From board games to art activities: These startups are helping parents wean kids off TV

Startups such as Flintobox and Einstein Box are targeting parents who are unable to fulfill their kids’ developmental needs.
From board games to art activities: These startups are helping parents wean kids off TV
From board games to art activities: These startups are helping parents wean kids off TV

When Vijay Babu Gandhi’s son was four, he started to get concerned that his son was spending a disproportionate amount of time watching television and on mobile phones. Knowing that the first six years of his son's life is where 90% of the development of the brain occurs, he wanted him to engage in activities that could aid with this development.  But as with a busy parent, Vijay was hard-pressed for time to ensure his child was engaged in meaningful and purposeful activities.

He and his friends, Shreenidhi Srirangam and Arunprasad Durairaj, began looking for a service that could curate new activities and ideas to engage children positively at home and wean them away from the TV without needing a parent's constant supervision.

“Since we couldn’t find anyone doing it professionally, we figured that we should probably do it, so that other parents, and children would be benefited out of it too,” says Shreenidhi.

This is, in fact, also the concern of many parents who aren’t able to spend time with their children. As a result, children end up spending too much time on mobile phones. There have been startups that have experimented in this space to aid parents in raising children.

“This is a great area for startups, a space where there is demand and is an untapped market. There are not many organised players in this space,” says Safir Adeni, President at business management consulting firm Feuji.

Coming back to Vijay’s story, they then brought in people with expertise in child development, game design and education to build the first prototype and tested with over 60 parents and children. Having received a good response from parents, they founded Flintobox in September 2013.

Another startup Einstein Box, was also born out of the same concern of a couple, who weren’t able to find good educational books and toys for their daughter, which ended up, in her spending hours watching TV.

What do these startups do?

Flintobox is a subscription box with age-appropriate activities for children in the age group 2-12. Each box is packed with three to four activities and delivered at the doorstep, to the customers.

Every Flintobox contains board games, do-It-yourself activities, art activities, exploration activities and stories based on the theme of the month. These are conceptualised and designed by the Flintobox team after consultation with child psychologists, pedagogy experts and game designers.

Einstein Box has boxes for kids between the ages of 1-6. Every box contains two books, three to four learning activities and a learning guide.

Einstein Box offers boxes with a three-month and six-month subscription with prices starting from Rs 599.

Flintobox has subscription plans varying between 3,6 and 12 months with the cost varying according to the age group and the subscription plans chosen by the customer. The average subscription price for three months is Rs 2,500.

These startups generate revenue through the subscription charges that parents pay every quarter, every half-year or yearly.

Nutrition is also a concern

Apart from developmental activities of children, nutrition also remains a concern among parents. Apart from lack of time, ensuring that lunch boxes are fresh, nutritious, and creative which children will enjoy, is a task for parents.

To solve this problem, Sanjay Rao and Sandeep Kannambadi, founded MonkeyBox, which delivers three meals -- breakfast, lunch and snacks – to school kids 30 minutes prior to each meal break.

MonkeyBox caters to school kids of ages 3 to 18 years and also to daycares and Montessori encompassing children of 1 to 3 years of age. It has currently partnered with over 200 schools across Bangalore.

Sanjay and Sandeep, founders of MonkeyBox

“MonkeyBox meals are planned such that it meets up to 70% of the child’s daily requirement of energy, protein, fat and certain micronutrients vital for children such as iron. Food diversity, major food groups, seasonality, combination of nutrients, and the child’s macro- and micro- nutrient requirements are kept in mind while planning everyday meals,” says Sanjay.

The MonkeyBox three-meal package costs Rs. 150 per day and revenue is generated through a prepaid subscription model that includes weekly and monthly plans.

Sample of MonkeyBox

Not just another app

The advantage that these startups is that they are not just apps but physical solutions to help parents with healthy upbringing of their children.

Ramesh Loganathan, Chief Innovation Officer (interim) of Telangana agrees with Safir that there is good opportunity in this space. “Parents generally don’t hesitate to spend on their kids. Any area that can address issues of parents is a big industry for startups,” he adds.

This is evident in the fact that Flintobox has over four lakh customers and is currently shipping 40,000 boxes every month to 700+ cities and towns across India and has clocked Rs 13 crore in revenue in FY17.

MonkeyBox, on the other claims to have seen more than 12,000 app downloads and reached out to more than 6,000 people since inception.

Added advantage or added cost?

However, while these startups are seeing traction, Vikrant Varshney, co-founder and MD of SucSEED Venture Partners argues that this is the toughest segment to crack. While B2C as a segment is extremely fragmented and difficult to tackle and involves high costs, the B2B segment isn’t easy either.

“In this segment, schools play a major role as an influencer. While service is provided to schools, payments come from parents who, in most cases, are already pressurised due to increased costs of commercialisation. Hence, the initial reaction to any such service is negative and could be seen as just another money-making tactic by schools,” he says.

Such services may work well in the luxury segment, targeting parents at the top of the pyramid. But in the mass market, affordability is an issue given the rising cost of education. 

“While they may get customers at the top of the pyramid, profitability will come from the bottom of the pyramid,” Vikrant says.

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