It is an unfair world – a world where brilliant authors struggle to get published, where storytellers are long forgotten and children are growing up without their granny’s bedtime stories. Physical distances have increased, with four members of a family living in four different countries. The joint family system is nearing extinction. As we move closer and closer to a virtual existence, the joy of being or having a grandparent, of reading to or being read to, seems to be disappearing, leaving a void in our lives. Noticing this gap, Mohan Rao started Story Truck, a unique initiative for anyone to read and record stories online in their voice and to share them with loved ones, in March 2010.
A product manager at Cisco Systems in the US, Mohan’s motivation to start Story Truck came largely from his own experiences of being a father. “I have two sons. My youngest child is three years old. I have been reading to them both from an early age. But every time I tried, I couldn’t find enough interesting books, except those in paper form. I did not have the luxury of reading so many stories to them. When I was growing up in India, my grandparents used to read to me a lot. I wanted to give my children the same experience,” he says.
Multiple reasons culminated into the founding of Story Truck. After living in the US for more than a decade, ever since he shifted for work in 1998, Mohan observed two noticeable trends there. The first was an emphasis on reading. And second, a spirit of entrepreneurship. “In the States, people are constantly sharing ideas in coffee shops, forming teams and companies. It motivated me to pursue an MBA. I had come from a technical background and was working as a software engineer for AOL and other start-up companies before that.”
In B-School, Mohan worked on a project focused on ideas to bring grandparents and grandchildren closer. That is when he could clearly define his concept of Story Truck. “With StoryTruck, I hope to help bridge the distances with a story. My children can now listen to their grandma read a story. They can treasure this for many many years and probably share it one day with their grandchildren as well.”
Apart from bridging the gaps, Mohan wanted to offer a safe and secure environment for children to read books and listen to stories online. “When kids go online, they are exposed to various links, ads, pop-ups and you never know where they may land up. At Story Truck, the child’s experience matters the most. More importantly, parents have to feel safe about the child being on the site. We also have an option of playlist where the parents can pick and choose stories and they’ll keep playing,” says Mohan.
Story Truck also came out of Mohan’s own frustration with the lack of Indian language books online. “I wanted to make all kinds of books available at affordable cost. My focus now is on Indian language books, especially in digital format. I want to give access to Indian books to kids who live abroad,” says Mohan. With a target user base between the ages of 2 to 8 years, Mohan wants Story Truck to expose children to local Indian dialects and learn languages like Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, etc. Story Truck is now on a growth trajectory with tie-ups with publishers, marketing linkages, etc. At present, all the books are available on Story Truck for free. Eventually Mohan wants to move to a subscription model. In any case, these stories are priceless the way he sees it and will go a long way in building reading habits amongst children.
So, if you want to read a story for a loved one, or you simply wish to listen to some exciting stories and feel like a kid all over again, log on to http://storytruck.com/
Click here to read all articles by Unnati Narang.