Deepti Sharma is no stranger to the education industry. After she got married soon after graduating in law from Pune University, she started working as the head of the production department at a publishing company run by her in-laws, and very quickly fell in love with entertaining young minds through books.
When the publishing unit had to close, the family ventured into formal education, and Deepti became the founding member of the Lexicon Group of Schools in 2006.
Fourteen years later, Deepti took the entrepreneurial plunge once again during the pandemic. While teaching science to her daughter in Class 8, Deepti says that although her daughter understood the concepts, she could never wrap her head around its applications in real-life situations and products.
“She is a smart and intelligent girl, but I thought like her, there might be many who are curious and have similar doubts on how they are supposed to use the things they learn. That is how I started thinking of the platform,” she tells HerStory.
Through an acquaintance, Deepti found a common interest in Saurabh Tiwari who was then working as an electrical engineer, and the duo then started an edtech platform that gives young children the freedom to apply classroom learning.
Founded in 2020, ThinkerPlace now offers STEM-based educational DIY toys to enable end-to-end learning for children aged between six to 13 years and older.
Early STEM education
Based in Pune,offers experience-based learning to develop goal-oriented futuristic skills. The goal, Deepti says, is to eradicate the traditional method of teaching and learning in India.
With a focus on concepts such as robotics, coding, and automation, the startup’s Do-it-Yourself (DIY) kits include a smart hand sanitiser, line following robot, solar fan, water indicator for plants, along with a few patented products as well.
Priced between Rs 1500 to Rs 7,000 for subscription boxes, the products were commercially launched in August 2021, and are available on marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, and FirstCry, in addition to its own website. It has fulfilled more than 2,000 orders so far.
Operating on a dual model of B2B and B2C, ThinkerPlace has developed a network of partner schools in Chennai, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh to set up STEM labs as mandated by the National Education Policy(NEP) 2020.
The platform also provides free access to ThinkerPlace’s Online Learning Management System (LMS) which includes all the instructional videos and manuals for their smart education toy.
“We provide our customers with unique 3D models and explanations on how to make their smart toy. Moreover, unlike our competitors, we give combination packages on products with the same learning,” she adds.
It is now focussed on research and development to launch more products in the coming months. ThinkerPlace also plans on expanding to international markets.
Aware of the skewed gender ratio in STEM fields, Deepti says the startup ran a campaign stating STEM is for everyone.
“People believe that anything to do with engineering or robots is for boys and so we emphasise on the message that girls can pursue them as well and slowly, the trend is definitely getting reversed,” she remarks.
Tapping the edtech boom
The coronavirus-induced lockdown disrupted the education sector in an unprecedented way, with organisations coming up with various initiatives and products to enable learning from home. Valued at $2.8 billion in 2020, it is expected to reach $10.4 billion by 2025, according to Statista.
ThinkerPlace is tapping the market with a team of 15 members and competing with peers like Smartivity, Robobloq, and MakeBlock in experience-based learning.
Started with an initial investment of Rs 2 crore, ThinkerPlace is a self-funded venture under the Lexicon Group of Companies.
In the future, Deepti aims to become a household name that’s synonymous with practical concept-based learning and be the go-to platform for STEM-based learning.