“The biggest challenge for kids growing up outside India is to be able to experience and enjoy the sights, sounds, and colors of India in the same kind of way as we did growing up.”
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Aarti Khanna and Shameeli Sinha have very articulately echoed the sentiments of the millions of NRIs across the world. The two young mothers are the creative force behind Tamarind Tots, maker of interactive iPhone, iPad, and Android apps and web-based games about Indian culture and languages.
In a way, Aarti and Shameeli’s story is the story of the quintessential Global Indian. Both of them grew up in India, and the pursuit of better opportunities brought them to the U.S. and Hong Kong respectively. Then came the kids who completely changed their outlook towards their rich Indian heritage. They became more conscious about preserving the Indian culture, and deliberate about passing it onto the new generation. And so Tamarind Tots was born!
When I first talked to them and heard their story, it was a total déjà-vu. After all, Indya Unlimited came about from the same thought process. Beyond that, I was very much impressed with Aarti and Shameeli’s passion for their work and the innovative ideas and products they are bringing to the Global Indian diaspora. So I decided to dig deeper and get to know more about them and Tamarind Tots.
Ladies, tell us a little bit more about yourselves and the inspiration behind Tamarind Tots?
We are both graduates of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, and have been friends for a long time now.
Aarti worked with McKinsey & Company in India, Boston and Chicago. She also worked as Director of Strategy for Oce` NV, a technology company. Aarti’s husband is a second generation Indian in the U.S., and a Surgeon by profession. She has two little boys, 5.5 years and 10 months old.
Shameeli has worked as a consultant with IBM in India and Hong Kong. Her husband is an Investment Banker and they have two young girls, 9 yrs and 6 yrs old.
We are really keen that our kids appreciate and are proud of their rich Indian heritage, while being raised as Global citizens in a multicultural, dynamic, and exciting international environment.
When we had our kids, both of us searched various stores both in the U.S. and in India, but struggled to find a high quality, contemporary and comprehensive resource, and the ones we did find were somehow not engaging enough for our little ones. They would happily watch the Baby Einstein line of books and DVD’s and learn so much from them, but would quickly lose interest in the Indian books and DVDs. This is what sowed the seeds for Tamarind Tots!
This is a very innovative concept for the Indian market. Can you shed some light on your products? How do they compare to other materials out there like books, videos etc.,
It all started with a simple desire – to have an engaging and fun resource for parents to teach their kids about Indian culture and languages. In fact, that’s where the name Tamarind Tots comes from. As you know, the Tamarind fruit is khatta (sour) and meetha (sweet) at the same time. So, it represents fun and mischief, just like our products.
Our concept is unique because it goes to the heart of how the young generation is learning. We are using the latest technology of mobile apps, handheld devices such as smart phones and tablets, and web based gaming. Any parent today will attest to the fact that kids are very comfortable with and learning so much from iPhones and iPads. It’s quite simple actually - these devices give kids a platform where they can interact and “be a part of” the experience. So, be it learning or entertainment, these touch driven, multimedia rich “toys” are very effective.
Tamarind Tot’s apps are unique in another way too. While our characters and settings are very Indian at heart, they are also contemporary and modern so that Indian kids, living anywhere in the world can relate to them. Furthermore, our apps are multi-concept, which means that each app covers some language elements, some culture elements and in the future you'll see other key aspects of India visible in them. In short, we are trying to offer a complete and enriching learning experience.
What specific apps/products are available today for the Global Indian kids?
Note: Use the search term “Tamarind Tots” to see all the apps available from this team!
Broadly, we are focusing on two important areas - Indian culture and Indian languages. With respect to culture, we want our little users to develop an overall mental image of India. The idea is to learn about their proud Indian heritage with topics such as monuments, dance forms, famous personalities, and experience the sights, sounds, and colors of India “virtually”.
The other important element is language. Right now we are focusing on early learning and building a robust vocabulary of everyday words. For example, the Learn Colors with Tamarind Tots app teaches kids 10 colors and 15+ everyday words in three Indian languages – Hindi, Gujarati and Telugu, plus the same in English. It also introduces them to some famous Indian monuments, all while playing with our contemporary Indian characters and listening to beautiful Indian instrumental music.
With each app, we will touch on several of these elements so that kids learn about our amazing country in a fun way, and in fact, without probably even realizing that they are learning each time they play! We like to think of it as "sneaking in" the learning through fun activities.
How can parents stay tuned to the latest news and exciting offerings from Tamarind Tots?
We would like to start a conversation and exchange of ideas among all Indian parents raising little Global citizens around the world who are proud of their Indian heritage. We’d love to hear about their experiences and challenges about raising kids outside India. How are they teaching them their native tongue? How do they celebrate the festivals?
Parents can stay connected with us by liking our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tamarindtots. They can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d love to share their stories with the Tamarind Tots community.
We have many product launches planned for the forthcoming months! So stay tuned!
Aarti and Shameeli, what is your parting message to the contemporary Global Indian parents and youngsters?
We feel that there is a strong common thread that ties all of us Indian parents around the world. And that thread is the fact that we want our kids to feel connected with their Indian roots. And, we are hungry for resources, tools, and ideas that will allow us to do just that! With Tamarind Tots, we hope to make such a resource and platform available to all Indian parents and their kids. The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is very apt when it comes to this task. Each of the parents we talk to has amazing ideas on how best to pass along our culture and traditions to our kids, and it would be wonderful to share these ideas with each other. We need the help of the parent community to make this Global exchange happen, and to help us make our products work for you! Please like us on Facebook, and share your stories, ideas, and feedback with us. We look forward to hearing from all of you!