Smart Tutor for Smart Kids
Tushar Amin, Co-Founder, Smartivity, is taking ed-tech beyond academics, software and management systems.
Smartivity Labs is driven by the mission to make learning "smarter" for children by designing toys, engagement activities and playful learning tools that serve as the bridge between the physical and the digital world for children. Since its inception in 2015, Smartivity uses S.T.E.M. learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, (Arts) and Math) based educational D.I.Y. toys, AR enabled activities, robotics, IoT with a focus on delivering play-filled learning through tech-enabled toys and activities. The toys are environment friendly and made from recycled wood for kids between 3 to 14 years of age group. Conceived and produced by a team of passionate designers from IIT, NID, NIFT and J J School of Art, Smartivity is working to make a difference to education through innovative technologies.
What made you start this venture?
While children today are growing-up in a rapidly evolving, technological world; the toys and activities available to them have failed to evolve. This motivated us to launch Smartivity. At Smartivity, we design toys and activities that the next generation demands and deserves. Children want their toys and activities to be high on fun and engagement. Parents see value in children's products that rank high on the 'learning quotient'. We design products that children love and parents trust.
Smartivity products bring cutting-edge technology to children's toys and activities. So, while our products are toys and activities for 3 to14-year-old kids, the combination of learning and technology falls under the ed-tech category. We launched Smartivity Labs with the mission of making learning 'smarter' through dynamic, play-filled toys activities that bridge the physical and digital worlds. All our products encourage children to engage with the physical world, giving them a much-needed break from the screens that crowd their life. Technology continues to impact educational sector in a big way. We are taking ed-tech beyond academics, software and management systems, making ed-tech part of child's play.
Why do you think there is a need to start a project on ed-tech? Is the conventional education system not good enough for young generation?
As all those who have gone through our educational system would agree, there are several lacunae in the conventional educational system. These span various social, economic, infrastructural areas.
Our education system revolves around marks. Socially, the continuous emphasis on scoring higher marks results in rote-learning rather than actual understanding of concepts by students.
Our education system has failed to inculcate a do-it-yourself culture. Our society is not conducive to do-it-yourself mentality, as we have relegated job of making particular things with hands to particular social segments. Manual labour is looked down upon. Our educational system does not prepare us for performing well in real life. Thanks to our population, labour is cheap, hence individuals are not prepared to perform the most basic of tasks. Access to practical, hands-on learning is virtually non-existent in most schools due to economic factors. For example, the concept of a gear mechanism. We are taught this in high school. We cram formulae and steps (sometimes even answers), and then write papers, all with the only objective of scoring maximum marks. However, most students do not see an actual gear mechanism at work till they reach engineering college. Going beyond the rote-learning that our educational system is based on, Smartivity toys and activities are designed to deliver practical application based, hands-on learning of fundamental concepts from STEM subjects through play.
Tell us about the edtech scenario in India?
Edtech is one of the fastest growing sectors in India. This is natural, given the emphasis our society puts on formal education. Asian parents are known to leave no stone unturned in a bid to provide the best in education to their children. This, coupled with the fact that our educational systems are in need of an upgrade, has attracted many ed-tech solutions providers. There are several different categories in edtech, ranging from enterprise solutions like Learning Management Systems to consumer-focussed solutions like online learning (Byju's), test-prep (Testbook) and re-skilling (Upgrad). A KPMG report predicts the Indian online education industry to grow almost eight time to hit USD 1.96 billion by 2021. The number of paid users is expected to rise from 1.6 million to about 9.6 million. With over 250 million students as a market, and every year bringing in new users, this is a huge and growing opportunity.
What is the mode of teaching adapted by you?
We believe that the future will be shaped by those who have a thorough understanding of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, (Arts), and Mathematics) subjects. At the heart of every Smartivity offering are our core beliefs that experiential, playful 'smarter learning' is the best antidote to rote learning; that the right balance of analytical, practical and creative skills is critical for real world success; and that, every child should experience the joy and pride of making things with their own hands.
Our attempt is to address the core issues that formal education has not been able to solve. Unlike traditional systems that focus only on analytical intelligence, this approach emphasises on multiple-intelligences development in a child. This approach believes that a well-rounded balanced mix of Creative, Practical and Analytical skills is necessary for children to succeed in real world.
Tell us about your investment plans.
We have raised two rounds of funding (USD 1.2 million) from investors including S. Chand Group, Advantedge Capital, CFG Offshore Holdings, Tandem Capital and individual investors. We are seeking a next round of investment to the tune of USD 2 million. This will be deployed towards expediting our product release cycle, expanding our team of product designers and creating awareness about Smartivity through BTL experiential, out-reach marketing efforts towards children and parents.
How do you plan to market the product?
We conduct short-duration STEM Workshops with trained instructors across the country, partnering with schools, activity centres, large-format retail stores like Hamleys, Crossword and Apple Stores. Going forward, we are partnering with K-12 schools to set up perennial STEM Labs in schools with products mapped to curriculum. A pan-India presence through over 900 retail toy stores, including modern large-format retail chains like Hamleys, Landmark, Crossword, and (soon to be launched) Toys R Us. Our sales have shown a steady month-on-month growth of 25 per cent over Q1 at the large-format stores. Our STEM Educational Do-It-Yourself Toys have garnered great response from developed markets like USA, Australia and Europe and buyers from Scandinavian countries. Our range of AR activities is part of curriculum at KidZee.
Tell us about your future plans.
While we continue to introduce newer STEM Educational Do-It-Yourself Toys, AR activities and VR experiences; we have a strong product pipe-line charted for the coming 3 years. We will be introducing STEM For Girls education toys powered with electrical and electronics modules for 2017 Christmas season. This will also be the time we launch our first Robotics product - a bot designed to introduce children to the fundamentals of computing by integrating physical and digital worlds. We are also ready with one of our most versatile and accessible product - SPELLO. Spello is our adaptive learning IoT product aimed at providing millions of children with affordable tool to learn fundamental concepts like spelling, math operations and computational thinking.
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