SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Shoonya Digital was born out of Rashi Bahri Chitnis’s desire to teach her son to speak Hindi. A work assignment that involved delving into the mind of a child made her understand that a child’s mind does most of its learning during the first 10 formative years. Another fact the Indian American parent learnt was that language plays a huge part in the development of the brain. This resulted in her and her husband Ashutosh determining that “our son will be bilingual, even trilingual, despite living in America.”
"It all begins here!" is her motto at Shoonya Digital when it comes to creating interactive-gamified apps for children.
She launched the company in 2015 with an initial app, “Hindi Play & Learn,” which soon gained momentum in terms of popularity and end user engagement. This encouraged Chitnis to research the possibility of bringing new apps that not only teach Hindi to a child in an interactive manner but to essentially ‘gamify’ teaching other languages, such as their IOS apps “Shoonya Farm Animals” and “Shoonya Jungle Animals.” These offer an interactive experience for children while they learn the names of 14 animals in nine different languages: English, Spanish, German, Arabic, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Telugu, and Gujarati. Describing Shoonya as being in the business of edutainment, Chitnis recalls seeing her 18-month-old being engrossed and actively learning the English alphabet in a jiffy from content that made it fun to learn, while the learning materials available for Hindi were dated and unengaging.
The Montessori approach to education wherein young children learn about a bigger world, such as continents and cultures of the world, also impressed Chitnis and soon an organic growth path developed with a lot of beta testing done at the school and parental level.
“How do we create a platform where children can learn multiple international languages at no additional cost? The process of developing the product right took us nearly 18 months and children and parents are now actively engaging in Shoonya apps,” Chitnis told India-West.
Soon after the launch of the Hindi learning app, parents began to request apps for other Indian and international languages. (See India-West article here: https://bit.ly/331bCXU)
Shoonya developed apps to accommodate learning European languages. Now the focus is to grow Asian language apps.
As far as the next steps go, Shoonya is concentrating on developing a platform to teach different languages with cultural immersions wherein a child anywhere in the world can learn the first 350-500 words of any language along with the foods, sports and festivals of the world. Shoonya is currently at the pre-revenue stage and is concentrating on increasing user engagement.
Based out of Santa Barbara, Shoonya has a full staff on deck with Chitnis’s husband being the co-founder and the initial coder.
Competition in the form of language-learning apps is strong when it comes to adults, “However, well established platforms like Rosetta Stone and Babbel work really well for middle school children and adults; the offerings for children is fragmented and children mainly learn from media, and research from Tufts University points out that cultural diversity and acceptance is low. When we create content, we create keeping cultural diversity in mind.”
Shoonya, meaning zero, is the starting point for almost everything in the universe, and Shoonya Digital aims at the beginning years of childhood learning.