In a world where videos rule the children entertainment segment, this startup emphasizes on listening to stories instead of watching.
Video might have killed the radio star but listening hasn’t gone out of fashion yet. In the US, regular podcast users spend over seven hours every week listening to six different podcasts. During the lockdown, voice-based content, like podcasts, found new converts, with a high number of 18-24-year-olds listening to their first podcast in 2020.
A recent report from PwC pegs India as the third-largest podcast listening market in the world after China and the US, with 57.6 million monthly listeners. This user base is likely to grow exponentially at 30% CAGR for the next five years.
While podcasts may be a new format for India, the concept of storytelling isn’t new. Following a rich, age-old tradition, children in India grow on a steady diet of oral storytelling practiced by grandparents. With the advent of nuclear families, parents are always looking for ways to continue a tradition that has a significant positive impact on children´s development and moral well-being.
Enter HeyCloudy, an app conceptualized, designed, and developed in India to cater to kids of 2-8 years of age. They claim to be India’s first screen-free digital listening app, which allows listeners to immerse themselves in the world of storytelling without any distractions on the screen.
The Tech Panda spoke to Chitman Kaur, Founder of HeyCloudy about her thoughts on listening instead of watching stories for children.
Listening to stories helps a child to use imagination and form pictures in their mind.
“Growing up a lot of us have heard stories. Radio was a very popular medium for parents and grandparents. The current trend for adults is also moving towards podcasts. Listening is also a key skill for critical thinking and effective communication,” she says.
She adds that when we listen, we imagine in our mind, creating a visual with our thoughts that connect the dots. There is an active engagement of the mind.
“When a child watches a video, the visuals are there, audio is there. The information is complete and there is nothing left for them to imagine. Listening to stories helps a child to use imagination and form pictures in their mind. They understand the words and process them differently. There is application of the brain and active development. The skills developed are multifold,” she adds.
She also says that the two things lacking in modern parenting in India are time and undivided attention.
“Our modern lifestyle and the deeply ingrained digital world leaves us with no time. Our minds are overloaded and cluttered with hundreds of tasks. While multi-tasking provides improved productivity, and as a society, we have achieve a lot, a child needs time. They need undivided attention for at least 30 mins a day. They need us to slow down and just be,” she says.
In its bid to keep the local storytelling traditions alive, HeyCloudy offers stories in a number of Indian languages, including Tamil, with Marathi and Kannada expected to launch soon. The app is available for free to both Android and iOS users. Customers can unlock additional premium content for a small fee.
HeyCloudy makes a great listening buddy to children and engages them in a screen-free way
“Children need to “listen” to stories but they are glued to videos and exposed only to the visual medium. We all know that excessive exposure to video is harmful for a child, both physically (eyes) and mentally. HeyCloudy makes a great listening buddy to children and engages them in a screen-free way,” Kaur explains.
The app is launching soon on Alexa and is ad-free, the content being created by educators and parents together. The apps UI is designed for little children. Children can select the story of their choice and press the play button. Parents can download the story or share with their friends and family. The content is filled with stories, music, and riddles but all in audio.
Growing up, Kaur recalls hearing many stories from her mother. However, when she had her first child, she realized she was not able to sit that much.
More conversations and personal experiences made me realize that the current generation kids are shifting towards becoming zombies in front of televisions and iPad. Something had to be done
“I asked other parents around and everyone had lovely memories about their grandparents/parents getting together and telling stories about anything and everything. The nuclear setup has added to the disconnect. More conversations and personal experiences made me realize that the current generation kids are shifting towards becoming zombies in front of televisions and iPad. Something had to be done. Children need to listen to stories rather than watch them,” she reiterates.
“HeyCloudy was started with a simple thought on changing the way young children consume content and challenge their brain to imagine, reimagine, and achieve more. HeyCloudy is made for my girls. It is made for every child and every parent who believes in raising children in a screen-free world,” she adds.
Incubated in 2019, HeyCloudy formally launched in 2020 and has been nearly doubling its userbase on a quarterly basis. They currently have 10,000+ users and ~4000 parents connected to them.
“Our conversations are simple yet powerful,” says Kaur.
Our motto is simple – we want to raise kids with stories and provide experiences to them
They also connect with conscious parents over a Facebook group called ´Parenting through stories powered by HeyCloudy´.
“Our motto is simple – we want to raise kids with stories and provide experiences to them,” she says.
The startup is looking to be the trendy audio platform for children between the ages of 2-8 years. Currently available in three languages (English, Hindi and Tamil), they aim to expand into more regional languages. They have also been actively adding music to their content, both instrumental and songs and rhymes.