There are things you can teach your child. And then there are things that your child learns!
Experts say that a healthy child asks anywhere between 300-400 questions a day. Most of it comes out of observing the world around them.
What if some of the world they should know passes them by?
This is exactly what happened to one mother when she took her son to an Indian bookstore in the hope of familiarising him with India in its current avatar. When she returned, frustrated and disappointed about not finding books that made India interesting for her son, another mom decided to do something about it.
With her heart set on tickling curious young minds of the nation, she moulded her enterprise from the start up to a flourishing and sought-after publishing house that has produced unique gems like “Brown”- a book that introduces a predominant social issue like skin-esteem to young children.
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Meet Preeti Vyas- the founder of a contemporary Children Publishing House – FunOkPlease.
Kidskintha’s exclusive interview with this amazing woman gets us a peek into her challenges, her motivation, her everyday hacks and how she manages the juggling act of running a business along with keeping her family well-bonded
Kidskintha: Is your start-up an answer to some challenge you came across yourself ? What led you to believe that this would be your niche?
Preeti: FunOKPlease publishes and creates content for curious little Indians. Our focus is on contemporary Indian content for kids in the age group of 3-12 years. So we don’t do mythology, folk tales, generic nursery rhymes, fairy tales and such. Each of our books is 100% original, emanates from a pure, new thought and is set in a modern Indian context.
My brother-in-law and his family (his wife is Australian) had moved to India from Brisbane and one day my sister-in-law came in frustrated about not being able to find a single book on Mumbai city for her kids. She found lots of books about Paris & London in the bookshop. This incident got me thinking about the huge gap in contemporary Indian content for children, a voice that reflects the confident India they are growing up in. I didn’t see it as a niche, but a huge unexplored canvas 🙂
Kidskintha: What is your Startup’s big picture? Do you believe you idea can change the world in some way?
Preeti: Absolutely! It’s what gets me out of bed every day. The average child in UK above the age of 5 owns 6 books (beyond her school books). In India, that number is 1 book for 100 kids. There is a huge distance that needs to be covered. I believe books and reading are fundamental to a child’s growth and holistic development. It’s so important that books are made interesting, accessible and available to children across income groups across the country. Books can play one of the most important roles in bringing up a generation of confident, compassionate and wise Indians. As a culture we have such a rich tradition of stories and there is just so much material to work with. We have to do this!
FunOKPlease’s books reflect all these values- they are rooted in India yet provide a familiar and modern context that kids can relate to, they have life lessons built into them subtly without being preachy, are affordable and most importantly fun.
Kidskintha: Do you see the Internet as your biggest online partner?
Preeti:Thank God for the internet. For a small company, selling through online partners means my books can reach every corner of the country. If I had do to this through physical networks, this kind of reach would be impossible. The internet is also such a boon to market, promote and reach out to audiences. My marketing strategy has been almost 80% -90% internet driven.
Kidskintha: How big do you envision your Market size and reach to be? What is your revenue model? Who are your competitors?
Preeti: Our market size is every Indian child. So let’s say 158 million kids? ( according to the Govt’s pop statistics 2011) Our revenue model is two-fold. We publish books that we believe in, market and sell them through bookstores (physical and online both). We also create exclusive content with our unique ‘FunOKPlease’ flavour for schools, institutes, corporates and even other publishers. I think ‘competition’ as a concept is overhyped. In 2015 and for the next few decades I believe the way for enterprises to thrive and grow is ‘collaboration’. I believe all children’s publishers are creating books with the same intent as me, i.e. to reach out to children. If we collaborate, we can join forces and reach out to so many more. The money will follow. This philosophy has made me reach out and collaborate with other children’s publishers.
Kidskintha: What is your brand proposition?
Preeti: ‘Books for the curious little Indian.’ is our brand proposition, our tagline, our motto, everything. Create original and fun Indian content for kids packed with learning-value.
Kidskintha: How is your startup being funded? Are there any future plans of investments?
Preeti: I started the company with Rs 5 lacs of my own savings. It is standing on its own feet and is a profitable enterprise today. I definitely want to take it to the next level and would need investments for that. Maybe I will approach some venture capital firms to invest in FunOKPlease. But am waiting for my son to grow a bit more before taking that next big step. In the meanwhile, there is enough to do and the company keeps growing on its own steam and energy.
Kidskintha: What are the challenges you have faced so far in your journey so far? How do you see them going forward?
Preeti: I could write a book on the challenges I have faced so far. Everything from building awareness, selling, collecting money from distributors, attracting authors and illustrators… the list is endless. Going forward, I know challenges will always be there. You just decide at one point to never give up and keep overcoming whatever comes your way with a fighting spirit!
Kidskintha: What does your typical day look like juggling between mom responsibilities and owning a business? Share particular challenges on managing a growing business being a mom, which is never less than a full-time job.
Preeti: I feel like a juggler with a million balls in the air. I think all of us women are super multi-taskers. We somehow do manage to get it all done. You have to learn to let go of a few things. Like, I love cooking but don’t have the time to cook everyday, so I reserve it for weekends or dinner some nights. You’ve also got to get your family do their bit and contribute. Most of us women tend to be perfectionists and want the kitchen and home to look and behave a certain way. You have got to let go of these things a bit. If your 6 yr child lays the table, it’s not going to be 5 star class, but he is learning an important lesson and has taken one job off your list. Accept, acknowledge and appreciate every effort from the husband and child– it motivates them to do more, freeing up more of your time ( Ha Ha!).
I love my work. I love being in my office with my music playing, discussing various projects with the various authors and illustrators who come in, ideating with Sonali who works with me. Running your own business is very very hard work but also the biggest blessing for a mom as you can plan your time according to your needs.
I practice Buddhism, so I chant every morning and night. I find it gives me peace and gives me strength, keeping me centred through the day. I don’t see it as a religious practice but a spiritual practice that helps me up my reserves of emotional and mental strength. Buddhism has also taught me to stay focused in the present moment and give every moment my 100%. That way, work gets done a lot faster. Music and reading have been my constant companions through life as sources of great joy and relaxation. As a family, we also love travelling so we make frequent trips to be with nature.
Most importantly, my son is the most easy-going, intelligent and understanding kid in the world. So being Mom to him is not a source of stress in my life. Thank God! I must have done something right in my life to deserve him 🙂 My time with him is as important for me as it is for him. I try to turn the phone off and enter his world of dinosaurs, wild animals, poachers and dragons. We share a great bond.
Kidskintha: Please tell us been the most challenging and satisfying accomplishment so far?
Preeti: It’s hard to pick one. There are so many small things that make it satisfying: winning awards, getting good reviews, being contacted by prestigious schools to make books for them are all very satisfying. What brings a tear of joy though is receiving emails from semi-rural schools saying they are using our books to teach kids English or a school for kids with special needs saying that our books are very effective in connecting with their kids. Through our books we also help and support a lot of NGOs that work with disadvantaged kids. We raise money for them, contribute a part of our sales and also raise awareness of their work by giving them space in our books. When you see the impact this has on them, it’s very satisfying and you realize that they are helping you more than you are helping them. Lastly, as an entrepreneur, you are always worried about sales and revenues and making the company finally profitable after 4 years is also very gratifying.
Kidskintha: What is your personal mantra for motivation? What message do you have for other aspiring Momprenuers?
Preeti: Don’t treat your business as a hobby as then the world will also look at it as ‘time-pass’. Give it respect, time and perseverance. No matter how hard you think it will be before you start, trust me, it will be harder than that. You need to believe in your product, in your purpose, in yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from ANYONE. And just keep going, no matter what. Keep innovating and re-inventing until you crack the right model.
Kidskintha: What you like most about Kidskintha?
Kidskintha: I love the KidKuips section! Always make me smile to see the cute, silly and very funny things kids come up with!
PUNCH POWER HOURS INTO YOUR DAY! BONUS: Download a copy of the FREE eBook “137 Proven Productivity Hacks for Millennial Parents “to your computer for your daily dose of inspiration or a handy reference to the best practices recommended by experts.
Devishobha is the founder of Kidskintha- an online parenting resource repository dedicated to jumpstarting conversations around millennial parenting, encouraging parents to bring their attention to words, thoughts and actions that will enable them to raise a well-rounded, empathic and motivated generation. You can also find her on the Huffington Post, Parent.co, Entrepreneur, Lifehack, TinyBuddha and many other publications.