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Divya Iyer: Spreading Indian Culture and Moral Values Through Stories

Divya Iyer: Spreading Indian Culture and Moral Values Through Stories

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Divya Iyer, founder of Monki Tox.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Div! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing at Monki Tox?

Div: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Monki Tox focuses on exposing children to Indian culture and moral values through stories in English and various Indian languages to enhance their value system and improve mental health and character. Through various well-thought-out features, it reduces screen time, and advocates sound character-building, inclusiveness, and equality. This, in turn, helps to enhance brain development, art appreciation, creativity, physical activity, and bonding with nature in children.

Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?

Div: As a mom of two kids who lives away from India, I strongly want to make sure my children cherish their roots and native languages. However, the availability of child-friendly, high-quality content was a challenge. On the other hand, increasing screen time for kids is becoming another issue. Having read a lot about how high screen time is detrimental to children's development, including eyesight problems and speech delay, I started seeking screen-free options. The lack of such a solution led me to develop my own solution, and as a result, Monki Tox was born. Through this, I share the stories that I want to share with my children with children worldwide.

Spiffy: That’s inspiring! How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?

Div: Monki Tox does not just talk about equality in our stories. We try our best to practice it. When we composed a special sleep music series of musical episodes based on Indian classical music to promote sleep, a group of extraordinarily talented and virtually impaired musicians composed it for us. Most storytellers at Monki Tox are stay-at-home moms who are looking for an opportunity to spread their stories to the world. We have been able to give them the platform to find their voice.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience/community?

Div: Towards the end of 2023, we launched our freemium version. Though we have a particular set of stories for our premium users, we ensure that many language learning and general knowledge episodes are free of cost so that high-quality content remains accessible to children from all economic backgrounds. We also provide free subscriptions to many government schools and orphanages, where they use Monki Tox during their story time. Teachers teaching children from challenging economic backgrounds report that Monki Tox has helped improve the students' communication skills.

Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn’t give up. What did you learn from it?

Div: As I started college, I faced a medical issue that made it very difficult to continue my education. People around me strongly recommended that I stop my education. However, I was determined to keep fighting. I completed my education with excellent scores and won the gold medal for the best outgoing student, and this course led me to my master's degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I learned that success comes to those who dare and act. The "never give up" mantra stuck with me, and it has been helping me overcome life challenges ever since.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Div: I firmly believe that when we keep throwing good things into the universe, they will come back to us. This is a simple form of karma. I have had random children running to me and saying how much they love Monki Tox and can't sleep without listening to it. The parents tell me how the morals we share through our stories have beautifully transformed the character and value system of their children. It is heartening to see how the stories that we put our heart and soul into, positively impact the lives of thousands of children. Monki Tox also won the MIT creative startup contest in 2023, amidst stiff competition from over 40 entrants from MIT and Harvard.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Div—it’s been an honor!

Divya Iyer, a mom of two toddlers and studying for her master’s degree in engineering management at MIT, is the founder of Monki Tox. Her first speech on stage was at the age of three, and from then on, there has been no stopping. She went on to win many national and international speech and debate contests. Her passion for storytelling and Indian culture, combined with her conscious focus on wholesome development and character building in children, led to her ventureMonki Tox. (First published on the Ladderworks website on February 29, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.