Role: Product Manager Product: KathaKhazana Mobile App Duration: Jan 2018 - July 2018 design research • user experience • storytelling • strategy
Press How Katha India's award-winning, first-of-its-kind app is encouraging underprivileged children to read Awards and Honours - mBillionth South Asia Awards 2018 - Saluting Mobile Innovations for Development Winner, Early Stage Category for "Innovation in Storytelling" - Shortlisted amongst top 10 for NASSCOM Social Innovation Forum 2018 - Nominated in the top 100 for World Summit Awards in the Education category
As the Digital Products Manager during my stint at Katha, a non-profit in the field of education and a publishing house, I lead a multi-disciplinary team comprising of animators, software developers, teachers, voiceover artists, illustrators, graphic designers, writers and sociologists to design a storytelling app - called KathaKhazana - in Hindi to enhance the joy of reading for a 4-12 year old child living in underserved areas. It is freely available for download on Android. I was working directly under the Founder, PadmaShri Geeta Dharmarajan for the completion of the product as a part of the Katha Digital Lab.
There are 300 million children enrolled in elementary schools in India, out of which 150 million (50%) cannot read at grade level. Can we employ the Each Child Teach Child Philosophy so that one half that can read can teach the other half that cannot?
The app houses animated stories, games, audio, text and voiceover for children on the themes of gender equality, diversity, culture, social justice and reproductive healthcare that takes them upto a vocabulary of 600 words. The stories have been tested for years in diverse communities and classrooms, and is based on StoryPedagogy, a unique way of learning through fictional stories. The task was to transfer the classroom experience of children and teachers, onto a digital platform for a wider dissemination.
I was involved in the end-to-end process wherein I designed the UI/ UX, games, product strategy while leading the development of the app, and co-designing and collaborating with diverse stakeholders: partners, teachers, children, writers, graphic designers, developers and animators. The Process
Design Research This involved academic study through research papers and articles on the use of ICT in underserved areas of India to address problems of education and the efficacy of visual narratives (games, animated stories) in enhancing the joy of reading among children.
Market and competitive research involved an in-depth study analysing other ed-tech initiatives in the sector and government policies that could be tied up with our vision in the future.
Quantitative research included surveys, interviews and feedback by teachers, parents and children living in an around the urban slums of Delhi. The objective was to understand our primary and secondary users - their relationship with technology, their context and engagement with online media. User Flow We created the user flow and persona, and conceptualised a fictional story to depict it. The same was shown to teachers and children, to take the initial feedback for the vision of the product. The animation was done by an in-house animator. As our main users were 4-12 year old children living in underserved areas, we had to find a way to incentivise and mobilise mobile phone owners (volunteers, parents and schools/teachers) to reach them.
The app was designed using techniques of participatory design methodologies, ethnography, in-depth user interviews and workshops with children, teachers and authors. On a very frugal budget, I was able to lead volunteers to collaborate on this product and yield high quality in a short time span.
Walkthrough of the App
The UI of the app was designed keeping both the child and reading mentor in mind, with a love for colour to engage the child and simple, realistic looking buttons and symbols for ease of the reading mentor. Bold colourful buttons were used for a sense of playfulness in the app.
At each step of the design cycle, extensive research was conducted with a group of 50 children studying in Katha Lab School (a low cost private school), Govindpuri, Delhi and 25 in-house Katha teachers with years of experience in teaching in remote schools and areas of lower socio-economic conditions. Conversations with the children and teachers were invaluable to gain context, and build meaningful solutions for the people, with the people.
Glimpse into the journey: from an idea to sketches to conversations to design & recognition!