification and learning. Those are the apps that will gain popularity as consumption goes up,“ said Rutvik Doshi, director at Inventus. “It’s not just urban India but also rural India where one will see traction in the coming years… Once consumption soars, monetisation will be the next challenge. As of now, subscription-based methods of monetisation are one option besides partnering up with schools.“
Which is what Bulbul Apps does. The Hyderabad-based company, founded by filmmaker Prakash Dantuluri, focuses on teaching preschool children through interactive storytelling. Each story is created on a collaborative digital platform that brings together more than 5 million artists including animators, sound engineers, writers, voiceover artistes, and filmmakers.
The app, which raised initial funds from crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter, has about 70,000 monthly active users across the globe, with the United States, India and Europe being its biggest markets. It was launched in 2015 with a free version and requiring inapp purchases for more functions. That didn’t work well for the business.
So Bulbul has a new version through which it is “focussing on partnering with preschools in India and converting their curriculum into interactive digital content,“ said Dantuluri. It’s been more successful. The company has signed agreements with about 1,000 schools in India and recently deployed the app in 300 schools.