Amit Agarwal helped bring Youtube to India, and grew the business from scratch to touch $100 million per annum. With his startup OckyPoocky, he aims to make edutainment popular in India.
“Did I hear that right?” I screamed, staring into my phone, giving the Ola cabbie seated to my right a mini-heart attack. I plugged in my earphones and loaded the app again, played around with it for a few moments, and hit the exit button again.
I heard it again. A faint child-like voice said ‘Bye’ as my phone returned to the home-screen. The attention to detail and the user experience was interesting.
I was trying out a children's learning app, and had played a few nursery rhymes on full blast a few moments ago. My cabbie seemed annoyed, and was probably not going to give me a five-star rider rating, I thought to myself. But I was elated thinking about introducing the app to my niece, hoping she would bond with me over it.
My cab stopped, and I got out to meet the creator of the app, Amit Agarwal, the man known for bringing Youtube to India. We explore his startup journey, and the app ‘OckyPocky’ in this week’s App Friday story.
Co founder of WhizKidz Media and India Goes Global, Amit Agarwal describes himself as a ‘proud baniya, and grey-haired entrepreneur’. An alumnus of IIM Banglore’s 2000 batch, he headed YouTube India, and grew the business from scratch to $100 million per annum.
While working at Google, he saw a lot of nursery rhymes going viral on Youtube. Many parents who used the TV to educate and entertain their children started moving away from it to leverage Youtube. Being a father to two kids, Amit also went to Youtube. He soon realised that Youtube didn’t recommend relevant and age-appropriate videos for children.
India has an estimated 150 million children, and they have a lot of unmet needs. Amit wanted to cater to this market because of his personal reasons, and also because of the market potential. He said:
Fundamentally, a child wants to explore more about the world and learn; parents too want their children to learn. But the environment around them isn’t great.
Amit then cited the example of a popular cartoon, ‘Chhota Bheem', where one of the key takeaways for children is that eating ladoos can help one become strong and win fights.
Based on research, Amit knew children’s learning capabilities expand at a speedy pace during their foundation years, and there is a big untapped market in the ‘edutainment’ space. There are much fewer joint families now, and parents want their children to retain their cultural and regional roots.
Amit then described the personal motivation behind his startup journey. Coming from a humble background, Amit grew up in Lucknow to parents who weren’t very educated. He elaborated,
In fact, my mom never went to school. But they (my parents) were great cheerleaders and gave wonderful education opportunities to me and my siblings. This helped me go all the way to IIMB.
Hence, he decided to start up, and founded OckyPocky to serve as a vehicle for democratising education. Amit aims to target the Indian market and NRIs across the world. He also aims to bet big on regional language content in line with the vision to help children retain their cultural roots.
Based in Gurgaon, OckyPocky consists of a seven-member team. The platform was launched five months ago and has about 50,000 users, with about half of them being active on a monthly basis. Amit invested his own savings into the venture and has also received support from some angel investors - Amit Rathore, the Founder of Quintype, Amit Ranjan, Founder of Slideshare, and Brett Mason, Co-founder of Bitcoin India.
On the Google PlayStore, OckyPocky describes itself as a ‘playful KidSAFE Seal Certified’ interactive learning app designed for preschoolers in the age group of two to six years.
The app comes with controls that lets children watch learning videos without parental assistance. The app also caters to activity-based videos that a parent can watch with their children to better bond with them.
OckyPocky is currently active in four languages, English, Hindi, Telegu and Tamil. Amit shared that the content, which mainly consists of nursery rhymes, songs, and learning videos is curated and researched by experts, who are also mothers. He shared,
Our curriculum has gone through rigorous reviews by them for age-appropriateness and we have also taken their suggestions into account while building our video library for toddlers.
Some of OckyPocky’s content partners include Tea time with Tayla, Peekaboo, Kinderzoo, Kidsone, CDSkidstv, and Jugnu Kids. Amit also aims to add content like panchatantra stories in regional languages.
Some of the other USPs of OckyPocky include-
1) Parental Time Management and Control: OckyPocky has a parental access screen where parents can set a timer to limit and monitor consumption patterns. This is to prevent kids from spending too much time on the platform.
2) Child’s interest map: OckyPocky has a proprietary algorithm that tries to understand what a child’s key interests are and shows them related videos. One can compare this to recommendation engines on platforms like Youtube, Netflix and e-commerce platforms like Flipkart and Amazon, that try to help people discover content or products that they may like.
OckyPocky’s engine looks at what characters, cartoons, rhymes, poems a child is watching and liking on Antariksh, their ‘galactic mind map’. Amit also shared that one will be able to compare their child’s mind map over time, and see how they are evolving.
Devoid of ads, OckyPocky has a clutter-free interface with playful music and an Octopus to appeal to kids. The user interface is simple and navigating through the app is aided by both visual and audio cues. The app also has a parent corner where parents can monitor their child’s activities and enable parental controls.
While installing the app, I noticed that OckyPocky requested for access to 'make and manage phonecalls'. On enquiring, Amit clarified that this request was to allow users to call their helpline through the app, and is as per Google policies. He noted that it is mandatory, even though it may sound scary.
Most of the content is currently free, and content can also be downloaded to be viewed offline. Amit shared that the current goal is to focus on user experience and onboarding users, rather than revenue. Based on his personal experience at Youtube, he believes,
In the content business, once something becomes a daily habit then revenue becomes a very low hanging fruit. But the journey to make such a platform is the challenging part.
Apart from Youtube Kids, Jellies is another global player in this space, but it is currently active only on the iOS platform. OckyPocky, on the other hand, is active on Android and iOS, but seems to be more bullish about Android, given the Indian market. Closer home in India, Byju’s is another player in the ed-tech space that is bullish about edutainment. But Byju’s target market is different starting from class 4.
Amit is optimistic about the space and believes that in the long run,
Edutainment will beat entertainment eventually. Learning platforms can do well, if one can personalise content well and Build on top of highly interactive learning features such as voice and video.