For example, if there is a dog, when you touch it, it barks and the kid learns the sound made by a dog.

New-age learning This app lets kids touch and feel characters bringing them to life
Atom Startups Saturday, May 20, 2017 - 22:08

Over a decade ago, making toddlers and young children play and learn meant all types of learning toys, CDs and DVDs which had fun learning videos. But with evolving technology, the way young children consume information is also changing. 

Most children today are attracted to their parents’ phones or laptops. And that’s the reason why Prakash Dantuluri decided to start a company to create mobile-first content for kids. 

Prakash has had some experience in the past with content creation and technology, having been an entrepreneur and a film director in the past. 

With the intention of creating interactive mobile content for kids, he started Bulbul apps in late 2014.

Bulbul apps creates fun and interactive content for pre-school children aged 3-6 years. But while there is a lot of content available out there for kids in that age group, the difference is that Bulbul’s content is actually interactive and lets kids touch the characters which triggers animations. 

“In e-books, the story keeps playing and it tends to get boring. In our app, when you open the book, on each page there is an animation. There are images, sounds, voice-overs, background effects. For example, if there is a dog, when you touch it, it barks and the kid learns the sound made by a dog. This way kids have fun and learn faster,” says Naveen, co-founder and Chief Growth Officer at Bulbul apps.

There are three formats in the app. First is interactive books. These include stories and learning books. There are over 100 stories, which include popular fairytales, mythological stories and some original content. 

The second category is videos. This, Naveen says, is like Netflix for kids. Bulbul has created a number of videos across categories, which include stories and learning videos. Even in these videos, kids can interact with characters and bring them to life. Learning videos have step-by-step drawing tutorials, videos that teach you about animals, birds, sea creatures, and more. 

The final category is activities, which are designed to test the learning of kids through stories and videos.

 Content creation

Another differentiator of Bulbul apps is the quality of the content created. For every book that is made, there are at least eight to ten people working together: One writes the story, one does the illustrations, there is one for the voice over, for the effects and so on. 

And for this, Bulbul apps has a freelance network that it reaches out to. Different people do their parts and all of this is uploaded on what is called a Bulbul studio. The company has also built a platform using which it has automated content production. All the different content is brought together on this platform and is easily converted into a mobile app.

The company has artists across the globe working on its projects. One of the popular contributors is Mark Zaslove, the writer for Disney originals like Duck Tales and Winnie the Pooh. Mark is the company’s chief content advisor and is on its board. 

These freelance workers are paid by the number of hours they put in.

However, a lot has changed since Bulbul launched its first version back in 2014. This B2C app follows a freemium model with in-app purchases, where 10-15% of the app is free.

While the B2C app has been doing extremely well and has even been No. 1 in India and 14 other countries at some point in 2015-16, the team felt like the B2C model would not fetch enough revenues and hence cannot be sustained over a long period of time. 

So Bulbul apps launched its B2B2C version in October 2016.

Under this model, Bulbul partners with pre-schools and converts their curriculum into interactive digital content, which is also accessible to parents through the app.

Initially, for the schools to test its model, Bulbul apps gives them a basic pack. Once on-boarded, it creates interactive content out of its curriculum, like interactive books, videos and activities.

Naveen says that Bulbul only works with pre-school chains, which have over 20 schools. 

For teachers to use inside classrooms, it has a device with an HDMI cable similar to the box of an Apple TV or Chromecast, which can be connected to a television or projector. Since most of their content is made to touch and swipe, it also gives them an air mouse which works like the controllers of Wii and can perform actions like swiping to the next page of a book.

The same content is available on the app for parents as well, to help them do activities and practice at home. 

Bulbul apps charges Rs 5,000 per device and also charges per kid per month for the app. 

In a span of seven months, Bulbul apps has signed on 1000 pre-schools such as Meridian Schools, Maple Bears and even has a pilot scheduled with Hippo Campus.

Bulbul App’s focus this year will entirely be on getting more paid users on board. And by paid users, it means paid parents and aims to reach 20,000-30,000 paid parents by the end of this year. It currently has 5000 paid parents and as and when the new academic year begins, more parents from the 1000 schools are expected to come on board. 

“India has over 80 million kids between the ages of 3-6 years of which 50 million go to pre-schools, be it big chains or the mom-and-pop type of schools. So the opportunity in front of us is quite big,” Naveen says.

Bulbul is also working on another model where it is producing an English language learning series for kids and for this, it is working with Bob Kurtz, the creator of the Pink Panther series. It is coordinating with his studio to create characters. It will be co-creating interactive books and modules and pushing it in India. 

And with the creation of this series, it plans to expand its reach to students in classes one and two as well. 

Another target for Bulbul will be to expand its presence geographically. Currently 30-40% of its clients are outside Hyderabad and to increase this and work more efficiently with them, it plans on opening offices in more cities and have sales teams stationed there. 

Having raised close to Rs 5 crore so far, it is now looking at raising more funds as well. 

If the planned expansion is successful and the 20,000 paid users target is reached, Bulbul apps hopes to reach an operational breakeven by the end of this fiscal. 

This article has been produced with inputs from T-Hub as a part of a partner program.

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