To play is to learn: that’s why these brothers launched a digital kindergarten
TOKO Innovations is an edtech startup that works as a mobile-first digital primary school. The curriculum includes 26 nursery and kindergarten topics that are taught in a fun way.
Startup: TOKO Innovations
Founders: Aditya Mukherjee and Arnav Mukherjee
Year it was founded: 2016
Where is it based: Delhi
The problem it solves: Pre-school education
What we learn with pleasure we never forget - Alfred Mercier.
While all of us have been exposed to rote learning in our school days, a growing number of people are beginning to believe that child development and growth is aided by play and fun.
Brothers Aditya Mukheerjee and Arnav Mukheerjee agree, and the duo realising the need to build something that brought in play to learning started TOKO Innovations. Aditya has a background in operations finance and funding, while Arnav has a creative bent of mind. They jointly authored neo-noir thriller Karm in 2016.Once they had the idea in place, they roped in Ajit Sen, who has over nine years of experience in technology as the CTO.
“We spoke to a lot of teachers and parents. In fact, I even went to malls with boxes of crayons to give as incentives and spoke to parents who were willing to talk,” says 32-year old Aditya.
They identified a few areas of concern, including the fact that parents are worried by the amount of time their child spends on mobile phones, tablets and other gadgets. They find this to be a waste of time and believe that the time would be better spent on growth and learning.
The brothers also realised that parents wanted a single destination where they could engage their children.
“On the other hand, children liked using digital devices and could not be dissuaded from using them even it meant making their otherwise doting parents angry,” Aditya says.
The SuperSchool app
They came up with TOKO Innovation Studio, a mobile-first digital primary school that lets the user can download an app - called SuperSchool - from Google Playstore.
This app touches over 26 different topics of nursery and kindergarten curriculum, taught to the children in a Learn-By-Play methodology.
The team uses games, videos puzzles, voiced e-books and other activities. Individual content can be downloaded through the app, and used when convenient. The user can enjoy the app offline even if there is no internet connectivity.
SuperSchool offers over 50 learning games, 50 voiced e-books, and 40 animated videos along with pages for colouring and jigsaw puzzles.
The content includes subjects like mathematics with pre-mathematics games like Odd-Even Ninja; educational books; rhymes and videos; writing capital alphabets; how different instruments sound, and how their notes can be used to make music; Planet Catch - planets in our solar system including positions and interesting facts; Bubble Letter Pop - connecting alphabets to objects that start with them; Bubble Phonic Pop - teaching phonic sounds and words that use them; Food Run - healthy and unhealthy food and their effects; Match the animal; Grammar Flight; and much more.
Working around the challenges
However, the challenge remains in creating a large library of educational interactive content, which helps in learning.
“Children should love it and want to come back to it. We do this using a comprehensive process,” Aditya says.
“The content creation begins with teachers and our education advisor. The team starts the process with the curriculum, thinking which topics do we cover next, what activities are used in class or Montessori or recommended at home to help children learn or practise this topic,” he adds.
This is followed by a brainstorming session with digital creators on how to create a digital experience that mirrors those activities.
“Based on these inputs, content is created. This then goes to a group of parent testers, who try it out and get their children to test it on parameters like whether they found the content helpful in terms of learning, was the child having fun? If not, how can they improve? Product iterations are based on this,” he adds.
How does the content work?
“We keep on adding new content on the platform. The user has ready access without any hassle of downloading new apps or upgrade patches,” Aditya says.
He adds that they have built a proprietary content creation system, which creates fast and cost-effective content.
“We call it RACE - Rapid Assembly Content Execution system. It is created by maintaining a large compendium of art assets and software code,” Aditya says.
The content, activities and games are being offered for free, but the team is planning to introduce premium content and subscription models, making SuperSchool a Freemium app with a subscription model.
TOKO Innovation Studios has received angel funding of Rs 3 crore from Indian Angel Network (IAN) and Rajasthan Angels (RAIN).
Numbers and growth
The team claims to be a global product with close to 51 percent of their usage outside India. While the subscription model is yet to launch in India, the team claims that they started monetising in the US and UK last month.
The SuperSchool app has over 100,000 downloads across India, US, UK, Africa and South Asian countries. The team says users spend an average of 15 minutes per day on the app.
According to India Brand Equity Foundation, India holds a very crucial place in the global education ecosystem. It has more than 1.4 million schools with 227 million students enrolled. When it comes to e-learning, India is considered second only to the US. The sector is currently pegged at $2 billion and is expected to touch $5.7 billion by 2020.
The edtech market and future plans
A total of $1.1 billion has been pumped into the education sector by private equity investors, says a Kaizen equity fund report. The players focused specifically on K-12 education and include biggies like Sequoia-backed Cuemath and Byju’s, which recently raised undisclosed funding from Tencent. It has also acquired Edurite and Tutorvista.
There are other players like Playabo, Chippersage, and Efundu in the market
The team is looking for a stronger focus across Asia now. They also aim to expand beyond kindergarten and target first-graders next.
Aditya says they are looking to monetise in all geographies in the next four to five months.
“We are also aiming to tie up with schools to help them teach with more interactive technology. The iOS version will be launched soon. We want to double the downloads with two lakh users and garner 1.5 lakh active users per week by next year. We want to be leaders in the gamified education space for the age group 0-7 years,” he says.
“We will also be adding more regional Indian language content in Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi and other languages. We will also add content in languages like French, Mexican, Japanese, and Mandarin among others,” Aditya concludes.