“Designing for the future, and creating high-quality, innovative edutainment content for young children around the world.”
In our technological world today, everything is becoming “smarter”—from smartphones, Virtual Reality gadgets, wearables, and many more. All these tech are being developed and improved everyday to help us perform different tasks faster and more efficient. For children however, tech is usually used just for fun and entertainment.
This is why a company named AppyKids wants to merge the entertainment side of technology with education. By doing so, children will be able to play and learn at the same time. GineersNow conducted an exclusive interview with Dinesh Lalvani, the founder and CEO of AppyKids.
AppyKids was founded in 2013. We are a team of game designers, illustrators, writers, musicians, filmmakers and developers who work with distinguished educational technologists and teachers to create high quality innovative edutainment content for young children around the world.
We have released a total of sixteen interactive apps, which have over 3 million downloads with 375,000 monthly active users. Two of our apps have been awarded as “Apple Best of App” winners.
We recently launched the AppyKids Play School Smart Kit and App, a fun interactive educational toy that bridges the best of digital and physical play to offer an entertaining and immersive learning experience for children. Our Play School App just won the Broadcast Pro “App of the Year” award. We were also awarded a Forbes Middle East Most Promising Startup Award in October 2016.
Our company has a board which oversees company affairs, corporate governance and investor relations.
How big is your company?
We are a team of 14 people based in the UAE and India.
Describe your mission, vision and values.
Our mission is to create Smart Fun for Everyone. Designing for the future, creating high quality innovative edutainment content for young children around the world.
Where is this company headed?
Our strategic goal is to create a 360 degree edutainment solution that connects with children at every touch point. We started with apps, but are growing our library to cover key sectors such as education, entertainment and retail.
What do you think is the future of the toy/gadget industries?
I think we will see a proliferation of smart toys that help children play and learn. We will see technologies like AR and VR playing a big role in creating new experiences for children. We will also see more AI being used in toys that try to “read and understand” the child so they’re responding to the child in more customized ways, to keep the child engaged and happy. Traditional, tactile toys made from wood and cloth will always find a place with the little ones. We’re hoping there will be less plastic in the toys of the future.
How will today’s toys and gadgets make a difference as compared to the ones from the past?
Toys that use smart technology are interactive. So there is an input-response mechanism which gives the child immediate feedback. These technologies are getting smarter, which allows makers to deliver truly unique products to children. Toy makers have a greater responsibility to be more aware of what is good for children. Customization in toys is gaining popularity and will continue to define production in the future.
Which toy/gadget from your childhood made an impact on you while growing up?
It wasn’t as much a toy, but a computer that had the most impact on me when I was a child. My first computer was the Commodore 64. It was on this machine that I learned to program and design. I was always fascinated with how you can use technology to create art from a very early age.
What’s the inspiration behind your products? How did you come up with these ideas?
Our inspiration will always be our kids. They guide the creation process by showing us what kind of products they would enjoy.
As a company, we have built a reputation for creating high quality products for children, notably our apps and cartoons. At one point, we thought, why not merge the two? The AppyKids Play School Smart Kit is a product of this merger.
Which group is your target market and why?
Our target audience is children between the ages of 3-6. We believe this age bracket is the most important and sensitive in a child’s life because brain development happens at its most rapid rate between these ages. If we pay attention to what children learn between these ages, it can make a huge impact to their overall development. We believe every child deserves only the best quality products, and this holds true especially for children at this age.
What are the future innovations that you or your company are pursuing?
We already have a pipeline of smart products that help children write, learn and play music and improve their cognitive and problem solving skills. We want to merge cutting edge technology with traditional learning methods to help children learn and play better.
Do you think your product has made an impact on your customers and in your industry?
It’s still too early to tell, but the initial feedback from parents and teachers has been extremely positive and exciting. We hope more kids will be able to benefit from all the work we’ve put into this product.
Where do you see your products heading 10 years from now?
We aim to make toys smarter and also offer a range of products to children so that all their senses are engaged well.
What makes your toy/gadget/ product different from your competitors?
Our approach to education; our attention to detail; our in-house, cloud-based technology; and our love for storytelling, all combine well to offer a compelling product.
THE CHALLENGES & SOLUTIONS
What challenges did your companies face while developing your product?
Our main challenge was manufacturing. Getting this done in China while operating in Dubai was a big task. We also had to invest in educating parents about our product as learning through Augmented Reality (AR) is still a relatively new concept.
How did your company overcome these challenges?
By tweaking our internal processes as we were experiencing them. We remained as agile as possible, so we were quick to respond to glitches. We got excellent people hired on the ground in China who would be as driven to ensure quality as we are. Our marketing team has been doing an amazing job with reaching out to the community and educating them about the product. Our retailers have been our biggest supporters and have helped in getting the word about the product out into the market.
ADVICE TO THE YOUNG ENGINEERS
Don’t be afraid to fail. Take risks. The main thing is to believe in your product and your abilities. Never chase money, if you do a good job it finds its way to you. Always innovate, don’t emulate and most importantly, don’t give up.