Mumbai: Dub your videos and drum them up. While this may be the simple philosophy of three-month-old start-up Dubroo, at its core is a powerful concept that has the potential to change how people learn. And it is not just targeted at education in India; its classroom is the entire world.

The crowdsourced platform on the Internet, still in its beta stage after its launch in August, allows anyone anywhere in the world to load an educational video, which someone else anywhere in the world can dub in any language.

Effectively, this makes international videos available in local languages. The involvement of the start-up’s founders is restricted to quality control of the videos that come up for dubbing and to improve the platform as well as to push the concept to the next level.

“Our prime focus is to accelerate content creation in various languages… we can’t recreate content; the easier way is to take the best available content and to dub it," says 26-year-old Nikhil Kulkarni, a mechanical engineer whose day job is at the Nuclear Power Corp. as a stress analyst.

“So, when the next billion people go online, hopefully we will be a part of them and be ready with the content that will be needed by them," Kulkarni says, claiming that about 3,000 people visit the site every month.

The website has about 50 videos on topics ranging from gender sensitivity to vedic maths to nursery lessons in English, French, Italian, Hindi, Telugu and Kannada. The videos are amateur recordings, animations and graphics, all designed for academic or social learning.

Nikhil Kulkarni.
Nikhil Kulkarni.

They carry some local flavour, but are largely transportable to any location and culture. An agreement with Zaya Learning Labs takes the content to viewers. Dubroo has delivered about 20 videos to Khan Academy, which will be put up on Zaya boxes for students to learn.

A record button and a basic, user-friendly layout facilitate easy uploads of videos and dubbing. Typically, educated online people dub the videos, and on the other side, the receivers are generally rural people, especially students, as per the concept.

“Dubroo is an Indian solution to the world divided due to languages," the company describes itself on the website of Manthan Award for South Asia and Asia Pacific where Dubroo was one among several competitors vying for recognition.

Hosted on Google App Engine, Dubroo uses the web application WebRTC technology (RTC stands for real-time communication) that enables people to talk to the browser and record their voices.

Kulkarni recalls the time of its inception when he toyed with dubbing simply for laughs along with his cousins Kiran Patil, 25, and Kishore Patil, 24, who are the co-founders of Dubroo.

“Originally, we had this fun idea that if we put our voice on a video, it could turn out funny," Kulkarni recalls. “This way, we could take any video and create our own dubbed versions and spoofs."

However, the eureka moment came when they heard Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s speech in India where he stressed the importance of vernacular content. The cousins realized that their idea could help others and so Dubroo was born to eliminate the language barrier in learning.

It took an even more serious turn when Kiran Patil, the main brain behind the start-up, gave up his job with Senseforth Technologies, which was also a start-up for computational linguistics, to dedicate quality time to shape up Dubroo.

Because it was a mammoth task to create a bank of videos in many languages, the cousins decided it should be opened up to everybody. It would be easily crowdsourced because educated Indians know English and in addition, one or two other Indian languages.

“If this idea rings a bell with people, it would be good. Money is not the only factor. It will help because research shows that bilingual education is better," says Kulkarni, who hooks up online with his cousins every evening as they live in Bengaluru and he, in Navi Mumbai.

Last Wednesday, Dubroo won the Manthan Award in the e-localization category, which would mean a better exposure in the world of start-ups and the hope for more funds.

This isn’t the first time Kulkarni has invented a useful concept. Some time ago, he invented LEBTOP (Learn English By Talking On Phone) to help students who were not so confident about their English-speaking ability. LEBTOP, which worked on a toll-free number for which Kulkarni had to pay, won the World Summit Youth Award in Montreal, Canada, but could not be sustained because low-cost, Internet-based solutions for such toll-free operations are not legal in India.

So, the cousins now apply their minds to make the Dubroo model financially sustainable. So far, Dubroo has cost under 1 lakh, all self-funded. Web hosting cost 10,000 and 80,000 was spent when Kiran Patil left his job and had to buy a laptop.

While they haven’t approached any venture capital firms or angel investors, they have been participating in competitions for start-ups for recognition and funds. More than that, it helps them meet like-minded people.

Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the Manthan and mBillionth awards.

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