When Prerna Jhunjhunwala ventured out into the education sector six years ago, she chose the offline route and set up a pre-school, Little Paddington, in Singapore. Business was brisk until the Covid-19 pandemic came along, and children were packed away into their homes. So, the 34-year-old entrepreneur decided to change gears and go online with a new venture – Creative Galileo.
In the 12 months since the launch of its app – Little Singham – the startup claims to have already racked up 2.5 million downloads and 500,000 monthly active unique users. Almost 60% of the users are from tier II and III cities and the app, which is free to download, also targets children from Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Little Singham: Kids Early Learn App, as it is branded in its full form, is aimed at children between the ages of 3 years and 8 years. It is a character-based learning platform that leverages technology for personalised needs, inquiry-based learning methods, and experiential activities to deliver a fun and interactive curriculum.
“While character-based apps are very common internationally, we wanted to offer children in India something they can associate themselves with without comprehension barriers like accent, etc. Indian kids will easily relate to a Little Singham, a Chhota Bheem, a Golmaal Jr and others. So, we use these characters to make learning happen for the children,” Jhunjhunwala told TechCircle.
“So, for children, it is almost like a game. Each game has a learning objective so that they can develop a certain skill. We are approaching learning and making it more engaging and immersive for the children,” she added.
Jhunjhunwala founded Creative Galileo with Anunay K, who earlier led digital distribution at The Walt Disney Company. He is currently head of product at the startup. The top team also includes Deesha Vora, a serial entrepreneur who now heads engineering.
Creative Galileo, which is incorporated in Singapore, has tie-ups with Bollywood movie director Rohit Shetty's (known for the popular Golmaal franchise) Rohit Shetty Picturez and Big Animation Studios to bring on board popular characters for children and help them through their learning journeys. It focuses on six learning domains – numeracy, language, arts and aesthetics, social and emotional learning, motor skills, and discovery of the world through narrative videos, gamification, and personalised learning journeys. Further, to make education accessible, the app has been developed to be below 20MB so that users with data and connectivity issues can download and use it without any hassle.
Making education accessible is something Jhunjhunwala started thinking about early in life. Born with the entrepreneurial gene – her father Ghanshyam Sarda owns the Rs 2,500 crore Sarda Group of Industries in Kolkata – she found her own calling for her own venture during one of her holiday trips around the country with her family. From that trip, she remembers seeing first-hand how the vast majority of people in this country suffered from the lack of access to even basic education. Setting up and running a pre-school in Singapore gave her the experience she needed to understand the elementary education system and move towards bridging the gap. With Creative Galileo, she aims to finally achieve that goal.
“We are getting the foundations right, focusing on the 3-8 years of age group. If that foundation for any child is good, then they will automatically excel in the entire journey of education. Gone are those days where children should just be given worksheets after worksheets to finish. Now there are so many digital opportunities available to make learning absolutely immersive for a child,” she said.
For a country with 70-100 million children between the ages of 3 and 8 years, India has a shortage of 700,000 teachers just at the pre-school and primary school level, she added.
While the startup’s app is currently free, the founders do plan to monetise over time. “Eventually, obviously, we'll have to move to some kind of premium model or some kind of subscription model. But right now, it is about getting users to use the platform and drive the benefit from it,” Jhunjhunwala said.
The startup currently has 10-12 members in its team, most of them based out of Mumbai. The licensing, content gaming and back-end development happens in India. It plans to have a subsidiary in India as well.
In the next 12-14 months, Jhunjhunwala and her team aims to hit 10 million downloads for the app. Apart from that, they also planning to increase their content portfolio so that they can cover more topics and sub-topics. “We plan to launch Chakra, Shaktimaan, Big Bees Jr and Little Krishna soon. We are building a unique platform, where kids can play with all the characters, and it is a controlled and child interactive platform. There is neither popping of advertisements nor any irrelevant content for a seamless learning experience. We are also looking forward to many other big animation companies to partner with us soon,” Jhunjhunwala said.
In terms of competition, Jhunjhunwala believes that there is dearth of Indian startups doing the kind of work her company does. She said that Byju's certainly has huge traction from their Disney collaboration but that comes from overseas, and not India. “Kiddopia’s focus is also international markets, they don’t target India market, so I cannot consider them competition either. Maybe Kotaki, but in terms of downloads, we are much higher than them,” she said.
The bootstrapped startup is also in talks with venture capital firms in India and ASEAN region to close a funding round soon. “Choosing the right VC is a challenge for many startups. And we are figuring that part out,” she said.