Behind the toys that kids now play with or place in their cupboard is a collective genius that made them happen. They are a product of a long, complicated process of design that went through different levels, starting from its concept to production. Every toy manufacturer operates like this – except one called Aran Blocks that is yet to enter the toy industry.
Aran Blocks is a one-man startup by Dev Anand Dorasamy. Despite of his lack of experience in the toy industry, Australia-based Dorasamy was able to develop a product for about two years now largely thanks to his friend who was an automotive design engineer. The product, which is named after the startup, will officially go to market early next year.
One would wonder how it is like to handle a one-man toy startup, so we tapped Dorasamy for an e-mail interview to unravel how he got it all done by himself and what separates Aran Blocks from the rest.
THE PRODUCT: ARAN BLOCKS
Tell us about your product.
Aran Blocks is a patent-pending building block that fits horizontally as well as vertically. While the vertical connection is basic, the way the block connects horizontally is unique and allows any structure made from it to be strong and able to bear weight. Meaning, it allows a user to make structures that can be used on a daily basis such as a bedside table, laptop stand or bookshelf, without any glues or reinforcements.
Basically, Aran Blocks is what you would get if Lego met IKEA, fell in love, and had a baby.
The entire system only involves 2 shapes: a block and a cover. The blocks are 5cm across and fit on all sides with their counterparts. They also have a hole in the middle to allow the user to run a wire through it, for instance headphone or phone charging cables. It also has a small semi-circle opening at the bottom, so that structures remain flat even when run a wire through the base.
The covers have 2 functions: one, they form a smooth surface for any structures you make from the blocks; and two, they help make the structure stronger due to the fact that they lock the blocks in place.
What’s the inspiration behind your products? How did you come up with these ideas?
I was driven to create these blocks when I was playing with my son Aran (yes they are named after him) and his Lego bricks. We have a ton of these at home but I didn’t like the fact that they fit only vertically. To build horizontally you needed to layer the way you would do with actual bricks. Also, I was not a big fan how easily Lego structures tend to break apart. So I set about trying to solve these issues.
Which group is your target market and why?
The blocks are easy to build with but are not as simple or intuitive as LEGO. As such we recommend it for ages 5 and up. That being said we find that adults love it too.
What are the future innovations that you are pursuing?
We plan to introduce more blocks shapes that allow creating strong that are more versatile. Also we will be adding modules such as lighting systems that can be added to your creation seamlessly.
Where do you see your product heading 10 years from now?
We would like to use the basic design principle that allows it to make weight-bearing structures and apply it larger applications such as quick deploy bridges and disaster housing.
What makes your toy different from your competitors?
The most unique feature of the Aran Blocks building system is its ability to make structures that are able to bear weight.
THE CHALLENGES & SOLUTIONS
What challenges did your companies face while developing your product?
Let me be the first to admit that I am no designer or engineer, but allow me to tell you why that is a good thing. I truly believe that this is a design that could have only been imagined by someone with zero design skills such as myself. Had I any design skills to speak of at all, I may have explored some complex way to solve this problem. But having none, it forced me to look for the simplest solution to the problem.
How did your company overcome these challenges?
To get it into production though, I relied on a friend who was an automotive design engineer that helped tremendously.
ADVICE TO THE YOUNG ENGINEERS
Please give advice and words of wisdom to millennial engineers who want to start their own companies and develop their own products as well. Any inspiring words that you can share?
If you have a problem and would like to solve it, just go ahead and try to do it even if you don’t have the necessary skills. Skills can be learnt or found in others to help you. All you need to do is try.