Rutgers alumna integrates South Asian culture into board game
Rutgers alumna Priya Shah noticed a common problem in American board games like Taboo — immigrants whose first language is not English cannot successfully play these games.
Shah set out to find a solution to this issue by creating the company Culturally Inclined Productions.
Shah graduated in 2011 with degrees in both economics and communication. During her time at Rutgers, she was actively involved in the community as both a member of the South Asian sorority, Kappa Phi Gamma, and the Association of Indians at Rutgers.
“I attended many South Asian events because I was a part of these groups,” Shah said. “I realized that there were no games for South Asians to play, and I thought, ‘I need to make this happen.’”
After coming up with the idea for a game that would not only entertain but also educate Indians about their culture, Shah got right to work to bring her idea to life.
She named the game Desi Chaat. The word “desi” can be used to refer to anyone of Indian decent, while the word “chaat” can be used to describe a mixture of many things, she said.
“The game is a mixture of words from many different regions, foods, dance styles and customs,” Shah said.
When Shah played the game Taboo with her parents, she realized they could not successfully participate because they did not know the terminology as well as she did.
Desi Chaat has a lot in common with Taboo. It comes with a buzzer, pencil, timer and a rule guide, Shah said. The game also includes a set of 250 cards with 1,000 different words that teach players about South Asian culture.
Each card has a main word on top, and the player who is not holding a card must guess this word without using related words listed underneath the main word.
Shah said one of the hurdles in creating her product was deciding what needed to be included with the game and assembling the parts.
“I would get my buzzer from one factory and order my prototypes from China,” Shah said.
Shah took about two to three weeks to receive each prototype, and she said she would have to start the process of creating the game all over again after testing each prototype.
Because of this process and other challenges, the game took Shah two years to complete. She said it was released last month.
Shah selected the parts and created the design for the entire game, and she said she funded the project as well.
“I ordered 1,500 games and started selling them from my house,” Shah said. “My living room looks like a warehouse right now.”
Shah credits her parents with helping her build her company, but her father, Shabad Shah, said she completed the project on her own.
“The word selection and all the details of the game were done all by Priya,” he said. “It’s what she thinks that is important. She has created a communicative tool that makes you retain new words.”
In deciding which terms to include in the game, Priya Shah sat at the dinner table for hours with her parents reading them the words she had come up with, her father said. She would note how her parents would react to these words and decide which words should be included and which should not.
Shah tested each word with her parents before including it in the game, but she said she wants people of all ages to play.
She said she made sure the game could be fun for Indians of all ages, and one of her sorority sisters, Raji Raman, said Shah successfully reached this goal in their community.
“We’ve played the game at sorority events, and I’ve played it with my family,” said Raman. “It’s a very modern game, and I’ve even seen little kids play it with grandmothers.”
Raman said the game is not a struggle, and all of the words in the game are in English, so it is easy for Indians to play even if they are not extremely in touch with their culture.
With the support of Priya Shah’s sorority and the Indian community, Raman said the game has been a great success since its release.
Culturally Inclined Productions, Priya Shah’s company, sells the game for $33 on its website. But Priya Shah has included coupons for those interested in buying the game. Rutgers students can purchase the game for $27 by contacting her via the company email.
“Business is going well, and I’ve received a lot of feedback that it is bringing families together,” said Priya Shah. “Being able to bring laughter to someone’s family — that’s just amazing to me.”