‘Encourage active play with gadgets’

Vinaya Patil
Sunday, 31 December 2017

ABCLearn, a mobile application, enables children to learn new words through an interactive digital interface

ABCLearn (AnyBabyCanLearn) is a set of flashcards and an augmented reality (AR)-enabled mobile application that engages children in the age group of 3 to 7. It was launched in June 2017. Founder Ram Mukkavilli tells us more about it

Tell us about AnyBabyCanLearn.
AnyBabyCanLearn (ABCLearn) is an early learning digital tool that provides hands-on learning and visual experience to children. The goal of the product is to expose the child to various objects along with spellings and phonics. Repeated engagement would reinforce learning because of the visual impression. As we all are aware, visual learning carries longer, lasting impressions.

How did you come up with this idea and when?
I moved from the US in 2015. As my kids started school in 2016, I spent lot of time with them and their friends. One key difference I ran into is the reading abilities of young children in the Western countries and in India. The idea of building something that can spark the reading interest of young children without burdening them was born. With the advent of smart phones and the amount of time children spend on them, we looked for opportunities to convert their electronic time into ‘learning time’. We adopted augmented reality to bring this visual learning tool to children.

What were the challenges that you faced?
“Are we doing the right thing?” we continuously asked ourselves. We met couple of child psychologists to evaluate our concept. We initially created one concept and went to schools. Schools sent us back asking us to propose a course that can be integrated into their curriculum. Taking the leap to build the full 10-concept series was a tough decision as it required capital.

What is your competition in the market?
Multiple. There are players that are selling directly to parents. There are a lot of other pre-school workbooks and activity kits that compete for the same “monies” that we go after with respect to pre-school and primary schools. However, we focused on providing a full one-year curriculum that exposes 300+ words to the child. We do not want the child to learn by rote. Expose the words through various pre-primary and primary years and the children will absorb them and build on them.

How does the revenue model work? How did the funding come about?
We are priced at Rs 5000/ kit for the entire 10 pack set (300+flash cards and the software). We have schools that adopted this at the student level and incorporated it into their curriculum. We are available on Amazon/Flipkart but the revenue focus is on schools so that the learning can be enabled. We are a bootstrapped startup with all the funding coming from me.

Who are your target clients and what are your future plans?
Playschools and primary schools in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. We are in negotiations with a few players in metros to work as our channel partners.

Immediate focus is on expanding the marketing base and getting in front of target schools in Pune, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Jamshedpur.

Product wise, we continuously work on innovating. One of the key features for the academic year 2018-19 is personalised learning. This will allow the parent/teacher to track what letters/words the child is exposed to and give an insight into their learning.

Encouraging children to go digital instead of keeping them away from gadgets — why?
I think a blanket ban on gadgets for children is not appropriate.  The need of the hour is to manage the time with gadgets. Gadgets are like friends. Will you not watch who your child is playing with? The same should apply when you expose a child to digital learning.

The key thing to look for when exposing children to digital learning is ‘active’ v/s ‘passive’ play.  In an active play mode, the child has to be attentive and be involved to keep the activity going. When using ABCLearn, the child has to focus on the card and only then the 3D models pop up and let them interact. Contrast this with children consuming video because the parents are busy. Passive play with gadgets must be minimised.

ABCLearn strictly works off active play and the recommended time is 1-2 hrs/week over the course of an year to expose the child to 300+ words. The child can look at various objects coming live. In a group play mode, children can see their friends holding various animals, vehicles etc. There is scope for collaboration and active fun in augmented reality based products which drive active learning.

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