He always wanted to make a difference in the education sector. And his IIT-BHU civil engineering batchmates Amit Shekhar and Janishar Ali had the same vision since they met in class in 2010. After living and working together for over 11 years, the three decided to work on bringing in that change they had always wanted to see in education.
Taking coding education to the masses became the problem statement they wanted to solve. During the pandemic, when edtech was the flavor of the season, the trio decided to start CuriousJr. “During the lockdown, the three of us got on a Zoom call and started writing down the challenges we could address that would
children all across the world, ”says Sahu.
After some brainstorming, they decided to start a company that enables students without laptops to learn to code on their mobiles. About 88% of K-12 students in India do not have access to laptops, he says. “CuriousJr was born out of this need for a mobile solution for K12 children to learn to code.”
They planned the minimum viable product and launched the first product in September 2020, within three months of that Zoom call. “The CuriousJr App Store was created so that children could publish and share their work with their friends and family. Later, a competition platform was developed so that students could compete with their fellow coders to see where they were in the ecosystem, ”says Sahu, 30.
For the masses
CuriousJr is a free mobile coding learning app for kids aged between 8 and 17, and is based on fun coding games to teach the basics of programming. It is mobile-first, provides lessons in vernacular languages, and enables publishing and sharing of creations by students with their friends, family and within the larger community. There is also a competition platform developed for students to compete with their fellow coders and be a part of the larger ecosystem.
The co-founder says they have identified and devised a 3-step learning process in which students learn in bite-size content, code on the code arena and publish their creations on the CuriousJr App Store. Also, students can follow the guided learning curriculum to learn more about coding in a structured way.
“In India, the coding and programming markets have always attracted the curiosity of professionals seeking a successful and competitive career path. These benefits seem to have worked their way to children who have displayed a keen interest in learning to code. Coding has been shown to help children improve their cognitive, problem-solving, and soft skills, in addition to their curiosity, ”says Sahu.
The company raised $ 1 million in August 2021 in a seed round led by WaterBridge Ventures, EnziaVentures, and angel investors. Angel investors included Aditya Shankar (Co-founder, Doubtnut), Tanushree Nagori (Co-founder, Doubtnut), Abhinav Sinha (COO, Oyo), Mohd Wassem (Founder, EasyEat), and Shashank Shekhar (Director-Content Strategy and Operations at ShareChat).
“In edtech, coding for kids is seeing great traction, especially after recognition of coding in the National Education Policy as an important skill for kids to learn. CuriousJr is disruptive, and its unique mobile-first learning experience is democratizing learning. CuriousJr is less than two years old and is already demonstrating high traction and user engagement. At Enzia, we see a lot of promise in their vision and technique, and are excited to be partnering with them, ”says Namita Dalmia, Partner at Enzia Ventures.
Sahu says more than 250K users are learning on a monthly basis on CuriousJr, whereas 100K users are learning every week. About 125-150K users are added every month, claims the company. More than 500K apps and games are published on the CuriousJr app. “We see very high engagement on Saturdays and Sundays since students get more time on weekends due to school holidays. We are also launching some premium services on the platform where users can get a personal coach who will help students solve doubts anytime, and help move ahead in the learning process, ”says Sahu.
Growth, Sahu says, has been brisk with the startup clocking 25X growth in the last 10 months. “We look forward to growing like this and aim to make 1 million students learn monthly on the CuriousJr app store by the end of the year,” says Sahu. Currently, the CuriousJr app has over one million downloads and the company is working on launching courses in additional vernacular languages such as Marathi, Telugu, Bengali, and Gujarati in the next three to four months.
CuriousJr co-founders Janishar Ali, Mridul Ranjan Sahu, Amit Shekhar.
As for monetizing, the founders say their priority is to create awareness around coding on mobile. CuriousJr is currently at a pre-revenue stage and has kept its platform free for its users. They plan to monetise it at a later stage by allowing students to pay monthly fees of Rs 1,000 and have plans to monetise the class curriculum packages that they design on their own or through a coach-assisted model.
Nagendra Kumar Mehto, who has a background in software, was searching for apps that can be helpful for his child during the first lockdown. “That’s how I came to know about CuriousJr. What I like about this platform is that children can learn to code while playing. Even if my child is spending 2-3 hours on the mobile with the Curious app, I know he is not wasting his time as coding has enhanced his
thinking, and built up his confidence level, ”says Mehto.
CuriousJr is in a crowded space with deep-pocketed competitors. Sahu, however, says coding has become a subject for 5-10% of the Indian student population because most of the models available require a laptop to learn and are priced in a range most cannot afford.
“Currently, in India, over 88% of students do not have access to a laptop and 79% of students are learning in their native language which requires innovative solutions to ensure accessibility and affordability to all students. CuriousJr is designed considering the majority of the students, and with the goal of making quality learning accessible to the masses. Students can access coding curriculum on mobile devices, they can practice on mobile devices, ”says Sahu.
There is a line of thought that coding for kids is not desirable and may, in fact, go on to dilute their childhood, but Sahu disagrees. He says coding can help in improving cognitive skills, algorithmic thinking and logical abilities of the students.
Sahu says Covid has sped up the growth of internet companies, especially the ones in the edtech space. “What was expected in 2025 has been accomplished in 2020-21 as students could invest their time in online learning. However, I believe the future is hybrid where some skills are good to get online and whereas some require physical appearance to learn and experience, ”says Sahu.