Kitki: How a Couple from Hyderabad is Redefining Learning with their Educational Board Games!

We belong to a fast paced digital era where technology is slowly replacing our age-old traditions and systems. Even small kids have become tech savvy. Most of them can efficiently use almost any gadget like smartphones and computers. In many cases, they can be real good tutors for us because they can educate us on the use of the latest technology gadgets. Their lives are however devoid of the games that we used to play in our childhood days. When we were kids we used to spend more time on board games and modern day gadgets like smartphones and computers didn’t have any existence in our lives. Today’s kids play more on smartphones and computers! In a wonderful initiative, a couple from Hyderabad launched Kitki in 2013 with an objective to make learning more enjoyable. They have introduced some unique educational board games that are changing the perception of learning. Their approach is yielding great results because their products are keeping the kids interested in playing educational board games.

Kitki is a young Indian startup from Hyderabad and is the brainchild of Pramod Ponnaluri and Rohini Deepthi. Till date, they have developed three educational board games on geometry, chemistry and Indian history. Today, in this session, we have Pramod with us to share their story.

Hi Pramod, welcome to conflatingVisions. Please tell us a few lines about you and your co-founder Rohini at Kitki.

Hi! I am a good listener and for a large part of my life so far, I heard and followed the crowd. Somehow in the process, I ended up at BITS-Pilani and completed Masters in Finance and let the life take over the driving wheel. Only after six years of corporate finance, management consulting and equity research did I realise that none of this was my true interest. At the same time, Rohini (my wife & co-founder) who is a mechanical engineer and an economics major figured that designing is her original passion. My renewed curiosity for learning met Rohini’s design skills and thus started Kitki, where we transform learning into an exciting experience.

Kitki, Educational Board Games, Hyderabad, Startup, Pramod Ponnaluri, Rohini Deepthi, Learning

Tell us about Kitki.

Kitki was started in 2013 to change the perception of learning – from boring to fascinating. Initially, we partnered with schools and organised curriculum-based experiential learning workshops and field trips. We soon faced scalability challenges, but our close interactions with kids helped us realise how effective games can be in engaging kids in an active learning format. That’s when we started working on educational board games which are great fun to play while learning takes place subtly in the background. After 1.5 years of playtesting and iterations, we launched three such games based on geometry, chemistry and Indian history in July 2015.

Kitki, Educational Board Games, Hyderabad, Startup, Pramod Ponnaluri, Rohini Deepthi, Learning

Kitki, Educational Board Games, Hyderabad, Startup, Pramod Ponnaluri, Rohini Deepthi, Learning

What inspired you to launch Kitki?

Due to the high competition at all academic levels, there is too much focus on good grades. This unintentionally encourages rote learning and the pressure to perform makes learning boring and uninspiring. We ourselves experienced this in our schooling and the situation hasn’t really improved in the last few decades. However, learning new things is a fascinating experience! But that is not how it is perceived. Given a chance to choose whether or not to go to a school, only a tiny percentage of kids may end up in classrooms. We wanted to change this perception and thus started Kitki.

These days most of the kids play games on smartphones, tablets, computers or any other gaming devices. Do they create any sort of challenge on the acceptance of Kitki’s educational board games?

Gadgets are omnipresent and the digital age is here to stay. We cannot deny that. However, there are several interpersonal elements that only come out through physical presence. The way a player reacts to a situation, knowing and observing the opposition’s reactions is very different from playing with an imaginary digital player. Parents understand this and that is why the market for educational board games is still far from being dead. Even in the future, we believe there would be a convergence in the two formats – digital and at the same time, physical.

In what ways are your games different from your competitors?

Quality is what differentiates us. Both the quality of play and the quality of materials used in manufacturing. The way we design the gameplay ensures that even adults find them interesting and challenging. This gives parents a viable option to spend high-quality time with their kids which encourage knowledge transfer between parents and kids as well.

How is the journey so far for you?

Blood, sweat and tears, literally. From zero background in the education space to finding a practical solution, successfully crowdfunding it to selling hundreds of units worldwide every month – it has been very exciting!

Please share the investment details.

Our first game, Three Sticks, which is based on geometry, was crowdfunded on Indiegogo. Within a month, we received 400+ pre-orders from 15 countries. This is when we realised that we are actually solving a global problem. Post this, we received much support from family and friends to complete manufacturing our other games as well.

Narrate some of your success stories in your journey with Kitki.

Crowdfunding our first game on Indiegogo was the first success, which gave us a lot of confidence. Convincing a complete stranger 10000s of kilometers away to buy a product that is not even ready is not easy. Now add 100s of such strangers! I and Rohini spent sleepless nights the whole month to reach as many people as we could. With one day left, we crossed our goal of $10,000 and we felt like we won a war.

Only to realise that it was a small battle compared to manufacturing the product. The game involves plastic components and we had little idea of how complicated plastic moulds can get. The first board didn’t even come out of the mould! The first set of sticks didn’t fit properly. After several iterations and four months, we finally produced Three Sticks. Shipping the last pre-order was probably the most cherished moment for us.

Kitki, Educational Board Games, Hyderabad, Startup, Pramod Ponnaluri, Rohini Deepthi, Learning

What are your present challenges? How do you plan to overcome them?

Spreading the word is the biggest challenge. So far, we depended on the most effective approach – word of mouth. We now look to add credibility through credible academic and gaming associations, post which we would participate in international fairs.

What are your future plans to further scale up your business?

More games, offline sales channels and more geographies. These are our primary growth drivers for the next few years. Once the process is set on autopilot, we would like to explore game-based learning workshops in schools, communities and after-school activity centers.

And, one last question of this session, if you have had one wish…

I wish there was a reset button to the education system. Start afresh – no preset attitudes and expectations. A complete relook at how we should learn!


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