Tech Toys Space Is Fierce Because It Is The Future Of Play: Vivek Goyal, PlayShifu

In an exclusive interaction with BW Education, Vivek Goyal, CEO of PlayShifu, spoke about the firm and more.

How has COVID-19 affected your business?

While COVID-19 disrupted many businesses, it had a positive effect on PlayShifu. We saw a 300% surge in demand for our innovative, educational tech products after lockdown, and we grew 600% in April 2020 vs. 2019. We have added 50k new users since the lockdown began.

Since schools shut down, kids are consuming lots of content on our platform. They have collectively spent 2.4 million minutes on Shifu Orboot and Shifu Plugo platforms resulting in a 45% jump in the daily activity from March through May.

How are you coping with the disruption caused due to the Coronavirus pandemic?

On a typical day, our US sales are 60% online and 40% offline retail. Since the lockdown, almost all retail has moved online, and we presume this status quo for a few more weeks. Our working capital requirement shot up significantly too.

It is safe to say that the boom in online purchases is more than making up for any decline in offline (retail) sales.

The sudden increase in demand posed some temporary challenges in production and fulfilment. The team was agile enough to adapt to this despite operating remotely. We shipped more than 50K units during the lockdown alone.

Tell us about your new products like Shifu Orboot, Shifu Plugo, and Shifu Tacto.

Our products are categorized under three platforms - Shifu Orboot, Shifu Plugo, and Shifu Tacto.

Shifu Orboot is the first-ever AR educational globe. Through the globe and companion app, kids can travel and explore the world through visual storytelling, music, and voice interactions, as well as in-app quizzes and challenges.

With two latest additions, the Orboot collection now has three globes - Orboot Earth, Orboot Dinos, and Orboot Mars.

• With Orboot Earth, you can interact and learn about 400 world wonders in 3D and discover 1000+ facts across 6 categories (animals, cuisines, cultures, inventions, maps, and monuments) with a variety of interactive learning games.

• Bring alive over 50 dinosaurs in 3D on the prehistoric Earth with Orboot Dinos. Learn about the evolutionary traits, explore the habitats, and how it all ended.

• Traverse the Red Planet with rover, landers, and Orbiter and unearth the secrets of life and beyond on Orboot Mars. Examine the Martian geography, geology, and climatic conditions too.

Shifu Plugo is all about the tactile play that drives the digital gameplay without touching the screen. Plugo comes with a gamepad and an app that works with six gaming kits.

Each gaming kit offers age-adaptive educational games for 4-10-year-olds and builds STEAM skills like math, analytical thinking, music, language recognition, creativity, and more through story-based challenges.

Plugo Count- hands-on math kit - traditional Math made fun with an innovative hands-on approach

Plugo Link- engineering puzzles kit - build and balance the magnetic blocks to solve puzzles

Plugo Tunes- music learning kit - fun and phygital way of learning piano through our

unique waterfall technique

Plugo Letters (launched in 2020) - word building kit - spell new words with phonics and improve grammar with story-based games

Plugo Slingshot (coming soon) - fun catapult kit - combine concepts like direction, force & projectile to shatter obstacles and win

Plugo Steer (coming soon) - manoeuvring kit - navigate forests, magical lands & mystical space to solve challenges

Shifu Tacto extends the endless fun of board games with digital gameplay to create a hands-on STEM learning experience unlike any other. The platform launches with four gaming sets and one companion app.

Unravel the mysteries of chemistry, hands-on, with Tacto Elements. Learn about different elements and create compounds by combining two or more components;

On Tacto Laser, you design a path to reflect, split, and dodge lasers to accomplish a mission. Solve over 50 challenges with physics concepts of reflection and refraction;

Gear up to go on a crusade that requires attention to detail and problem-solving skills with Tacto Quest. You have to have figurines that reveal their special powers when they touch the iPad screen;

The classic board game comes alive with a dazzling digital play on Tacto Bounce. Roll the dice to begin a breathtaking adventure of dodging the traps using the shifting ladders.

Whom do you see as your toughest competitor?

Tech toys space is fierce because it is the future of the play. Many companies have promising products. Kano, Wonder Workshop, Sphero, LittleBits, and Osmo are some of our biggest competitors.

What are your USPs?

More than 300,000 kids around the world love PlayShifu. Parents and educators come back again and again to our brand to try out our latest products. We’ve made this possible by sticking to 3 core philosophies.

Unmatchable phygital experience - our platforms merge unique tactile interactions of real-world manipulatives (toys) with fun digital gameplay. Our homegrown technology stack uses Augmented Reality at its core to bring out innovative interactions like no other medium in the world.

Higher engagement - each of our toys are built with depth, variety and richness of play experience. This ensures extended user engagement, a higher retention rate, and unlimited learning. Benchmarking data shows that the Orboot and Plugo experience beats the top 25 kids apps in terms of highest engagement rates and highest user retention.

Learning aspects - we’ve zeroed in on 20 essential skills, STEM/STEAM & beyond, that children need to build in early childhood for stronger foundations. Each PlayShifu experience is designed to build these skills through fun playtime. Our toys not only make screen time productive, but they also make playtime educational and fun!

These unique propositions are making PlayShifu the prime tool in both classrooms and homes.

Provide some revenue data of pre-COVID and post COVID times?

Our revenue grew threefold in the March-May period against January and February. The year ahead looks even more promising and we are all set to have a fantastic 2020 both in terms of sales and product launches.

What are your business expansion plans?

Keeping in mind the demand-shift online due to Covid19, we are accelerating our online channel launch plans in several new geographies. At the same time, we plan to expand our distribution further in our primary target markets (the US, UK, Japan, Australia, the Middle East) through retail, online, and classroom presence. We also have an exciting product pipeline coming that focuses on building foundational skills for the Gen Alpha kids (2-12-year-olds).

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