Why this woman entrepreneur started an educational toys platform for children
Founded by Priya Sharma, Bengaluru-based Learning Dino aims to ignite curiosity in children through activities and educational toys for children aged between two and six.
When Priya Sharma’s maternity break was nearing an end and she was gearing up to resume work, the company where she worked as a marketing manager asked her to prolong the leave. It was early 2020 and the company was laying people off, grappling with uncertainties in the wake of COVID-19.
Priya decided to spend more time with her children only to chance upon an entrepreneurial venture.
During all the virtual schooling for her daughter, Priya noted that a predefined set of curriculum, that too online, was not enough to answer the kind of curiosity a child shows.
“Children have a lot of questions about things around them and I started experimenting with minor activities at home, which made her more curious and question more,” she tells HerStory.
When Priya’s friends, who are also parents, found these activities useful, she started a Facebook page before formally starting Learning Dino (earlier known as) in January 2021.
Based in Bengaluru, Learning Dino designs learning materials for children and also operates as an aggregator platform for educational toys for children between the ages of two to six years old.
However, this is not Priya’s first tryst with entrepreneurship.
With experience of more than a decade in marketing and advertising, she had earlier founded Wish and You, a gift registry site where users can create wish lists by directly adding products from major ecommerce portals like Flipkart.
Learning Dino’s key products are the worksheets and activities designed by in-house teachers and graphic designers, including the initial products Priya designed that helped draw about 90,000 parents to its site. These include activity-based worksheets and stories that teach different topics like counting and colour sorting.
While these can be downloaded from the website for free, they are also made available for purchase in bundles due to popular demand from parents for direct purchase.
“Whenever we have to introduce anything to the market, we give it to about five to six children and just try to understand how they're processing and responding to them. The idea is to make sure a child can do the worksheets with minimum supervision and have fun,” she explains.
The startup also serves as a marketplace for over 40 vendors, many of whom are mothers taking up entrepreneurship. The educational toys are strictly handpicked to ensure that they cater to specific skills like numbering, phonics concepts, and eye-hand coordination, among others.
While the in-house products are priced between Rs 500 to Rs 1,000, other products sourced from third-party vendors – especially the Montessori products – can go up to Rs 10,000.
Priya is also prioritising building a community of parents while nurturing the young brand. At present, she manages about 20 WhatsApp groups with a total of over 4,000 parents and about 5,300 parents on Facebook.
“Every day, we share content with the parents in the morning about children’s education, health, and well-being,” she says.
Started with an initial investment of Rs 1 lakh, Learning Dino is now seeing a monthly Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) of Rs 1.5 lakh.
Starting up came with its set of challenges. Not coming from a technology background posed the first barrier while navigating the ecommerce space.
“In terms of positioning of the site, how to communicate to the parents was also a really hard work but we did it well,” she says.
Building a passionate team with limited funds and resources remains one of the biggest challenges.
Then there was societal judgement where people questioned her for taking a risk and committing to a venture when her son was just nine months old. Despite the challenges of household work during the pandemic and tending to her children, Priya worked on building Learning Dino.
However, she says, having the backing of great mentors can make a big difference.
To aspiring women entrepreneurs, she advised, "It doesn’t matter if the idea is novel or not, if there is market or not, if there is USP or not... if you are willing to learn and unlearn quickly, you will be successful even if the startup doesn’t succeed. And it will empower you and the people around you."
Edited by Teja Lele