Skola: This couple is taking a toy manufacturing family business international with Shopify Gold

How It All Started

Twenty five years ago, Mridula’s mother started Kido, a company that manufactured and produced wooden toys for kids in Montessori schools in Bangalore. Business was brisk, and by the year 2000, Mridula, an MBA, joined her mother’s business. The mother-daughter duo soon found themselves moving into a 2,000 sq. ft factory space of their own in order to expand business, but were aghast when 3 months later, a fire burned down the entire factory -including all its materials and inventory.

However, not all was lost with the fire- the Montessori community that Kido had been selling to came to their rescue by giving them enough orders to slowly bring their business back on track. By early 2000, the Montessori community in Bangalore was growing rapidly, and Kido began to ride this wave, growing fast along with this surge. Between 2007 and 2009, Kido managed to grow into two new factory spaces of its own, each measuring 15,000 sq ft. Eventually, Montessori started to dip in its growth owing to the difference in teaching methods adopted by private and corporate schools in India.

Although by then Kido was supplying learning toys to other preschools like EuroKids, Kidzee and Bachpan, amongst others, Mirdula saw a huge gap in the preschool learning industry as she was a still a firm believer in Montessori’s teaching methodology. Most franchise schools just concentrate on writing, craft activities, singing and dancing. Besides, existing frameworks demanded syllabus-driven, theoretical approaches towards learning. Montessori, however, focussed on a more practical approach towards how a child should learn. Also, since the child is at his/her best learning ability between the age of 2-6 yrs, when given the right exposure and the right tools for self learning, any child can prosper.

Mridula soon found herself helping her customers setup preschools of their own across India, by training their teachers and establishing learning processes and curriculums. By this time, Mridula’s husband, Mani, also an MBA, left his corporate job and joined Mridula in her business endeavors. Inasmuch as one year, they helped set up about 50 preschools across India. This led to the birth of Kreedo, their own turnkey solution for preschools, to help set them up and get started. Today, Kreedo has helped more than a thousand schools in numerous ways.

The Birth Of Skola Toys

Skola was started in April 2016, as a result of both Mani and Mridula’s experience in the preschool learning and toy manufacturing space. They both knew that there weren’t enough good toys in the market and that they had to solve the pain point of parents too, not just preschools. With Skola Toys, Mani and Mridula marked their entry into the B2C space.

Skola is a venture that helps put in a practical approach to learning for the child with toys that the child can use to discover new concepts through journeys. According to Mridula, learning happens through a step-by-step process, but not enough thought goes into addressing this practically for the child.

With Skola Toys, children can gain a practical, step-by-step understanding of different concepts ranging from colours, writing, the number system and more. Each Skola toy is crafted to help the child practically understand the concept at hand through a unique journey. Since learning is a sequential process, Skola helps parents understand that children will find it easier, and more interesting to learn if provided single purpose toys that help foster concepts during the learning journey. Children also gravitate towards solid, natural products as compared to plastic or cardboard, something which Skola strictly addresses. All Skola toys are made of wood or texturally heavy natural materials like jute or coir.

Tackling B2C With Shopify

Instead of going out and being a company that sells wooden toys, Skola were clear that they wanted to help parents understand how toys need to be purchased. So instead of an e-commerce website that just stocked toys that had to be sold, Skola created sequences and journeys that educate parents about the learning journey the child is going to go through.

Although they had an informational Wordpress website, the transition to an e-commerce store was a big jump for them. Mani knew that the robustness of Shopify and its flexibility were clear winners over open platforms like Magento or VMware. In May 2017, they approached a web design agency in Mumbai to get their design and development implemented. However, the design agency couldn’t bridge the development gap and Mani faced a delayed launch for their website.

When they approached Shopify for help, they learnt that Shopify Gold would be perfect for their requirements and moved to the Gold platform immediately. Their Shopify Gold Account manager then introduced them to one of our Shopify experts, Kloc Tech. Kloc not only helped develop and get the site live as promised, but also gave tremendous number of inputs on user experience and helped shape the current design of the site. Now that Skola is immensely happy with the solution offered by them, Kloc is also helping them to integrate their internal ERP to manage inventory.

After moving to Shopify Gold, Skola has seen the following results:

  • 325% increase in sales in Q4 2017
  • Rebranded their website to show ‘learning journeys’ for kids of different age groups

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The Shopify App Store

Mani uses a plethora of apps from the Shopify App Store.

Reviews have been very crucial to their success online and act as social proof that parents who buy these toys really see the value in them. He discusses the role of Social Shop Wave to enable reviews and add to wishlist on their product pages.

“I’m very worried about what I put up on the website, but with Shopify’s App Store I don’t have to worry about what app I’m putting out there because I know you guys have tested it and that it works well.”

Manikandan, Co-founder, Skola Toys

Since they have a lot of repeat orders from customers, Mani also implemented the Beans Loyalty & Rewards App. The app allows Skola to reward customers whenever they make a purchase, share a review or refer a fellow parent.

What’s next?

Skola is looking to go international now, with an aggressive push towards getting all the logistics done along with the backend work that needs to get done. The US market is definitely a market that they are looking to launch in, and they are already exploring dealers and distributors to help them with the same.

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