Jambav - India's Magic Kingdom On The Web

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What do you get when you put together a team that has a former cook from a five-star hotel, an ex CTO who wants to stop churning out software and start teaching kids, an advertising professional wanting to start a playschool, a creative copywriter from a zoology background donning the role of a story teller, an adult who is a kid at heart to lead all these people and loving parents to fund all of this for a cause ?

Well, you'd get a recipe for success.

You ask how? We have it all below for you.

1. What is Jambav all about & why the name Jambav?

Jambav is a team of software professionals dedicated to developing edutainment games and tools for children, with an inclusive focus on children with special needs, especially autism. All our games and tools are web-based, FREE, and are available at our website Jambav.com.

We have named ourselves "Jambav" after the famous king of bears "Jambhavaan" of Ramayana, who was responsible for waking up the hidden potential in Hanuman. More specifics about this interesting legend, at valmikiramayan.net/kishkindha/sarga65/kishkindha :-)

2. What motivated you to start Jambav.com?

The CEO of AdventNet, Sridhar Vembu, has a son who was diagnosed with autism three years ago. Pramila Srinivasan (his wife) came up with the idea of building software for kids with special needs. She felt that while there were many educational and entertainment software choices in the market for typical (normal) children, there were hardly any for children with special needs. And the few that really addressed the market didn't fit the requirement of the special needs community and were prohibitively expensive and unaffordable. Being a successful businessman, and wanting to do something to the community focusing on children with special and their parents, he decided to give life to that idea and build games and tools for children, particularly children with special needs.

This personal need slowly became a passion and led to the formation of Jambav.

Jambav was born August 2nd, 2004. Our website went live January '05.

3. Who are some of your customers?

Any parent, teacher or a professional working with children will benefit from Jambav. Any child, adult who is child at heart (like me?) will have fun at Jambav.

4. How is Jambav doing so far? How well was it received by the community? Could you please share any significant achievements.

We have grown steadily and consistently in the last two years. We have gained the attention of professionals, parents and teachers and we are slowly becoming a known name in the domain.
We have users visiting our site and parents/teachers blogging at our site from different parts of the world. The registrations have increased two fold in the last 3 months.

Achievements? We are first and only special-needs inclusive information and entertainment portal in India. We have a huge and fast-growing special-needs inclusive blogging platform at blogs.jambav.com, where parents and educators alike share their opinions, adventures, tips, about parenting and educating.

5. Could you tell us more about yourself, your position & other key players/stake holders, if any? What were you all doing before starting this company & also your previous work experiences?

My name is Rajendran Dandapani, and I am the Product Manager at Jambav, inside AdventNet.
Meet the team here - Jambav Team

Our previous experiences are quite esoteric.
- One of us was a cook in a five-star hotel. (who always wanted to program in Flash!)
- One was a Chief Technology Officer in an e-biz solutions firm. (who wanted to stop doing software and start teaching kids!)
- One was an account manager at an advertising agency. (who wanted to quit the job and start a playschool!)
- And one a creative copy writer with a zoology background. (who wanted to become a professional story-teller and agony aunt!)

6. How large is the team behind Jambav? Are you all based in India?

We are a 10 member team. We are all based in Chennai, India.

7. What responsibilities do you hold at Jambav?

Pretty much everything about Jambav is my responsibility. It is my responsibility to keep Jambav interesting to kids, parents and teachers around the world, and make it a self-sufficient socially sensitive but financially stable organization. More about individual roles are at the blog linked above.

8. It seems Jambav is backed by Adventnet. Could you please share some detail on this relation. Did you receive any other external funding? If not, do you plan on seeking external funding?

Jambav's growth phase is funded internally by AdventNet.
Like Zoho or SQLOne or FinePick, this is yet another brand from AdventNet.

We do not receive or seek external funding right now.

9. What are key technologies your product is built upon and why did you opt for them?

We are great believers in open-source. Our internal trouble-ticket system, our team wiki, and our productivity tools are all open source applications (flyspray, mediawiki, etc). Our online solution is predominantly open source too. PHP running on Apache, from a Linux box. We use Xoops as our content management system, supplemented by wordpress and b2evolution for our blogs. For the games and tools and other interactive assets at Jambav, we use Flash, the easiest and at the same time most powerful Rich Internet Application platform, by far.

10. Where do you plan to take Jambav going forward?

We would like Jambav to be the one stop-shop

* for ALL children to have fun, and learn via our games and tools
* for ALL parents, teachers and professionals to seek information/help, discuss ideas, share strategies and build special interest group networks.

11. Do you have a business/revenue model or any exit strategy on mind?

Like any truly self-respecting community website in this Web.2.0 generation, our focus is currently on getting more and more visitors resulting in more and more repeat users. The business model and revenue will kick in place automatically, once we have a sizable number of users and a buzzing community. We will always have our games and tools hosted at Jambav for free, but we are planning to charge a small fee for customization of the games and tools based on the user's needs. We are also toying with the idea of providing a downloadable "Jambav on a CD" for our Indian fans whose bandwidth limitations don't seem to allow them to enjoy Jambav as much as they want to.

12. What are some of the challenges in your business and how do you plan on tackling them?

One of the biggest challenges is to ensure that we maintain the inclusive focus in each and every game/tool and activity that we develop. To ensure that every game is developed in such a way that both the typical and children with special needs find it interesting and engrossing.

For instance, a typical child loves bright, vibrant colors. They love movement. They love funny animations and lots of actions. What would possibly keep them hooked to the games would be all these factors. But the same factors may completely put off a child with special needs. If you take children with autism, for example, every child is unique! What works for one child may not work for others. For instance, a particular child may love bright colors, but another other child may hate them. The same applies to objects, food, choice of dress, sounds etc. This difference in interest is a big challenge.

We are intending to handle them by way of providing customization options to the parents that includes customization of colors, themes, background etc. In fact, we really don't build games, we actually build game engines, that can be customized and added-on to, by parents and teachers.

We also have what you could call "peer pressure" from other game sites and companies, to build games that depict violence, victory/defeat, high scores, halls of fame, etc. We have stayed clear of such temptation till now. :-) We focus on educational value and learning through fun. Our games have fine-grained levels of difficulty, infinite customizability, no "Game Over" punishments for poor play, no great top-of-world celebrations for success. It is a difficult line to walk, not easy to keep a game interesting with such first principles.

Internet penetration being what it is in India, we have this additional challenge of having to reach out to parents and children who have computers (but don't have Internet connectivity). We are working on CD versions of our games, and hopefully we will be able to address that issue.

13. In your experience, what has been the most effective way to market a business?

There is probably no one-single way to succeed.
And, in fact, we haven't succeeded yet, so it is like a bachelor talking about marriage!

We are trying various approaches, along with a few that are unique to this new resurgent wave called Web 2.0.

There is this old hag about building better mousetraps. The original line was "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door". Then, things changed, and search-positioning became important. So, you need to not just build a better mousetrap, but also tell the world about it..

Now, things have changed again, and the whole question is about user-empowerment.

We all know now that there is no one expert who knows-it-all and the world waiting to learn from her. So, no online business should think of itself as a knowledge creator. It must look at itself as a knowledge-sharing platform, a place that empowers users to do wonderful stuff. To use the mousetrap analogy, the key now is to teach people how to build great mousetraps!

At Jambav, we translate that vision to our games and tools, and try to build interactives that our parents can use to create games for their wards.

14. What is your take on increasing number of startups in India?

Bubbles burst only when overblown. I am very happy about the number of startups happening in India, and happier still because we seem to have learnt our lessons about what not to do, when the bubble burst at the turn of the century.

15. Do you have any personal advice/suggestions for current/future entrepreneurs?

Think Big, Start Small, Adapt to Change, Customer is King, Go Local, etc etc etc.
Almost all advice that was ever needed has already been given, from the Vedic Scriptures to yesterday's post in Seth Godin's blog. The more important task is to customize such generic advice to the current need of the time. If one can succeed in that, everything else will fall in place automatically.

16. On a personal front, who is your role model? Also, do you follow any other websites religiously?

There is so much good in the worst of them, so much bad in the best of them, so I don't really have a single role model.

I however like Bill Gates' vision, Google's Simplicity, Mahatma Gandhi's strategy, The Crocodile Hunter's enthusiasm, Richard Bach's love prose, My mom's food, My dad's love, My wife's practical earthiness. Too many to try and emulate. Good enough to watch and learn.

While I follow a lot of websites (I use my company's own 24x7 site watcher to keep track!), I particularly keenly observe what the likes of Disney, Pogo, Cartoon Network, Neopets, PBSKids and other such 'for-kids' websites.

17. How did Jambav affect your lifestyle? Do you get enough time for yourself/family?

Jambav IS my lifestyle!
Luckily for me, playing games and evaluating ideas is 'official' business! Oh, how people envy me for that!
Interestingly, my son is also a primary beta tester for games and tools at Jambav, and he minces no words when critiquing it.
My wife works in the same company as I do, managing another product from AdventNet. So, we are one big happy family, and we spend a lot of time together. :-)

18. Our final question, One thing that you love the most?

There is this quote that goes "People who say that it can't be done should not interrupt those of us who are doing it!" - I have always wondered what it would be like to be the person "doing it". And, at Jambav, I am getting a chance, every day. That's what I love the most.

19. What is the question you would like to answer and still nobody asked you?

"What if they found a cure for autism and children no longer got that debilitating condition?" - I wish they find one soon. It is not something that I would want even my worst enemy to live with. Jambav is not just about autism, nor even just about special needs. We want to evolve Jambav into an alternative educational system, a practical relevant approach to systematically impart living skills and knowledge to kids, in a graded and fun manner, that any child at any level of readiness can slip in and grow with.

We're already in love with these people at Jambav. Aren't you?

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