Dipannita Sanyal was running out of ideas to keep her five-year old son Arya engaged during the summer vacation. The only thing that worked was telling him stories while acting them out. When Sanyal began to run out of ideas, she searched online for options. That’s when she stumbled upon Mangoreader.com, a platform that brought children’s book’s alive.
Soon, Arya was not only listening to animated stories with a voiceover, he was gaming with the characters and attempting jigsaw puzzles which included them. The best part is, Arya could ‘play’ with the characters on his mom’s iPad, pause at meal time and resume after his nap. Sanyal was thrilled to bits as was Jagdish Repaswal, founder and CEO of Mangosense, a Pune-based start-up, which had won over yet another happy customer.
Mangosense is an online edutainment portal that has a unique offering – the Mangoreader. This application is not only a gateway to the portal’s library of story books but can be used to take notes, answer pop quizzes, refer to a dictionary and discuss and share ideas with friends. “It can be used both online and offline,” explains Repaswal. “It is the perfect enabler for new-age kids who simply cannot study from bulky textbooks. Studying becomes so much fun by just making the content interactive.”
The Mangosense library includes story books designed for an Indian audience as well as international classics. Apart from these, there are textbooks in English, Maths and Science, for Std I to X.
A computer science engineer, Repaswal was working for a start-up in New York that developed web-based games and educational videos. Bored with the repetitive nature of these games, he decided to bring children’s story books and textbooks to life. The key was to use interactive features like gaming, quizzing, taking notes and even discussing with friends.
Repaswal discussed his idea with close friend Subhash, who co-founded the company with him in mid-2010. Repaswal and Subhash thus bootstrapped Mangosense with personal savings of Rs 50-odd lakh.
Mangosense was initially just an app for the iPhone. But a year later, Repaswal decided to convert his idea into a full-on edutainment portal. So he put together a six-member core team but the final push came from iAccelarator, a three-month programme designed by the Centre of Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) of IIM-A fame. As a finalist in this programme, Mangosense received an invaluable platform to pick up the tricks of the start-up trade and also a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh.
Why call the venture ‘Mangosense’? “Here we were, a bunch of common people trying to use sense to build a dream that we hoped would change the very paradigm of edutainment. We thus thought we would keep it sweet and simple like common sense or ‘aam sense’, and thus Mango Sense came about,” explains Repaswal, adding that when he was in the US, he had mangos on his mind as he sorely missed them.
While some books are available free of cost, others can be purchased online for anything between Rs 25 to Rs 200.
The lion’s share of earnings comes from the revenue-sharing model on book purchases (around 90 per cent) with 10 publishers, who are charged for making the content interactive. “The revenue-sharing model is either 50:50 or 70:30. If the publishers’ team of animators or illustrators works alongside the Mangosense team, our revenue is greater,” explains Repaswal, adding that it costs Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 to make a book interactive the Mangosense way.
Mangosense is now beta testing a revenue model where it intends to bring together a whole network of authors, animators and illustrators on the Mangoreader platform, where people can help each other publish content approved by the Mangosense team. In this case, the model will be flexible, depending on the content.
Bursting with ideas and plans, Mangosense is currently conducting pilots in over 5,000 schools to distribute textbooks online. “We are working on a subscription-based model for students and are looking forward to a pan-India rollout in March 2013.” To raise funds, Repaswal is busy talking to venture capitalists and angel investors but he hasn’t lost his sense of humour. He says, with a twinkle in his eye, “We believe the world has to get over its obsession with Apple. It is time people realised what Mangoes can do!”
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