Education Meets Engagement
The Smart Kidz Club online portal offers illustrated and interactive e-books and resources to make learning fun for children.
World over, parents struggle to get their children off computer screens and video game consoles. As a mother of two, who had moved to Delaware from New Delhi, Surinder Sharma decided it was important to get them to read as she strongly felt that reading is a good alternative to video games.
But books are expensive, which can deter many people from buying them. And thus was born a business idea: creating and marketing children’s educational e-books. Since the books would not be printed, they would cost much less to produce, and distribution would be done entirely over the Internet.
Launched in 2013, Sharma’s U.S.-based company, Smart Kidz Club, Inc., has an online library of over 1,000 original e-books and other resources like e-flash cards. New content is added each week, produced by a network of more than 15 authors. The books are categorized by grade, age and reading level, for children between 1 and 11 years of age.
All the resources are intended to be educational and have a “read-along” option, which turns them into audio books at a mere click. The books also have interactive activities and comprehension quizzes, the answers for which are scored and the mistakes corrected.
Resources are divided into more than 35 categories, including Countries of the World, Amazing Earth, Religions of the World and Famous People of the World. One interesting category is Character Building, with themes like honesty, self-esteem and bullying. Recently, Smart Kidz Club started adding content to teach mathematics. In all, 80 percent of the books and other products are nonfiction and 20 percent are fiction.
The books are colorful, with many illustrations, and quite short—the time to read each ranges from 5 to 15 minutes. Access to the whole collection is priced at $100 (Rs. 6,500 approximately) per year, or $10 (Rs. 650 approximately) per month, in the United States and Rs. 10,000 per year in India.
“We offer curated, original content that enhances vocabulary and comprehension, while educating children about the world,” says Sharma. She adds that while some children’s books are available for free online, many have no interactive features, and require considerable time and energy to find.
With Smart Kidz Club, Sharma says, “parents don’t have to worry about searching the Internet for appropriate materials.” It also has a free app for iOS, Android and Amazon platforms.
Based on her work, Sharma was selected to participate in the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), held in Hyderabad. The event, hosted by the United States and India, brought together emerging entrepreneurs and investors from around the globe. She was also a semifinalist in the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Catalyst pitch competition, held on the sidelines of the summit.
The biggest benefit of attending the summit, says Sharma, was “networking with other entrepreneurs from around the world.” No matter where they hail from, “you can see they all face similar challenges.”
Currently, the company’s biggest clients are three private international schools in India. It also has a few individual subscribers in the United States, Australia and several other English-speaking countries. “Until now, we have been building the platform, finding resellers and adjusting the product for each market,” says Sharma. She has begun marketing the service in anglophone East Africa. Her company has translated about 20 of the titles into Spanish and begun exploring the possibility of sales in the Spanish-speaking regions as well. “We think our business has a huge potential,” says Sharma.
Although all the content is educational, Smart Kidz Club tries to make its books and other products colorful and engaging, appealing to the innate curiosity that all children possess. “We make learning enchanting and fun,” says Sharma.
Burton Bollag is a freelance journalist living in Washington, D.C.