There was a time when the most fun way for kids to learn was by watching cartoons on TV. Cartoons like ‘Dragon Tales’, ‘The Magic
School Bus’, ‘Sesame Street’, ‘Dora the Explorer’ and ‘Go, Diego, Go’ have had millions of kids all around the world sit in front of their TVs early in the morning or at lunch time for some awesome learning.
I too was one of those kids with fond memories of learning the alphabet with Barney, the purple dinosaur, learning how to rhyme with Zack and Wheezie, and whizzing through the intestinal tract with Ms. Frizzle in her Magic School Bus.
I spoke with Mr. Dinesh Lalvani, Founder of Growl Media, a Middle East-based app developer, about his work on building educational content for kids, and he made me realize that there aren’t too many Indian cartoons, or cartoon characters that have made a considerable impact. “I was looking for local content, apps, cartoons, books, songs, something to introduce the sounds of India and Arabia to my son, Siddharth, and I couldn’t find any quality or relevant content,” he said. “I thought ‘why not give it a shot myself?’ A year later, the Growl Media team has produced seven great apps across various platform and we’ve got a presence in 18 countries!” he added.
Growl Media proceeded to create its range of apps under the name of Appy Kids. The stories in the apps revolve around Alfie and his best friend Haathi, and Zee. Alfie their first character, loosely based on Dinesh’s son Siddharth, is a curious four-year-old boy who lives in India. Together with his best friend Haathi, he discovers the Magic Bioscope and they start their series of adventures together. Their next character, Zee, is a bright young Arab girl who’s fascinated by her role model Ibn Batuta, the great Arab Explorer. She has vivid daydreams of exploring new places and cultures.
As of now Alfie speaks English and Hindi, but he will soon be taught regional languages like Bengali and Tamil to connect with a larger audience. Zee speaks in English, Arabic and French. “We wanted to create colorful, contemporary characters, like Alfie and Zee who have curious, adventurous personalities that the children of today can relate to and love. And that in some ways inspires them to learn, and want to keep learning, because it’s fun,” explains Dinesh.
The response to Alfie and Zee has been phenomenal, and the numbers sure have a tale to tell. Appy Kids have seven apps and two storybooks under their belt across five platforms.The numbers:
- 375,000+ downloads
- 118,000+ likes
- #1 in the App Store in 18 countries
- Partnership with Samsung, where Zee is the brand ambassador for the Galaxy Kids Tab
- 50 schools around the UAE are using their apps
“Zee has been a huge hit in the MENA (Middle-East & North Africa) region, while Alfie has been a hit in the Indian and Middle-Eastern markets,” beams Dinesh.
Keeping parents in the loop
Growl Media focuses on long term connections with parents through frequent blog postings on the Appy Kids website. The blogs discuss current parenting issues, bonding activities for families and engaging curriculum-based downloads for children. They also use social media to engage and connect with parents and teachers around the world.
“We’ve got some really good write-ups on parenting in the 21st century on our website. We are thoroughly against slack or lazy parenting, where kids are handed the iPad or a video game to keep them occupied. We really try and encourage parents to involve themselves with the kids in the learning process,” explains Dinesh.
Growl Media works closely with kids in schools and nurseries to test the apps at various stages of development to make sure that it is fun and engaging. They also reach out to teachers and educational technologists in the development process to advise them on product engagement.
In the pipeline
“We launch a new app nearly every eight weeks. We are scheduled to launch ‘Zee writes the Alphabet’ around the last week of May,” he says. “In the future, we’re looking to move into new markets through regionalizing our characters. Alfie will soon learn Bengali, Tamil and Telugu, while Zee will learn Turkish, Malay and Indonesian. Our first step towards medium diversification is the series of webisodes that we have planned to launch on YouTube over the summer,” added Dinesh.
Growl Media has a long term plan to expand on its Intellectual Property and characters with plans for merchandising, and TV syndication, etc.
“I think our biggest challenge was to get a hold of the right people who also shared the same vision as us. Thanks to my stint at Flip Media, I was in contact with some really great people and that helped us find some of the people we needed,” states Dinesh.
Advice to budding entrepreneurs in the same space
- Join us!
- Do not shortchange on quality just to get something out there. Attention to detail and quality is everything!
Is Appy Kids the evolution to prime time cartoons? Tell us what you think about interactive edutainment, in the comments section below. Also, don’t forget to list down your favourite childhood cartoons!