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Encouraging Interactive Learning through Sesame Workshop India’s ‘Chalo! Sesame Street’

In February 2024, Sesame Workshop India (SWI) launched the Chalo! Sesame Street application, a video-based and gamified assessment product for FLN grade children. The application is aligned with the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) and NIPUN Bharat Mission goals, with the aim of bridging learning gaps and making entertaining learning content accessible for low-income students.

Central Square Foundation has strategically partnered with Sesame Workshop India —a non-profit organisation working in the space of early childhood education and care through innovative projects across India, with children at the centre of their work. As one of the EdTech partners of the LiftEd EdTech Accelerator, Sesame Workshop India has journeyed to transform passive learning to active and participatory learning via the Chalo! Sesame Street application. As a free product available on the Google Play Store, Sesame Workshop India is working to distribute the application to users directly, as well as through institutional channels.

We caught up with Sonali Khan, Managing Director of Sesame Workshop India, who talks about key experiences and learnings, right from product visualisation to the process of running an EdTech at-home learning programme. She shares with us the vision for Sesame Workshop India, as they venture into the EdTech space and continue to grow their portfolio of work.

Sonali Khan
Managing Director, Sesame Workshop India

Q1. Sesame Workshop India has undertaken a journey from creating highly memorable and engaging content for children, to leveraging that content to build a wraparound application for student learning. Could you elaborate on this journey and the motivation behind it?

Sesame Workshop India has always been committed to creating content that is not only entertaining but also educational and impactful for children. In part, our journey from television and content, to a wraparound learning application was driven by the recognition that today’s learners have evolving needs and have access to many kinds of technology. Children today are growing up in a world with ever present screens and devices and we see that as an opportunity to make our content available to them in formats that they are increasingly engaging with. 

Back in 2020, Sesame Workshop India pivoted to YouTube to engage children and families. The content on the Hindi and Telugu channels provided an opportunity to drive co-viewership between children and parents together. Multiple series, such as WATCH, PLAY, LEARN, Elmo’s Wonderful World, the DIY Imagine-and-Make series, Abby’s Amazing Adventures and other important series including I Heart Elmo and Chamki’s Best Friends, are aligned with the National Curriculum Framework goals. With a rich content library on the channel, the appeal for children was driven by Sesame Muppets such as Elmo, Chamki, Basma and Jad, among others.  

With the aim of creating impactful learning journeys for children, Sesame Workshop India is building a holistic learning ecosystem, both in the classroom and at-home, by adding digital learning, where children can learn at their own pace through interactive and immersive experiences. It has been an exciting journey to bring together a robust educational curriculum, combined with play pedagogy and the beloved Sesame Street Muppets on digital platforms in India. 

Q2: What are some of the opportunities and challenges Sesame Workshop has encountered in the process of entering the EdTech domain? 

Entering the EdTech domain has been an opportunity that Sesame Workshop India has leaned into, given our strong media presence in India and impressive traction on YouTube, reaching over 240 crore viewers engaging for over 45 lakh hours, since 2020. With the continuous increase in device access post pandemic, and demand for engaging learning tools, SWI has ventured into creating a digital learning journey in the form of a progressive learning solution — the Chalo! Sesame Street application. This journey saw through challenges and a steep learning curve, but it only encourages us to aim higher. We are highly driven to reach wider audiences with our new learning application, especially the low-income segments.  

Access to devices at the last mile has been a challenge in the past. However, in recent years, the number of people in India  who possess devices has only gone up. As this trend continues, we are energised and keen to ensure that we bring the Chalo! Sesame Street application to more and more children.

We will adopt innovative models for distribution to reach audiences through digital marketing and sectoral and government partnerships to ensure institutionalisation of the product for sustained engagement and retention with children on the application. 

Q3: How is Sesame Workshop identifying and leveraging collaborations and partnerships to distribute EdTech? 

At Sesame Workshop India, our promise is to educate children by using our proven recipe of success: the power of media, the magic of Sesame muppets, an educational curriculum that addresses children’s developmental needs, research and close collaborations. We are cognizant that partnerships are key to scaling our impact with EdTech and have worked closely with Central Square Foundation through the LiftEd Accelerator over the past year, while developing the application. To be able to distribute at the last mile, we are actively seeking partnerships with a variety of stakeholders, including institutional players like state governments. Over the past year, we have worked with the Integrated Child Development Services Department (ICDS Department), Government of Uttar Pradesh,  to train Anganwadi workers and provide access to the Chalo! Sesame application. As we move ahead, we will be seeking active partnerships with state governments, civil society organisations (CSOs) and other non-profits to roll out the application with more children.

Q4: As Sesame Workshop carves its space within the EdTech domain, what is the organisation’s vision and priorities for the future? 

As part of our digital strategy, Sesame’s vision for its application  is to reach, engage and impact children and families in India, enabling a learning journey with Chalo! Sesame Street. The application is designed to provide children with access to high-quality educational content and interactive assessments, aligned with the National Curriculum Framework and NIPUN Bharat goals. Our vision is to scale the application amongst Tier 2 and 3 cities which have the addressable market size of 9.7 crore children for the Chalo! Sesame Street application. Our plans for scaling up involve distribution via B2C (digital marketing) efforts, as well as B2I (business-to-institutions) partnerships with governments, private and non-profit institutions. 

For us, Chalo! Sesame Street will be a go-to platform that we build to be replicated globally as we articulate potential market entry strategies. In the future, Sesame also plans to invest in enhanced and premium models for the application, making Chalo! Sesame Street a one-stop learning platform with their furry friends Chamki, Elmo, Abby, Basma, and Jad, with prioritised content and features such as English language learning, gamified learning, and exciting new thematic areas and content for children and families.

Sesame Workshop India is a part of the LiftEd EdTech Accelerator portfolio. The Accelerator is supported by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Reliance Foundation, UBS Optimus Foundation, and USAID as Founding Partners, the British Asian Trust as the Programme Leader, and Central Square Foundation as the Design and Technical Partner. Learn more here.

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