In early 2014, Pridhee Kapoor Gupta was embarking on a brand-new journey. As a first-time parent exploring life outside of India, her biggest concern at the time was surrounding her Indian roots. Since she was raising her child away from her home country, it was an uphill journey for her trying to find storybooks and reading material for her toddler in Indian languages. Ask any Indian parent living abroad, and they would raise the same complains.
As technology and English (as the most commonly used language) take stronghold, usually, vernacular languages end up taking the backseat for children growing outside of India. “I could find an abundance of English interactive books but none in my mother tongue,” recalls Pridhee adding, “This was the genesis for T4Tales.”
Based out of Singapore, Pridhee’s startup T4Tales is helping Indian parents living in India and abroad, introduce Indian languages to children in their early years, through interactive story books. Combining elements like flaps, pull tabs, wheels, and immersive illustrations, with classic tales, T4Tales, founded in 2014, is reviving the magic of storytelling.
Less screen time, more story time
Children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy, according to new guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO). These guidelines also encourage children of this age group to engage in reading and storytelling with a caregiver.
Pridhee, an IIT-Delhi alumnus with a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Germany, bases her arguments on interactive storytelling on these very guidelines. “To avoid over exposure to digital displays, parents today are taking a keen interest in introducing interactive books to their children from an early age. Interactive books can help in improving a child’s vocabulary, listening skills and imagination,” she adds.
With a vision to leverage the benefits of storytelling in a child’s formative years, T4Tales has so far published five books written concurrently in Indian languages and English (within the same book) for 0-6-year-olds.
Three of these have been exclusively penned by Pridhee, one is a compilation of old nursery rhymes with downloadable music (Gol Mol Bol), and the fifth one has been authored by Alankrita Amaya, a children’s book writer and illustrator based out of Bengaluru.
Behind the scenes
Pridhee’s friend and fellow IIT-Delhi graduate, Aathira Nair Gupta, is her co-founder at T4Tales.
Pridhee recalls, “Ten years after graduating from IIT-Delhi, we met again in Bangalore, when I moved from Sydney. We bonded again as friends and this time also as moms. We exchanged parenting notes and decided to do this together while keeping our day jobs.”
The mompreneurs bonded on both personal and professional grounds. Drawing from their personal experiences, they began the business of storytelling: an endeavour that has since attracted several other prominent names to the tribe, including Alankrita, vocalist/artist; Ramya Shankar (who created the music for Gol Mol Bol, the Hindi nursery rhymes book), and popular illustrator Alicia Souza.
“With T4Tales, I have slowly managed to cultivate a small but good network of fellow women entrepreneurs like Alicia Souza and Meeta Sharma Gupta who have faced or face similar challenges as T4Tales, and are willing to share lessons,” Pridhee quips.
Meeta the founder of Shumee.in, a startup offering simple, engaging, and open-ended toys, games, and activity boxes for children up to age six. She is a distribution partner for the books under the T4Tales banner. Apart from Shumee, these books are also available on tokabox.com and Amazon.
The roadmap ahead
They say, your vibe attracts your tribe. Behind the scenes, this is exactly what T4Tales is doing: gathering a bunch of like-minded, driven, and inspired entrepreneurs who bring to the table a unique set of creative and marketing skills.
But entrepreneurship, says Pridhee, wasn’t something she had anticipated until 2014.
“If you had asked me 10 years ago, entrepreneurship would not even have been in my top 100 list of professions,” she says, “I was a researcher working in a lab and planning experiments for undergraduate and postgraduate students. But now, I am really glad I have started on this journey.”
Pridhee’s confidence is unmistakable and her efforts towards reviving the magic of classic Indian tales is unwavering. But what really captures attention is the way she has forged a community of women, entrepreneurs, and even moms in delivering the bilingual experience to toddlers.
She says, “When you start a business you realise (like you do when you have a kid) that you can’t do everything by yourself. You need help and guidance, and I have been really lucky that people have willingly offered their help, time and money to support the initiative.”
(Edited by Athira Nair)