The Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) is an event held by the Republic of India in collaboration with the United States of America. Designed with the goal of finding the most innovative leaders in entrepreneurship, investment, emerging businesses, government, and education, GES is now in its eighth year. To that end, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) will be held in Hyderabad, India, from November 28 to November 30, 2017.
Headlined by Ivanka Trump, this year’s theme is called “Women First, Prosperity for All.”
Surinder Sharma, the CEO of an eBook publication and website called Smart Kidz Club, is one of the individuals who had been recognized. Smart Kidz Club is a company that is dedicated to teaching kids social, emotional, and academic lessons through literature whilst also fostering a love of stories and reading from an early age. The affordable eBook system features both fiction and non-fiction stories which are beautifully illustrated. Moreover, they also include read-along narration options, the ability to look up big words via a dictionary feature, and have several stories available in both English and Spanish.
Surinder and her husband, Harjeet, are currently seeking to grow the business, open additional markets, and explore new opportunities. Surinder aims to use her company to help educate and empower youngsters and winning the GIST Catalyst Pitch competition at 2017 GES will help propel them towards their goals.
Recently, Surinder granted an exclusive interview where she discussed her company, the GES, and her mission to positively impact the lives of Children.
Books, publications, and children's stories
Meagan Meehan (MM): What initially sparked your interest in Books and when and why did you decide to start Smart Kidz Club?
Surinder Sharma (SS): I was very fond of books right from childhood and reading was my passion.
I believe there is a lot to learn about this world from books and reading. I have two boys and I know how important it is for the parents to develop a love of reading at an early age. Smart Kidz Club was an idea born around 2012 out of two observations. Firstly, that children’s interest in paper books was shrinking and secondly, high-quality books were extremely expensive and unaffordable by parents. We, therefore, decided to publish original content that would be high quality, contemporary, and relevant and deliver it using mobile technology so as to make it accessible to all kids no matter where they are. Smart Kidz Club was incorporated in 2013 with the mission of promoting affordable education around the world.
We currently have over 500 eBooks and resources that come with quizzes, fun activities, and audio to keep kids engaged.
MM: What was it like to start up an eBook publication and what have been the challenges of keeping it afloat and helping it grow?
SS: It has been both exciting and challenging. Exciting, because I absolutely feel this is the future of learning and realize the impact education and technology combined can make in the lives of kids and parents who cannot afford or access high-quality educational resources. We work with some awesome authors, voice artists, illustrators, advisers from around the world who all share our common vision. The major challenge that we face today is marketing and advertising. We need to spread the word around and I am hoping GES 2017 in Hyderabad, India will help me take Smart Kidz Club to the next level.
MM: Of all the books, do you have any personal favorites or are any particularly popular?
SS: My personal favorite is the category called “Countries of the World.” This category has a series of books on over thirty different countries and provides a glimpse into each country's location, history, people, culture, festivals, animals, plants, places to visit and much more. It inspires the spirit of adventure and provides knowledge and understanding of different countries and cultures. It is like a window to the world. My other favorite, which is also a free book is “The Boy Dinosaur” and it is based on a true story about my younger son’s Halloween costume.
MM: How, exactly, does the platform work and where can it be accessed from globally?
SS: The platform is built to be accessed from around the world. It can be accessed online and also via free apps on both iOS and Android platforms. We offer subscriptions for parents and teachers who can subscribe to a couple of easy steps to instantly get unlimited access to all the books and resources on Smart Kidz Club. Teachers and parents have separate accounts and both can track child’s progress via data analytics. Teacher accounts have an enhanced functionality. They can recommend books, assign books for children read, send notifications to individual students or the entire class. The platform enables teachers to form their own curriculum and use our eBooks as a supplemental resource in the classroom by hooking up to the current ICT used in the classroom.
The unique part is that the platform is continually adding resources and features on a weekly basis. We believe in never stop improving.
Authors, illustrators, and global innovation
MM: How does Smart Kidz Club find its authors and illustrators?
SS: We are very selective about our authors and illustrators. First and foremost, they should share our core values (which are clearly stated on our website) and our vision that education is the key to a better future. Secondly, we only accept manuscripts that offer an educational value to the children. All our fiction books also offer a lesson for the kids. Thirdly, we ensure that all manuscripts and illustrations are made with a global audience in mind.
This is why you will see diversity and inclusion in our eBook collection.
MM: How has the company evolved since its foundation and how do you envision it expanding further?
SS: We started back in 2013 with five books, two authors, allowing only individual book purchases. Today we have over 500 books and resources, sixteen authors, math resources, flashcards, resources available by grade, reading levels, type, every book has an activity or a comprehension quiz, resources are aligned to the US Common Core State Standards, users from over sixty-five countries, partners in three countries. We not only offer subscription model. We also offer classroom solution with TV and Education-In-A-Box preloaded tablet.
I envision Smart Kidz Club in the hands of each kid around the world especially those who cannot afford or have limited access to high-quality educational resources.
MM: You recently were honored to be nominated at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), so how did this opportunity arise and what options will be presented to you if you get the most votes?
SS: I am honored to have been nominated by the MBDA and selected by the US State Department to attend GES2017. This year’s focus is on “Women First: Prosperity for All.” This is an exciting opportunity for all women entrepreneurs to network, learn, and grow their businesses. I am especially looking forward to exploring opportunities to open up new emerging markets for my company.
I will be looking for partners and investors who can join us to make an impact in early childhood education. Smart Kidz Club is also in line with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi's Digital India initiative.
The Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Initiative is also holding a live pitch competition during GES2017 and I have been invited to compete. This competition includes featured startups from India, the U.S., and other countries from around the world. Entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to elevate their pitch and showcase the startups they are working on.
MM: What are your most notable plans for the near future?
SS: Future plans include opening up markets and looking for partners in different countries around the world.
We plan to invest in workshops for young teachers who will be trained to use Smart Kidz Club as a teaching tool in villages and remote areas to help spread early education. We will also be making direct donations possible on our website for all those who want to help but don’t want to donate money for the uncertainty of how it is spent. Donors will be able to pick and choose individual kids, schools, or teachers that they would like to donate the gift of learning directly to people who need it.
MM: Do you wish to discuss or mention anything further?
SS: I would like to thank you for offering me to share my goals and vision with the readers. As per the USAID, 250 million children cannot read. 130 million of them are not in school.
I sincerely believe that education of these children is the key to a better future for the world and I hope everyone can support Smart Kidz Club in our endeavors. Help spread the message by liking us and sharing it on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn. Together we can change the world one small step at a time!