Friday, September 20, 2013

Keep your kids safe online, with Gungroo's help.

Does your child have a Facebook profile? 

Does your kid browse the internet for education or entertainment? 

Is your child more comfortable than you with your smartphone?

Do you worry that your kid’s safety may be compromised by their innocent interactions online? 

Internet and social media platforms have become entwined with our daily lives. It’s not possible to keep kids away from them. It’s also not advisable to let kids make mistakes and learn. Because, some mistakes might prove deadly. We never know who all are lurking on the internet, behind fake names and profiles, collecting sensitive information and befriending naive kids.

There are a lot of guides and resources for kids’ online safety, and some parents go as far as to curtail all internet access to kids. But seriously, can we stop today’s generation from accessing internet and social media profiles? 

So, what’s the solution? 

It’s like crossing a road. We want the kids to know the rules, and how things work, and stay careful. We try and teach them how to be safe, holding their hands till they learn safe behavior. The same thing applies for your kids' online activities. Internet is a powerful tool, that needs to be handled carefully. Who we befriend, share information with, and what we make public on our social profiles can have various consequences. Till the child is mature enough to understand and manage these things by themselves, a parent should ideally guide them along. 

Gungroo, a Bangalore based startup, has turned this need into their business, helping parents keep their kids safe on the internet, with their apps and educative tools.

Dinker Charak, Founder, Interview on ScriptShaala
Dinker Charak
Here’s an interview with Dinker Charak, founder of Gungroo, where he speaks at length about what inspired him to start Gungroo, and how Gungroo’s tools and apps can bring peace of mind to parents.

1. What was your inspiration for the idea behind Gungroo? 

As my niece was growing up, my brother (who is a non-techie) bought a top-of-the-line PC and got broadband to help her be ready for a digital world. But beyond buying up the stuff, he was a bit clueless on what next. He and he friends often used to ask me on what their kids could do online, about safety and about oversight. Somewhere in those interactions, the idea for Gungroo was formed.

2. How does Gungroo make the web safer for kids? 

Safety is not a setting or a configuration and nor does the web come with a ‘Safe’ button. Kids do not go out looking for trouble most of the time. If the content they seek is presented in a simple and safe manner, they will not go roaming on web. Blocking away kids won’t work either. They will always find a way to reach the content they want to consume. 
Gungroo is working on bringing relevant and required content to the kids and become the first site a kid goes to when they come online. This includes games, parent-sourced videos, contests, art apps and safe messaging. 

3. What are Gungroo's tools for parents? 

We have a safe messaging webapp called Roo. This allows parents to create a private social network where the parents get to control who the kids are talking to – just like in real life where parents keep a close look at who they child mingles with. We are now working on a slate and mobile versions of Roo. 

Early teens hop onto Facebook as soon as they are allowed. One tool we have developed for parents is called Let-Teens-Be ( Parents get a dashboard overview of what's publicly visible on their teen's profile and who their friends are. This allows busy parents a quick overview of activity without having to go though their entire times lines and inspect their activities. Teens can be quite active.

4. What is the cost of using your tools? 

All our services are free. But, we are trying a new approach with Let-Teen-Be. The first teen you want to monitor is free to add. Unlimited access costs $1 or if a parent doesn’t feel like paying, they could get 4 other parents to use the application and get full access. 

5. Does Gungroo offer anything for the kids? 

Kids are the primary audience for Gungroo. Our interface and content are geared for kids. Along with usual content like games and videos, we offer art apps and regular contents ( Kids are enjoying our contests as they are based on creative activities. 

6. You have reached a stage where you are looking at acquiring other startups. Tell us more about it. What kind of startups are you looking to acquire, and what are the expected outcomes? 

Let us face it: the market serving kids is complex and difficult to navigate in. On top of that, our users are kids but the ones who can pay are parents. Other than the school curriculum, everything else in a kid’s life changes very fast. 

The engine of growth in such a fragmented scenario cannot be competition but collaboration. We are looking to acquire or to partner with other start-ups who are serving the same market but may not have the same staying power as Gungroo.

We want to bring in learnings from other start-ups and reach out to a bigger audience with more content. 

7. What are the biggest challenges that you have faced / are facing in your startup? 

Compared to other markets, the collaboration among start-ups serving children is low. There is very little exchange of ideas and learnings. We need something like 500 Startups’ Mamabear Family Tech ( in India. 

A few of us have started addressing this by creating social networking groups to bring founders of such start-ups together. There is a LinkedIn group and a Facebook group. I invite other founders to join in and benefit from the experiences of other founders. 

8. What would you like to share or communicate with other entrepreneurs who are offering services or products for kids? 

Collaborate and partner! The market is too fragmented to try to go at it all alone. 

9. Do you think technology can help overcome the perils created by technology? 

All human endeavors have created both opportunity and threat. Definitely, technology will help us overcome perils. Not just ones it created, but also ones that existed before web was there. 

10. What should kids know about the internet and its perils? 

The rules of real life apply on internet too. Be careful when you interact with strangers, never out yourself in situations where your parents cannot keep an eye on you, and at the slightest hint of something that makes you uncomfortable, immediately share with your parents or any elder in family.