This Start-up Is Making Screen Time More Productive For Children

Bengaluru-based PlayShifu is reimagining toys through the fusion of physical and digital worlds of games

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Technological advancements come with own pros and cons. While increased use of computers, smartphones and Internet made communication and work easier, it has also increased screen time of users thereby causing health troubles. The impact of increased screen time is visible especially among the Gen Z who has got access to technology since birth.


According to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, children’s average time spent on various screens across computers and mobiles increased from 53 minutes at age 12 months to more than 150 minutes at three years. In a bid to solve the issue of increasing screen time among children, Vivek Goyal and Dinesh Advani launched PlayShifu in 2016. The Bengaluru-based start-up reimagines toys through the fusion of the physical and digital worlds of games. It offers learning tools for children aged 4-12 years using a combination of physical interactions and digital content.

Story Behind PlayShifu’s Launch

Speaking with Entrepreneur India, co-founder and CEO, Goyal said he and Advani were batchmates at IIT-Kharagpur. Both of them were working at P&G following which Advani went on to lead operations with India’s leading logistics company, while Goyal completed his business degree at Stanford Graduate School of Business and led product teams at the Silicon Valley. 

The batchmates once again came together in 2016, now both as parents. They realized that safeguarding their children from increased screen time was almost next to impossible. “With our children in the foundational years of learning (3-6 years old), we explored the thought of finding a solution to introduce tech to our children. We identified augmented reality would be the ideal platform to build a way to merge physical and digital play experiences and at the same time build essential skills in early childhood. Thus we founded PlayShifu,” said Goyal.

Making Screen Time Productive For Children

PlayShifu products are created for children aged 2-12 years to teach them about the physical world using AR. “The key concern around screen time among parents is the lack of body and brain exercises for their children. Keeping that in mind, PlayShifu experiences are designed to stimulate a child’s mind with age-adaptive challenges and encourage tactile play with game pieces outside of taps on a device,” Goyal explained.

PlayShifu offers three AR gaming and educational platforms:

• Shifu Orboot: Using this, children get to learn about planets to discover about different people, places, cultures and more.

• Shifu Plugo: This AR-powered gaming system helps children to build their STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) skills.

• Shifu Tacto: This gaming platform can transform any tablet into an interactive board game.

Growth and Future Plans

PlayShifu had raised $7 million in July 2019 in Series A round led by Chiratae (formerly IDG Ventures India), Inventus Capital and Bharat Innovation Fund (BIF). Existing investor IDFC-Parampara Fund also participated in the round. Prior to this, the start-up also launched its second flagship platform, Shifu Plugo in April 2019.

According to Goyal, the company also expanded its presence from 20 to 100 modern retail stores in 12 months and also engages 350,000 children in its user base. Goyal also claimed that PlayShifu recorded a 60 per cent jump in its user base from tier II and III cities. The start-up also joined hands with more than 600 schools in India, the US, the UK, Canada and Japan.

While Goyal did not reveal any plans for funding this year, he said that PlayShifu is aiming to expand its retail presence from 15 countries to more than 30 countries in 2020. Apart from this PlayShifu will also launch its new product Tacto this year.  According to Goyal’s prediction, the company will hit profitability in less than a year.