King’s Kin is a one of its kind game, with an Indian royalty theme and one that teaches kids valuable lessons that are necessary now more than ever. Conceived by Khel Planet and crowdfunded in March 2015, the team has been fairly busy shaping young minds and providing underprivileged children the means to enjoy interesting board games. Founder, Santhosh Subramanian, gives us the scoop on what they've been up to so far. See the campaign page, HERE.
What have you been up to since the crowdfunding success? Santhosh:
A lot! Let me start with the board game itself. While the cards and board are ready, we have been working on the design of the rest. We invited few kids to design a couple of elements of the game and they happily participated; they even came up with a few rules for us! We have almost finalized the vendors for each component. Now we are waiting for the first sample set, to check for the quality. Once that’s approved we will be good to go for manufacturing. Also, one of our co-founders went to Sweden for an entrepreneurship conference and presented the idea of this game and we had few more orders due to that. A lady from Nepal ordered 15 pieces for her school!
What pulled you into something like this? It’s not common to see a venture like Khel Planet. Santhosh:
I run a toys and games library in Chennai called Bambaram
, where I rent out educational games and toys online. Basically it was started so that more and more parents play with their kids. But mostly it was restricted to upper middle class. So, we took it to schools catering to the marginalized community and did few game based workshops. Kids loved it. But, I realized, the content was too much for them to take. They were unfamiliar to western concepts like Halloween, Thanksgiving Day and others. So we tried giving the games our own spin. That’s how it all started. Soon, instead of just making fun games, we added life skills to it, since there was no fun way to teach life skills in schools. And schools were basically ignoring a crucial subject like this since there are no tools to teach. I am passionate about games and kids.
I just wanted to do something that made it easy for both adults and kids to play together.
Did you always want to work with kids? Santhosh:
Not until five or six years back. I was working as a marketing head for a retail chain in Mumbai before. Once, I volunteered for a couple of NGOs and loved the energy there. I figured I wanted to do something like this. I also realized that people working with kids are generally happy. So I just made the change.
Was it a difficult decision to make such a drastic change? Santhosh:
Not at all! I was clearly not enjoying my job and just had an urge to do something meaningful that I could call my own. Financially, it is always tough to do your own thing initially. It was difficult to convince my folks, because it's a huge risk. After seeing the work I was doing, a lot of people came forward to help on their own. When I was able to communicate my passion to others, it got a lot easier. They treat this as a community and keep spreading the cause to others. Also, personally, it gives me a lot of time to pursue other projects. So, I really have no regrets.
What challenges did you face during the making of King's Kin? Santhosh:
Almost everything was a challenge there. I had no clue how to design games. So, I went about reading about it. I took some courses. I worked with kids on how they play, what they like and what they don’t like. Once the game mechanics was done, we reached out to the experts to do the graphics, since we didn't want to compromise on the quality. The guys from Accel Animation
came forward and agreed to do the graphics for us, and that too pro bono! Each and every card took almost 3 hours to get illustrated; we needed 25 cards. But they did it for the kids. Another challenge was identifying vendors, distributors etc. We want this to reach deserving kids no matter what, at the same standards of quality that we have in mind. This, of course, requires money and a lot resources. So, we shamelessly knock on every door and ask our friends to help us. Crowdfunding taught us this! People came forward and offered support from nowhere.
What is it that keeps you motivated do what you do? Santhosh:
The kids from Vidya Niketan School, Chennai. That’s where it all started. They always keep you in high spirits. I wanted to see if those kids would be able to enjoy games like Hangman, Scrabble, Pictionary, Scattergories, Pictureka, etc. and if price was the only thing that stopped them from playing these games. So, I asked the school correspondent if she can allow such workshops in their school. She was super enthusiastic and said yes. The kids loved it. But as I have said, the content was too westernized. So we had to localize it. And since then, there has been no turning back.
When will King’s Kin be released? Santhosh:
We are aiming at July end. Worst case scenario- it should be ready by August.
Do you plan to launch your games in the mainstream market? Santhosh:
Being an NGO, we have our limitations in selling. But we are trying to speak to entities who can manufacture and sell it. But our aim is to reach out to deserving kids from marginalized communities, which we will continue to do through our Trust. Going mainstream is secondary. We will offer creative commons license for entities who are willing to do that. And we don’t intend to take any commercial profits from it.
You mentioned at the beginning that this leaves time to do a lot of other things. Are there any side projects you're also pursuing? Santhosh:
I maintain few peer-to-peer sharing communities on Facebook. Mooremarket
is one of them. I am also a part of theater group to teach children about theater in schools. Plus, I am working on few things in technology which will be out soon. I also travel whenever I can.
What’s the next big project on your plate? Santhosh:
I am trying to work with a school that is catering to kids who are speech and hearing challenged. It’s quite sad that they don’t have any access to these games as well. So, I am working on customizing/designing a few games so that they can enjoy this marvelous experience too. We are also starting a series of workshops in Chennai with an organization called Bhumi to teach kids life skills through physical activity based games. Right now we are in the process of working out the details. One interesting observation: The concept of time (or the lack of it) clearly does not apply to people like Santhosh!