My mom introduced me to the world of colours at a young age and since then I’ve been attracted towards art. I used to drag my dad to all the corners of the city to participate in various drawing and painting competitions but I wasn’t encouraged enough to pursue my passion.
Like most kids it was suggested that I become an engineer and ended up doing Mechanical Engineering from BITS-Pilani. But the open culture at BITS allowed me to explore my design interests further. This time I tried to figure out career options that would allow me to do what I loved and eventually became the design lead at a start-up. But how many of us are as lucky as I was? What if you never realise your true passion? That is when my husband and I decided to quit our jobs and start Kitki.
Tell us about Kitki
Kitki means a window in Telugu, similar to Khidki in Hindi. When kids are uninterested in a classroom, what do they do? They look out of the window. Even while travelling, kids (and even adults) love to pick a window seat. Why? It’s their curiosity and fascination for real life objects and incidents that lead them. Kitki is that window that lets kids find their curiosity and appreciate real life learning with joy.
We started in March 2013 and for the past 18 months we have been working on using play-based learning as a methodology to transform learning into a truly exciting experience.
At Kitki, playing is learning. We currently have three board games that are based on fascinating concepts from geometry, chemistry and Indian history. Kids can play, have fun and at the same time develop a curiosity to learn. Unlike other products in this space, these games are not jigsaw puzzles or activity kits hence kids can play them again and again and each time they learn something new. These would be perfect for maths or social sciences labs and other after school activities for kids.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
We initially partnered with schools to conduct experiential learning workshops based on their curriculum. We tried to connect the text book concepts with their application in the real world through field visits and hands-on workshops. This not only helped kids understand the concepts better but nurtured their curiosity to learn new things.
Our experiential learning modules were highly interactive and fun. While the teachers and students welcomed the change, the schools’ management weren’t sure about taking up our modules as a part of the curriculum. Secondly, we realised that the modules were significantly dependent on the passion of the facilitator. We knew that it would be a challenge to scale up and find a team with equal enthusiasm to share experiential learning with kids.
However, one key take-away from these workshops was the first hand experience of how well games engage kids. Kids were much more interested in learning when we included small games as a part of our workshops. That’s when we realised the power of play-based learning and decided to start working on building more such games.
Coming up with ideas for a game may be easy. But creating a complete game is not. It took us close to 15 months to convert the ideas into prototypes, play-test the game mechanics with different sets of kids, work on iterations and finally conclude with three well-balanced games.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
While we knew that our game concepts were very exciting, we didn’t want to do the same mistake that we did earlier with our experiential learning modules. Instead of jumping in blindly, we decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign for our game on geometry, Three Sticks. We presented the concept on an international platform called Indiegogo and within a month, parents, teachers and education experts from 16 countries pre-ordered the game. That gave us the necessary confidence to start manufacturing at a decent scale and also showed us that we are looking at a global market for our play-based learning products.
How do you balance your work life and home life?
I have known Pramod (my husband and business partner) for over 10 years now. We understand each others strengths and weaknesses well enough to distribute and prioritise our workload accordingly, be it at home or at work
I am blessed with a super supportive family. We live in my in-laws house at Hyderabad. That saves us a lot on rent. My parents live nearby too and make sure we don’t miss a meal when things get hectic. Plus the siblings and friends who keep encouraging us when we are low. What more can we ask for! Some of them have also become our investors now and have really helped us get going at a time when we really needed their support.
What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?
- Trying to bring a positive change is good. But also check the need of the market. Listen carefully to your clients, understand their needs and be flexible enough to modify your business plans.
- Don’t wait too long to launch your product. Get it out there and you’ll learn a lot more in the process.
- Focus on revenue. Constantly look out for ways to make money while at the same time keep control on expenditure. This will further help in evaluating your business plan and in figuring out the right fit in the market.
Can you recommend any organisations or networking groups that have particularly helped you on your journey?
BITS-Pilani Alumni network and crowdfunding, Indiegogo
If you could ask for one thing to help propel your business what would it be?
Marketing. People need to know about Kitki and our innovation in play-based learning. They need to see the games, hear how amazing the concepts are and realise their ability to change the way we learn.
What does the future hold for you?
Once we streamline the sales and marketing channels, we plan to make more such games on a wide range of concepts, from academic subjects to career choices to global issues. Our vision is to completely change the perception of learning and board games is only one way of doing this. A few years down the line, we plan to start game-based and experiential learning centers where kids (and even adults) can have fun, experiment, learn through activities and maybe even solve real world challenges.
About Rohini Natti
Rohini, co-founder at Kitki.in, is a soul dedicated to creativity. Her sense of aesthetics (and the amount of time she willingly spends on photoshop) seems to turn everything she touches into a masterpiece. Commonly found with a camera around her neck, her passion for photography is loved by all her friends. Her experience with education systems in different parts of India and her energy levels are a perfect match for Kitki.
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