Meet the SHEROES - Parita Parekh
Tell us about yourself (education, career and fun facts you’d like to mention)
I was brought up in Ahmedabad in a family of educationists and industrialists. As a child I was always a straight A student and an accomplished swimmer. I spent most of my childhood in water representing India in various swimming championships. I held the record of being India’s youngest international swimmer and have won several medals both nationally and internationally. I graduated from Brown University, an Ivy League college in the US. My academic journey focussed on education policy and pedagogy but my favourite classes were Literature for Young Adults and Iranian Film Studies. At Brown I did extensive research in anthropology, political science, history and religious studies and was an integral part of the Brown International Organization and the Brown International Scholarship Committee.
I was a Founding Member of the Citizens for Accountable Governance and played an important role in Mr. Modi’s Prime Ministerial Campaign. During the campaign trail, I travelled to the remotest parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa and gained perspective on how India thinks. Post that, I have been working as the Director of New Initiatives at Ahmedabad International School, wherein I am responsible for implementing several innovative programs for hands-on learning, art, storytelling, learning through theatre and theory of knowledge clubs. This experience has helped me a lot in Wonderboxx as well. I also co-founded Wonderboxx, a hand-on-learning tool kit for children where I lead product development.
What is it that led you to start-up WonderBoxx?
Since my family members are mainly educationists and entrepreneurs, it seemed only natural that I too would want to do something individualistic and impactful in its own right. As a child I was very curious and active and harnessing that curiosity has helped me in all aspects of life. I think all children are inherently curious and so I wanted to create something that sparks that curiosity. This is what led to Wonderboxx. Research proves that active play is at the core of innovation and creativity. Children today are overly exposed to technology, as opposed to our generation their process of self-discovery is not as innovative and fun as ours was. With WonderBoxx, we are attempting to change that.
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How is Wonderboxx helping in breaking stereotypes around learning? How do you see it growing?
Having worked closely with children for many years, I understand what appeals to them as an instinctive fun tool and at the same time aids their learning. I believe all children are creative, curious, natural inquirers, artists, scientists and innovators so the team collectively aims to help these children in their discovery process. While technology is a great enabler it can be detrimental to a child’s development. We have noticed how common it is to see a 2-year old glued to smartphones and tablets. Every single component in each of our boxes is crafted keeping the child’s cognitive development in mind. We have a panel of experts ranging from educationalists, child psychologists, illustrators and designers who make sure that every product our customer receives is unique and fun. As far as toys and games are concerned, there is a gender dichotomy out there, the perception is that certain games are meant only for girls or boys. At Wonderboxx we create gender neutral toys that are equally fun for both. We have received a great response over the first 2 months and feedback from consumers has been positive and encouraging. Our endeavour now is to expand our consumer base and position WonderBoxx as a market leader in this segment. Also we’re in talks with investors and will be closing our first round of investment this month. We would like to take WonderBoxx to other countries.
What challenges do you face in your everyday work, how do you overcome these?
Once the idea for Wonderboxx was born just sharing our vision with others was a challenge - leaving a lucrative job, building plans, and hiring a team that shared our vision. But now when I see how excited children are when they play with our products and how its changing the way they think, I feel like it was all worth it. We’ve been lucky to have found like-minded people who believe in Wonderboxx as much as we do and people who share our vision. I think every job no matter how big or small comes with its own set of challenges, entrepreneurship is no exception.
You were a part of the PM Narendra Modi’s election campaign, what role did you play there and how has it helped you in your career?
I have always been interested in politics and people so being a part PM Modi’s election campaign was exciting and also eye opening. During the campaign, I was involved in conceptualization as well as execution of several high impact initiatives such as Chai Pe Charcha, 3D rallies, Run For Unity etc. I think the biggest learning from the campaign for me was how to execute things at scale. It is one of the most important skills required to build and grow a business.
If given a chance to choose between swimming as a career or starting-up, what would you choose and why?
This is a very difficult question. I really cannot choose between the two options you have mentioned here.
I started swimming when I was 3 years old and by the age of 11, I had started winning medals at national level competitions. I represented India at 4 FINA World Championships, Afro-Asian Games and 2 South Asian Games. I have 5 international medals, more than a 100 national and state level medals and also hold more than 50 national and state level records.I had to stop swimming about 6 years back because of a ligament injury but many of these records are still intact. Because of my achievements and the unfortunate circumstances because of which I had to quit, swimming will always hold a special place in my heart.
Passion for creating things is something that I have inherited from my family and I absolutely love doing it. It is a special kind of joy that you feel when you see a child enjoying and learning at the same time with something that you have created.
What advice would you to someone looking to grow in Product Development? What are the kind of skills a person requires in this role?
At Wonderboxx I look after product development and innovation. As a product developer you need to constantly learn and innovate. Creativity plays a major role when it comes to building a product. At Wonderboxx we come up with unique ideas month after month so as to not be repetitive. For us, superlative quality is the biggest factor in building a good product. Product Development is about learning continuously and actively engaging with your customers to understand how you can improve yourself. It definitely helps to be observant, attention to detail can make all the difference and lastly, like any profile, it requires a lot of dedication.