Prakash Dantuluri is a seasoned serial entrepreneur with successful track record in creating innovative products, frameworks and technology platforms. He is Founder & CEO of Bulbulapps.
His previous venture was Paradigm Creatives, a company focused in creating Mobile solutions for customers all over the world. He successfully scaled it to 200 Engineers and did an exit in 2015. Prakash Dantuluri is also a successful filmmaker. Bulbul Apps is a culmination of his passion for storytelling and his ability to create world class mobile apps.
Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
Ans: Ajay Jain, Xseed Partners. Ajay Jain, founder Xseed Partners & IIITH Seed Fund is both a mentor & investor at Bulbul. He has rich experience in the education space himself. Vishnu Varma, CTO, Tiger Global. Bharat Ram, General Partner, Operator VC
Bharat runs a Bangalore based chain of micro-breweries called Big Brewsky. Previously, Bharat worked with real estate consulting firm, Jones Lang LaSalle before co-founding Agastya Advisors LLP, an advisory services boutique that has advised and syndicated more than Rs. 50 cr. of equity and debt capital for real estate and consumer services businesses. Bharat is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad.
Q.: What is the problem you are trying to solve? Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Ans: India has more then 380 million children under eight years old. 50-60 million of these children attend a preschool. We have more than 2.8 lakh registered preschools in this country. Most of the mom and pop preschools are run by women.
But unfortunately, there is no single mobile solution to manage a preschool. There is no single pan India curriculum in which teachers are trained. There is no single way of communicating the progress of the children to the parents and to make parents part of the childs learning and growth.
We have tremendous amount of experience in creating digital curriculums for preschools and we worked with 100s of preschools over the past four years. We are clubbing that experience and bringing a one stop solutions for preschools in India in the form of an app ‘MyPreschoolApp’.
Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Ans: Research worldwide is clearly showing that preschool children learn the best when the Parent is involved. Typcially a child in the age group of 3-6 doesn’t communicate whats happening at the school to the parent. Parent has no direct authentic channel to communicate with the preschool. The current chat solutions in the market are very limited and quite expensive for an average preschool.
Our chat module allows teacher to communicate to the parent with not just pictures and text but also important things like, nap time, snack menu, potty time, medicine administration, pick up arrangements etc. We started with selling interactive content to preschools. While the schools, parents and children loved it, they also had other administrative issues like calendar events, communicating bus timings, taking care of sick children, collecting fee. They wanted those features in the same app as well. This was a common request from almost all the schools we worked with.
In a way, our initial customer clearly pointed us to what the market really wanted.
Q.: What is your USP?
Ans: One stop solution for managing a preschool. We provide Admin, Communication, Interactive content, Videos Control and Reports all in a single app. The preschool doesn’t need any other software to run except our app.
Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learnings that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have atleast one of them signed up?
Ans: Lessons learning –
a) Parents are willing to pay for content only when there is educational value to it. They trust their teacher and friends more than anyone else
b) Running a preschool is one of the toughest jobs out there. Curriculum is just one part of it. They also need tons of administrative, communication tools to keep the parents happy and to ensure the child is learning.
Yes, we have already deployed our solution Pan India with Kangaroo Kids. We are also official partners of ISKCON’s preschool franchise Basil Bee. We are already live in more than 200 schools.
Our MyPreschoolApp got tremendous response and we have partnered with IPTTA to deploy it Pan India.
Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
Ans: I have had many failures. In the hindsight at the risk of sounding philosophical, failure and success are not black and white. There is so much you learn from a failure that helps you for the rest of your life. So in way, its actually a success. There is so much you miss when you succeed which leads to bad decision making at a later state. What really matters is whether you have enjoyed the process or whether you have built a product or service that’s actually world class.
But if I have to summarize my experience into lessons
a) Family and Health comes first
b) Your partner and your first customer matters a lot
c) Hand in there. It takes longer than you expected.
Q.: How are you pricing the Product? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc. ? Explain your thought process.
Ans: We are opting for Freemium. With MyPreschoolApp we want to scale faster. We also want the preschool to have no barriers to just try it. We have certain modules like reporting and payments for premium customers. The basic chat, admin, controls and content is free for everyone.
Q.: How did you get your first customer?
Ans: You may call it beginners luck. The first ten schools we met signed up our product.
Q.: Is there any interesting success story? If yes, please write about it. ?
Ans: We did a Little Krishna story just for fun. Some folks at ISKCON saw it and called us. This call actually lead to a content partnership.
Q.: What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Ans: Edtech market is more focused on Test Prep. That’s where parents are willing to spends lakhs and lakhs of money.
Research is showing that preschool learning is equally if not more important in a childs life. Preschools are unorganized. Teachers are undertrained. They are typically owned by non business people who have no understanding of current Edtech solutions. Finding the right content is a painful job. Engaging the parent is very difficult. Managing children and recording their activities for complains is nearly impossible.
We want to streamline this and offer a simple app to the preschool manager. There is tremendous potential for this product in the market. India is just a starting point for us. Of course, we want to take this global. But this year the focus is India.
Q.: What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Startup.
Ans: We operate with an empathy for the child. We are skillful at creating world class mobile apps. We understand kids content like no one else in this country. We are champions in that segment.
Q.: List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles – How you see them evolving over time. What would be each of their Skillsets? – Elaborate also if any of the team members has a specific domain expertise.
Ans: Lavanya Kurakula, Chief Customer Officer. She has been with us since the acquisition of our first customer. She build the pipeline practically from scratch and with no product in hand. She manages Customers relationship with the company. Its an extremely challenging job as it involves co ordinating with the tech team, content team, deployment team and academic teams. I will always be thankful for what she is done to the company. Prasad, Content Head. He manages all content related issues. It’s a complex job. It requires lots of creativity and process thinking. It needs tons of tenacity. Its filled with painful weekends and late nights. Prasad always stood by me and delivered.
I am also thankful to my programmers Shambhi, Hari, Srikanth, Mahesh and many others who worked with me in the last three years.
Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
Ans: I don’t spend much time thinking about competition. It’s a Gigantic market. My focus is doing my best to actually add value to the school owner, to the teacher, to the parent and to delight the child.
Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months?
Ans: To get 200 schools onboard for MyPreschoolApp.
Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Ans: What you don’t know is more important than what you know. Typically entrepreneurs get excited about an idea which based on their understanding of the market. Most of them learn the realities of the market AFTER building the product. But in a way, entrepreneurs are the kind of people who like DOING stuff. So I am sure this message will be ignored 🙂
Thanks Prakash. Best wishes!