Even after 20 odd years, I distinctly remember the “washing powder Nirma” jingle and many others between the episodes of my favourite television show. Of course, it was never a diligent attempt at learning the quirky ads, but they remain deeply ingrained in my memory.
That is exactly the kind of impact advertisements have on me and millions of viewers across the country.
While it is one of the pleasant ways to indulge in 90s nostalgia, ads are also a reason why people end up spending more time on television. This has always been a concern among Indian parents who think their child could have used the ‘break’ time productively.
For Vijay Kantharia who grew up in India’s diamond city, Surat, watching his favourite cartoons or cricket matches was never a satisfying experience for the simple reason that the ads interrupted the flow of the show. Besides, like every Indian, he would switch channels as soon as the show broke into an ad.
Vijay was always under the impression that this was confined to India, but when he moved to the United States for higher education, he found the same problem there.
Speaking to The Better India, Vijay says,
Ads have always bothered me. There were times when I would study a concept or a chapter while the ads continued on mute. As a child, I wondered if the pages in my book magically appeared to replace the ads. Years later, I believed in my dream and turned it into a reality.
An alumnus of Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, Vijay worked in several research-based companies in India and the US before embarking on his new journey. He travelled across Europe and India to study the behaviour patterns among people to better understand how to eliminate ads.
Finally, in 2015, he had a breakthrough and started working on his prototype. An educationist at heart and businessman at mind, Vijay carefully spent his savings on building the prototype.
He even ran out of money, but that didn’t affect his project.
I started taking private tuitions to support my two sisters and mother. Thankfully, my family stood like a strong pillar and supported me in every way they could, he says.
Even after building his prototype, he needed money, so one of his sisters chipped in by selling her house, “The times were tough but not enough to sabotage my dream.”
Eventually, the innovative idea flourished, and Vijay found investors to support his startup. In 2017, he officially registered ‘Cerebroz EduTree’ with six staff members. The startup was even recognised by the Central Government which gave them tax exemption benefits for seven years.
Making The Idiot Box Smart
Once the device was ready, it didn’t take a lot of time for the startup to reach the households.
All one has to do is place an order on e-commerce websites, Cerebroz’s website or call them. The device is easy to set-up and can be connected to the TV or Set Top box through a HDMI cable.
After this, a pop screen will ask the user their contact details and the preferred content category to replace the ads. As soon as the ad ends, the show resumes.
From academic education, general knowledge to social knowledge, the user has several options. Academic content can be personalised further as per the child’s education level. Likewise, the general knowledge section varies according to the user’s age.
I wanted to ensure that both kids and adults benefit from our device. It is a great way to learn a thing or two while being entertained, says Vijay.
The content on a 100-second EduTree video is curated by a group of experts and scientists to ensure the quality of education. They curate the content, study it, and once it meets their expectations, give it a green signal.
Among other facilities, EduTree also offers weekly tests that children can take. Parents can even monitor and track children’s activities. To be updated with the digital age, the startup has recently introduced an e-library, where users can read books and novels online.
So far, 1,500 people from across Gujarat are using EduTree. It is the customer’s feedback that holds the spirit of the company. Both, parents and students are thankful to EduTree.
“For nearly two hours, I tried to understand a biology chapter in school. The activity-based learning from EduTree helped me understand it better,” says Srihari Rangan, one of the students who uses the device.
Replacing ads with educational content has improved my son’s grades. The best part is that it makes studying a fun-learning activity, says Sridevi Thomre, a mother in Surat.
Echoing his mother’s words, Aryan says, “My knowledge has improved. Now I know more things than my classmates, and sometimes, I feel like a well-read person.”
As for its plans, the startup, with a current staff of 40 people, will soon tap Delhi-NCR and other metro cities. It also plans to go international by introducing the device in the American market.
To know more about the educational device, write to Vijay and his team at firstname.lastname@example.org.