If you think that adults consumed most of the YouTube video content online – you would be highly mistaken. A great demand for online content through videos and augmented reality apps is now coming from toddlers. From wildlife to game shows, there are numerous live-action factual series available for young audiences.
Neil Kulkarni’s latest obsession might seem like an Internet-of-Things project but he’s only a school kid learning how to code. The 14-year-old spends an hour every day after school hooked to an app on his mother’s phone. He can drag and drop instructions on the app to get a bunch of devices to respond to real situations, like say, sound an alarm when the sun’s up. Kulkarrni is excited and exploring more children’s apps that can introduce him to new skills. “Learning to code on a smartphone is cool and convenient,“ he said by phone from Pune. “Plus, on Plezmo’s app, it’s a simple drag-and-drop feature, interactive, and easy for even a newbie who has never been exposed to coding to learn the basics.“
Other than for gaming, apps have always existed for children to learn new things. Several of the better apps, though, have been from foreign companies and meant for overseas markets. The Indian market for children’s apps is now set to explode, according to various estimates, ignoring advice from educationists and behaviour specialists. They would ideally want to limit the time kids engage with smartphones and tablets. That’s become possible as several parents as well as schools are embracing apps that, mostly using games, promise to make learning easier, more effective, and diverse.
According to industry analysts, the domestic children’s apps market is growing with about 250 million kids around the age of nine in India. Besides, parents are emerging as strong influencers and schools, too, are opening up to the idea of including apps in teaching, which is making monetising such apps more feasible.
“Children’s apps in India have a fairly huge consumer base and a huge market. The best mix is that of edutainment, where there is a perfect balance of gamification and learning. Those are the apps that will gain popularity as consumption goes up,“ said Rutvik Doshi, director at Inventus. “It’s not just urban India but also rural India where one will see traction in the coming years… Once consumption soars, monetisation will be the next challenge. As of now, subscription-based methods of monetisation are one option besides partnering up with schools.“
Channels such as ChuChuTv, Toonz, and HooplaKidz are seeing huge views online while apps such as Smartivity and Toko are seeing toddlers learn from smartphones. According to a report by the media research and consulting firm Media Partners Asia (MPA), the online video industry in India is expected to grow around USD 1.6 billion in revenue by 2022, from the estimates USD 340 million in 2017. It stated the compound annual growth of 35 percent. The kids edutainment apps and online channels are grossing more viewership than regular TV channels in India.
According to the KPMG India-FICCI Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report, 2017, India’s animation and VFX industry in India grew 16.4 percent last year. It also reported India’s informal education market as one of the largest in the world with over 200 million kids. Informal education includes pre-primary, coaching classes, vocational education and multimedia based educational courses aiding as a substitute or supplement to formal education. It’s this market that these startups wish to capitalize upon.
Some online content & App edutainment for kids:
Avaz – Chennai-based Avaz, which launched its app in 2012, has around 40,000 monthly active users globally. The United States is its biggest market, followed by India and European countries including Denmark, France, Sweden and Spain. The app is multilingual–available in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, French, Spanish, Danish and Italian. It is priced at $200 for users overseas and at $100 for the Indian market.
Bulbul Apps – The Hyderabad-based company, founded by filmmaker Prakash Dantuluri, focuses on teaching preschool children through interactive storytelling. Each story is created on a collaborative digital platform that brings together more than 5 million artists including animators, sound engineers, writers, voiceover artistes, and filmmakers.
Which is what Bulbul Apps does? The Hyderabad-based company, founded by filmmaker Prakash Dantuluri, focuses on teaching preschool children through interactive storytelling. Each story is created on a collaborative digital platform that brings together more than 5 million artists including animators, sound engineers, writers, voiceover artistes, and filmmakers. So Bulbul has a new version through which it is “focussing on partnering with preschools in India and converting their curriculum into interactive digital content,“ said Dantuluri. It’s been more successful. The company has signed agreements with about 1,000 schools in India and recently deployed the app in 300 schools.
ChuChuTV – Chennai based kids video channel, Chu Chu TV is the 44th most viewed video channel worldwide on YouTube. Videos focused on kids such as ‘Johny Johny Yes Papa’ and many more rhymes have views of around 1.2 billion. The channel ranks first in APAC and second worldwide in family entertainment and preschool education category (based on a number of subscribers). The channel has about 1.22 crore subscribers more than the population of many countries. It is known in countries like the US, UK, Ireland, Middle East and South East Asia.
Toko Innovation Studios – Founded by Delhi based authors turned entrepreneurs Aditya Mukherjee (Founder & CEO); Arnav Mukherjee (Co-founder & COO) and Ajitsen Surendran (Co-founder & CTO) — TOKO Innovation Studios plans to be a creative powerhouse, focused on children’s development through innovative, wholesome and entertaining ways. “India has around 200 million kids population (age group of 2-8). So India has more kids than China, US and Indonesia put together,” says Aditya Mukherjee, founder, and CEO of Toko. “These days kids spent at least one hour daily on a smartphone. Parents want their kids to have education stuff on the smartphone rather than they surf anything on the web,” adds Mukherjee. In YouTube globally after music videos, kids section is the biggest section is the biggest grosser.
Learning games will grow by 2 billion dollars globally. “Watching videos is also like TV where the kids are constantly glued to screen and they get bored after some time. Because of that, the interaction is very less. Apps maintain an interactivity level,” he added. “Teachers appreciate it but the problem is this type of teaching needs individual attention. This is something the kids have to do individually. The students also need to have their individual gadgets,” adds Mukherjee.
Smartivity – Delhi based startup Smartivity develops S.T.E.M (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning based educational D.I.Y. toys for children between 3 to 14 years of age. The startup was founded in 2015 by three IIT Delhi alumni Apoorv Gupta, Ashwini Kumar, Rajat Jain, along with creative design studio PixelJuice founder Tushar Amin. The startup designs toys, engagement activities and playful learning tools that serve as a bridge between the physical and digital worlds. Jain’s father runs a toys trading business in Delhi and he worked post IIT-Delhi in his family business which gave him an idea to design toys that can help kids understand basics of physics.
The D.I.Y (Do-It-Yourself) toys are designed to help children to understand the fundamentals of science and real-world concepts. Smartivity’s augmented reality (AR) toys redefine coloring sheets for children. The coloring sheets can be seen through a smartphone camera app which can make emerge various animals from the sheet. The pictures can scanned through the free Smartivity apps. The startup got its seed funding of USD 1 million from Delhi based publishing house S. Chand and Company in 2015. In 2016, the company got an investment of Rs 4.8 crores from three investors including S Chand, Advantedge Capital Partners and Tandem Capital. The company has raised over Rs 7 crore so far. The company plans to gross revenues of Rs 10.5 crore this fiscal year compared to last year’s Rs 4.2 crore. It also plans to expand operations in international markets such as the US, Spain, Portugal, and Australia.
HooplaKidz – HooplaKidz is a digital platform owned by YoBoHo. The channel creates kids content for education and inspiration. The network consists of 30 plus channels and characters tailored to kids as they grow.
The company is based out of Mumbai which creates creative content for kids on digital platforms. The official rhyme channel of HooplaKidz has about 457 videos with 2,862,376 subscribers across the globe. The channel is available on Youtube, Amazon and Netflix. On Netflix it is available to subscribers in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The nursery rhymes segments have around 6.3 million views on the YouTube channel.