Why this mother left her job as a CFO and built the first Safe Media platform for children

Sohinee Dey

  • Hi, I am Deepti Beri, a Chartered Accountant by qualification and an Entrepreneur by passion and training. I grew up in India and travelled widely in India and overseas.
  • Way back in 2001, I started my journey at a start-up, and since then I have been associated with various startups in diverse industries.
  • In 2018, while I was still working as a CFO of a leading women’s platform, realization struck that there is no safe media platform for children. Being a mother of a 9-year-old daughter, made me want to find a solution.
  • So, I took the entrepreneurial leap and founded Curious Times – the first media platform for children with the motto of providing quality news and global non-fiction content for children.
  • Today we have 100k plus active readers and viewers including our B2B partners, schools and NGOs in India, Middle East, the South East, and the US.

Building 18 years of corporate experience with start-ups to becoming a CFO

I was always a little serious and an ambitious student who generally did well in academics and performing arts too.

Although my parents would have wanted me to become a Doctor, I was not fond of biology. I always thought I had a right brain, but with my interest in Mathematics and application-led subjects, the choice of streams and career selection was a bit confusing. So, I decided to pursue Bachelors in Commerce and eventually decided to become a Chartered Accountant.

After qualifying as a CA, the big question was ‘What Next’?

In the early 2000s, although the word startup was not a buzzword like today – India was growing in terms of start-ups in the IT and ITES space. 

It was during my training at PwC when I got attracted to joining the startup industry as I noticed there was a lot of problem-solving happening on the other side of the table.

So, while navigating the right roles for myself, I came across an opportunity in the Corporate Finance Function at Exl Service – an early-stage organisation (which was later listed at Nasdaq). I knew this would be the right career move and I took up the opportunity. (Back then CAs still preferred large MNCs and corporates over early-stage organizations!)

The pace and speed at this early growth stage organization was phenomenal, infectious, and provided me with opportunities to do various roles. This role laid the foundation of my career.

Post Exl service, I took up roles at various start-ups or early-stage organizations like PCCW, Apollo Health Street (now Sutherland), American Swan, and SHEROES. Each organization, I worked with were diverse, ranging from ITES, Medical Outsourcing, Digital Media, E-Commerce, and SHEROES being a women’s platform.

Over the years I grew to become a CFO which was an outcome of adapting quickly, learning, unlearning and relearning. 

I have to mention that, growing up, I traveled along with my father as he worked in a public sector bank. But the best part is, I learned to adjust to changes, meet new people, picked up new languages, and made more friends. So, my upbringing made it very easy for me to adapt and being receptive to changes.

Founding Curious Times out of “curiosity”

It is an undeniable fact that children born in the 21st Century would use digital content for a lot of their learning.

While still a CFO at SHEROES – a women-only social platform; I asked myself a very important question – ‘With popular social media platforms geared towards sensational and biased content, how can a 9-year-old decipher the meaning and know the authenticity?’

The next questions that followed were – Do we have a safe community for curious kid learners?

How do we retain the curiosity, the joy of learning, application of knowledge, and the power of expressions and creativity, and confidence among children?

As a parent of a 9-year-old, it became even more concerning and I was on a personal quest for finding the right non-fiction content and clean media for my daughter.

I started talking to other parents as the concern was the same – there was no such medium that catered to children.

I knew something had to be done about this gap.

So in 2019, I launched Curious Times – a safe media website for children with a bigger goal of making a high-on-trust platform that would benefit both parents and children.

Growing the Start-up

Curious Times was never a plan but I was fuelled with a social purpose. So, we first started ticking off the Proof of Concept and we researched with children, parents, and educators’ groups.

Once we got a positive reply we took the next steps of setting up an entire online platform for children.

I am delighted to share that from our name to logo colours, images, etc… everything has been chosen by children.  

While start-ups struggle at the beginning, we were blessed to have a team of educators, parents, young content specialists, and designers who bring the necessary insights from learners’ and students’ perspectives. This was our first milestone.

I am fortunate that Siddhartha, my co-founder, who is extremely passionate about making the learning experience joyful and media constructive joined me in this journey.

When we signed our first B2B customer, I started working on it full time.

Today we have 100k plus active readers and viewers including our B2B partners, schools and NGOs in India, Middle East, the South East, and the US.

Products & Offerings

We work with parents, schools, institutions, children facing businesses and non-profits.

We are going deep into regional content. This will enable students with limited exposure to English to stay updated on global developments and understand their opportunities.

Our product has been carefully crafted to suit different learning levels. We provide assisted reading in the early years to the introduction of technology, science, health issues, etc. going up to the complex social, economic, and political issues.

We have weekly E-Newspaper and school activity kits, which have been a hit with schools.

Our creative talent showcase platform “My Expressions (ME)” and students’ The Curious Magazine is a big favourite of students, parents, and schools. One can find first-time children writers, bloggers, artists, scientists, and their work on Curious Times.

Over the years, we have been doing Curated Publications, which are powered by Curious Times are serving many schools, non-profits, and children-focused businesses too.

We wanted to make a socially inclusive product, so we have free membership and subscriptions for some of our features, which is very affordable. We provide free access to educators and non-profits. Also, we have school tie-ups and a lot of education product companies who partner with us.

Timeline of our Entrepreneurial Journey: 2018 – Present

2018

  • Most of this year went into researching the product and the customers.
  • We decided on making a basic model to do the product-market fit testing.

2019

  • Went in building internally for our next leap with institutions and parents.
  • We signed up schools that adopted Curious Times in various ways like serving daily news, general knowledge, and journal writing programs.
  • We were the finalists for Nasscom’s NSIF in the education segment in our first year of incorporation. Gradually we built an omnichannel outreach format and provided offline programs for schools too.

2020

  • Around March 2020, we found ourselves in a situation when our order book looked literally empty. Our new business got deferred as the institutions were struggling hard.
  • But the good news is that during the pandemic, we saw 10x growth. Students participated in large numbers, creating their own digital footprint and also bringing laurels to their institutes.
  • Our Teachers Day Special Edition “The Leap” was the single biggest edition in India carrying interviews of 200+ educators, who transformed classrooms and in turn got transformed.
  • We associated with non-profits and served students through videos and offline publications. Learning and engagement saw a multifold increase.

Closing…

What started as a search for a clean and interactive way to bring news and information to first-time readers, Curious Times is on its journey to becoming a safe engagement and information content platform of choice for children.

Our vision is to make learning and information enjoyable and accessible to a large number of children.

We aim to bring opportunities to students by showcasing their talent and enriching it by providing resources. Most importantly, we wish to build a safer and judgment-free space for children.

My message to everyone is that “do not let your formal education come in the way of your learning and aspirations”.

Curious Times

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