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Making Desi Culture Fun For Kids

Sep/24/2023 / by Melanie Fourie

Akruti Babaria’s company creates accessible South Asian cultural products for children

South Asian woman with dark hair wearing a blue shirt
Akruti Babaria. Photo credit: Brenda Feldstein

In 2018, Kulture Khazana LLC was established with the aspirations of Indian immigrant Akruti Babaria, a dedicated mompreneur. Her mission was clear: to introduce Indian cultural narratives into children’s lives through a range of attainable educational wares and play activities. Today, their products have reached schools, homes, and libraries globally, bridging a gap in the market for South Asian cultural products for kids. Kulture Khazana is also the first American business of its kind to concentrate on South Asian culture.

In an interview with SEEMA, Babaria discusses her early years as an immigrant, her company, and life. 

You immigrated from India to the United States when you were 16 years old. How was that transition, and what were some of the challenges you experienced and overcame? 

Moving to the U.S. at the age of 16 was one of the hardest experiences. I didn’t fit in at school, couldn’t make friends easily, had culture shock, and didn’t belong anywhere. During this difficult transition, culture and dance gave me the roots and wings to integrate.

I found a community at the local temple, where I started teaching dance to kids, going back to the art of storytelling and connecting through cultural stories.

What motivated you to create a platform for sharing Indian cultural stories with children?

I founded Kulture Khazana after experiencing a lack of cultural resources to pass on my heritage to my first child, Ayaan. The store shelves and online offerings did not reflect my home and Indian heritage. I made it my purpose to create resources that represented my culture in a way that is fun, authentic, accessible, and shareable.

What challenges did you face in the early stages of launching Kulture Khazana, and how did you overcome them?

Since there was no blueprint for what I was doing, there was a lot of learning on the job. The biggest challenge in the early days was building a network and community. I’m thankful for social media and community organizations, which provided great platforms to meet fellow entrepreneurs and people passionate about similar missions. 

Kulture Khazana offers a diverse range of products, from books and toys to online story albums. Could you tell us about the thought process behind curating this collection?

Our goal is to make authentic cultural stories fun and normalize the sharing of these with kids everywhere. Everything we create is based on four principles:

Fun: It has to be fun for kids.

Authentic: It has to reflect authentic culture and stories. 

Accessible: It has to be easy to understand and at an achievable price point. 

Shareable: It has to be what families and kids can share with each other regardless of their cultural background.

How do you ensure that the educational and play activities provided by Kulture Khazana are both engaging and informative for children?

All our toys, puzzles, and craft kits are created with our four main principles in mind. To include cultural education, all our products have materials that help families learn about the origins of the artwork, their significance, and the desi holidays they are associated with. This way, children can learn while playing and having fun.

Given the global reach of your products, can you share some of the most heartwarming or surprising stories from customers who have benefited from Kulture Khazana’s offerings?

A mom once sent me a message about her son. He earlier just wanted to celebrate Christmas and did not want to associate with Diwali or any of his family’s cultural holidays. But one day he told his mom that Diwali was his favorite holiday. They had done a Kulture Khazana rangoli puzzle together, invited friends to paint rangoli coasters, and made DIY garlands (torans). It’s making these real-life impacts in the lives of children and helping them feel more confident in their identity that drives me.

In addition to serving parents, how do you work with schools and libraries to promote Indian culture and heritage among children?

In the last couple of years, we have worked with more schools to create classroom kits, help with professional development workshops to assist educators in including cultural holidays in classrooms, and provide resources to share Diwali and Holi in classrooms. We launched our free online musical story album, Treasure Tales, to share cultural stories worldwide. In the future, we will be working on creating more resources to share cultural holidays with educators and libraries across the US.

As a mompreneur, what advice do you have for other parents who aspire to start their own businesses while juggling family responsibilities?

We can have it all, just not at the same time. Our priorities may differ on a day-to-day or even hourly basis, but it is possible for us to have a fulfilling life at home and follow our passion. Something that has helped me in my journey of growing my family and my business at the same time is understanding that there is no such thing as balance. Each day is different, so embrace it.

Are there any new Kulture Khazana initiatives or products on the horizon?

We are exhibiting at the International Toy Fair in NYC at the end of September, where we will launch two new products for the fall, just in time for the festival season. They are the Make Your Own Rangoli Mandala Sand Art Kit and Rangoli Mandala Scratch Art Lantern Kit. 

What message or impact do you hope Kulture Khazana leaves on the next generation of children who engage with your products?

A sense of belonging, a sense of confidence in their identity, and a sense of empathy.

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