Dr. Meeta Gupta: Bringing Back Joy Into Playing
Welcome to our section where we bring you stories of and conversations with inspirational women who’ve changed lives and given back to the community. Today, we have with us Dr. Meeta Gupta, Founder of Shumee Toys, and alumna of Harvard University and IIT Delhi. After working in the computer architecture and systems space with IBM TJ Watson for over 6 years, she ventured into building her startup Shumee, where she is making playtime for children development-friendly, safe and sustainable. She talks to us about motherhood, bringing back the joy of play and following her passion.
Watch the full discussion below or listen to the podcast here
A few snippets from the discussion here
Adarsh: Hello Meeta. Welcome to FS Changemakers. Tell us how you started a toy company after being in technical fields.
Meeta: Thank you for having me, Adarsh. Stepping into a completely unknown domain was surely a big change. But what led to this change was my own journey as a young mother to two boys, when I moved back home from the USA in 2012. I observed the lack of natural, safe, sustainable toys in the Indian market which encouraged play and discovery in kids. Toys which were available here were either expensive or plastic ones with bells and whistles, unlike the options in the US. My own experiences as a mom prompted me to conceptualise a brand made in India, for India which focused on play and development in the early childhood years.
Adarsh: Fantastic! So, Shumee makes simple and engaging toys. Can you elaborate on that?
Meeta: I believe that play is “90% child, 10% toy”. Playing comes naturally to children and doesn’t necessarily have to be complex. A child can learn many things from a simple act of hitting something on a desk—cause and effect, problem-solving, critical thinking, relationship building, etc. We believe in giving the child the power to explore and drive the play & learning through minimal yet effective toys, which also help in their visual, sensory, and holistic development. You also open their ability to learn creatively and question the world.
Adarsh: What has been the most exciting part about being an entrepreneur?
Meeta: When I launch a product and see the customer response, and it is what I had hoped it would be—that gives me immense joy and fulfilment. Now, we have a direct touch with our customers and know how best to help them.
Adarsh: When you started, how did you manage motherhood and work?
Meeta: I started Shumee in 2014. It was a slow start because it was a new field. I wanted to make mistakes, learn from them and build the whole ecosystem. I was also working from home back then. But post that, it was a more structured set-up with a team in place. My kids were also older by then and excited about Shumee themselves. They were cooperative and even contributed to the brand, such as going to pop-up events. For a work-life balance, I try to set boundaries and block my time for my family after a certain work hour.
Adarsh: To conclude, what is one learning which has shaped your life?
Meeta: Handling multiple technical roles has shaped my life and work in many meaningful ways. Preparing for IIT and then getting into it changed the course of my life because as a kid, I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. Working towards that challenge gave a different direction to my life and I look back at it very fondly. Also, it might sound clichéd but if you want to do something, just go for it. The journey may not be what you thought it would be but it’s worth a shot. Wherever the journey takes you, you’ll end up learning something.
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