IRACST  International Journal of Commerce Business and Management IJCBM ISSN  Vol
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IRACST International Journal of Commerce Business and Management IJCBM ISSN Vol

3 No 3 June 2014 481 ALMA MATER TIME TO START UP Alma Mater Time To Start Up Sanjit Ganguli Mihika Hegde Neeraj Bhat Symbiosis Law School Pune SLS Pune Constituent of Symbiosis International University Pune India KEYWORDS Alma Mater Young Entrepr

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IRACST International Journal of Commerce Business and Management IJCBM ISSN Vol

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IRACST – International Journal of Commerce, Business and Management (IJCBM), ISSN: 2319–2828 Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2014 481 ALMA MATER- TIME TO START UP Alma Mater: Time To Start Up Sanjit Ganguli , Mihika Hegde , Neeraj Bhat Symbiosis Law School, Pune (SLS- Pune) Constituent of Symbiosis International University Pune, India. KEYWORDS : Alma Mater, Young Entrepreneurs, E- Commerce, Customized Merchandising . INTRODUCTION Did you ever love your school or college so much that you would want the world to know? Today, you could do just that. What started off with just a seed capital

of 1 lakh INR, Alma Mater has grown into a company worth over a 1 million USD with a revenue exceeding five hund red thousand dollars. Alma Mater is primarily a company dealing with customized merchandising. They design and deliver customized school/college memorabilia and help people feel connected to their ‘alma mater’. Close to four hundred thousand fans on Facebook, over three Hundred thousand satisfied customers, fifteen Thousand customized designs, over two thousand five hundred school and college clients, with revenues exceeding five hundred thousand dollars, ranked third in silicon

India’s most promising e-commerce companies and a growth rate of over 300%. No we aren’t talking about one of India’s older and more established business houses, We’re talking about a company started by two young men in their early twenties, which has grown way beyond their wildest dreams. All this in just a little over 3 years. In August 2009 Varun Agarwal and Rohn Malhotra started a company dealing exclusively with customized merchandise for This case study was written under the able guidance of Prof Surya Rashmi Rawat, Symbiosis Law school,Pune( ) the alumni of various institutions in and around Bangalore. Today, Alma Mater is a nationally recognized brand. It is a pioneer in customized institutional merchandise for institutions like the IITs and IIMS and companies like Google India and Cisco. Alma Mater bears testimony to the advent of E-commerce in the Indian market. The fantastic growth story of Alma Mater, a company started by two young Indian boys who were so sure they weren’t ready to enter the engineering profession but instead decided to be atypical

and entered the unexplored and highly biased Indian Entrepreneurial set-up, which is one of passion, determination and one that many of India’s youth can learn from. ABSTRACT When Varun Agarwal and Rohn Malhotra decided to leave their run of the mill engineering degrees and desk jobs to cast caution to the winds and become entrepreneurs, little did they know that they were helping the growth of the revolution in the Indian market that had already hit the Indian markets a few years ago. Alma Mater, the company started by these two young turks stands for so much today. It has created a new

booming niche market in the form of customized merchandising in India. The story of these two young entrepreneurs serves as inspiration to so many of India’s young and dynamic youth which is brimming with new ideas but lack the courage to take risks and start their own company. It also bears testimony to the fact that E-Commerce has not only arrived in the Indian scenario but is here to stay and is the future of Indian Businesses. What started off as any other Garage company, today is India’s largest customized merchandising company. Alma Mater has over 1400 School, 400 Corporate, and 264

private organization clients spread over 160 cities in India. Alma Mater has taken away the age old problems that Indian customers faced with relation to Custom merchandising and at the same time kept it affordable and yet not compromised on the quality of its apparel.
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IRACST – International Journal of Commerce, Business and Management (IJCBM), ISSN: 2319–2828 Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2014 482 In this case study we aim to closely study the growth story of Alma Mater and learn and understand their fantastic growth trajectory. Using Alma Mater as the pilot example in this case we

also want to showcase the impact e-commerce has in Indian markets today. We also hope this case study will encourage more of India’s youth to cast caution to the winds and start up they’re very own businesseses. Our research has been done with the help ofsecondary sources like newspapers, magazines and websites. What remains to be seen is how Alma Mater now consolidates its position in an increasingly competitive market. While this young company has already achieved so much, In reality there is still a vast amount of work to be done. BACKGROUND The founders of Alma Mater Varun and Rohn studied

at Bishop Cotton Boys School and Vidya Niketan School respectively in Bangalore. Drawing inspiration from the Harvard and UCLA customized merchandise from the United States, a year after graduating Engineering Varun decided to bring the same concept into India. Rohn was working at KPMG at that time but loved the idea so much that he decided to join Varun in business. Right in the very beginning itself the boys personally travelled to Tirupur in Tamil Nadu (Popularly known as the “T-shirt capital of India”) to ensure a high quality product. They were able to reach a favorable memorandum of

understanding with a Mr Purshottam and with that they were able to secure a profitable manufacturing scenario. Their next step was to set up an E-commerce store and this was largely facilitated by a Bangalore based web-design company, Exit Designs. Their last step was to work out a ‘cash on delivery’ modus operandi which they were able to do with another delivery company, Aramex. Their first sale of merchandise was at the Alumni meet of Varun’s school, where both the founders personally sold their merchandise to what would be the first of over three hundred thousand satisfied customers. Alma

Mater has been invested in by the prestigious Indian Angel Network. Indian Angel Network is India's largest Angel Fund network and brings together highly successful entrepreneurs and CEOs from India and around the world who are interested in investing in startup/early stage ventures which have the potential of creating disproportionate value. OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY By studying this particular case we plan to analyze the following- Examine the current standing and potential for growth of customized merchandizing in the Indian Market. Highlight the changes in e-commerce through time with

reference to the Indian Scenario. To encourage the Indian youth to think ‘out of the box’and look beyond the clichéd locales of Engineering and Medicine and consider career options like entrepreneurship. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY Our case is based on secondary sources of data which includes the Autobiography of VarunAgarwal himself, “How I braved Anu Aunty and co-founded a Million Dollar company” and almamaterstore website which contain newspaper clipings and magazine articles. SWOT ANALYSIS STRENGTHS- Good brand image- The co founders have spent every ounce of energy in building up a favorable

brand image. They believe that every product you sell or give to a customer must have something symbolic of their brand, be it a pen or a shirt they sell. They have exploited the free services of facebook and other networking websites flawlessly. Affordable- The market is primarily consists of young students who live on a limited sum of money. The co founders have taken due notice of this and have priced their goods perfectly. A standard ‘hoodie would cost nothing more than INR 700.Invariably these affordable prices attract more customers. Quality- The co-founders be lieve that it’s not about

how much you spend on advertising. It’s all about the quality of the products. Everything else follows. Compromise is not an option whether it is a different hue of colours or a different size. Easy accessibility- The absence of a tangible shop to buy merchandise from what might seem like an Achilles' heel. But in this case, it only serves as a boon. The modern customer finds convenience in shopping from home as it is less time consuming. Goodwill- The main criteria for the survival of a business is its goodwill. In this way Alma Mater has succeeded in doing so. The quality of products, the

steady demand, satisfied customers and increasing revenue have all positively added to the reputation of the company.
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IRACST – International Journal of Commerce, Business and Management (IJCBM), ISSN: 2319–2828 Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2014 483 Youth- The CEOs of the company are in their mid twenties. They work with an incredible zeal and zest. They are able to connect with their target customers. Their working knowledge of the current media enables them to advertise in such a way that appeals most to their clientele. WEAKNESSES Limited Capital-Being a largely self financed

company, Alma mater was unable to expand as much as much as the co founders projected it to. However, a number of venture capitalists have shown interest to invest in this lucrative business. This honor was ‘bestowed upon’ Indian Angel Network. Fear of losing control over their brain child, Varun and Rohn restrict their capital inflow from the outside. This might probe to be a problem in the future. Excessive dependence on outsourcing- the company is heavily dependent on outside sources for production as well as delivery services. Failure in any one of the sectors leads to standstill of

business. Restricted ability to rise prices- majority of alma mater’s target customers are primarily students of schools, colleges or universities. Alma mater’s ability to rise prices is limited. They need to concentrate on sales maximization and lose out on profit maximization in the process. Limited Experience- The fo unders of the company are young and have limited exp erience and knowledge when compared to their older counterparts. Their access to the capital is limited since no average person would want to risk losing their hard earned money. As they say, one gets wiser with age. Small

market base- the concept of shopping online is not yet accepted in the Indian market. People prefer to physically inspect their goods before they buy them. There is a bigger restriction in the form of locality. As of now, orders are received chiefly from tier one cities. OPPORTUNITIES Increase in demand for customized goods- In this dynamic market, consumers are craving for a variety of goods to pick from. They are not happy with the ready made clothing, be it a problem with the fitting or its style. They want to design their clothing according to their own tastes and preferences. This is

exactly what the ‘almamaterstore’ facilitates. Scope for larger investments and overall growth- alma mater’s growth rate between 2009 and 2012 has been at a staggering 300%. Their return on investment has been reducing but still maintains a respectable ratio of returns to investment. Larger companies have approached the company for their customized merchandise. Th e deeper pockets of these corporate giants enable Almamater to increase its revenue Untapped market- Alma Mater primarily operates exclusively in Tier one cities. Product ranges like theirs have massive potential in Tier two and tier

three cities. The affordability of their products will be a huge strong suit in the steady increase in sales and in turn, revenue. New Markets to capture- Alma Mater has been able to cash in on that sense of belonging and nostalgia which one feels for their school. Many people generally have similar if not a higher sense of attachment to the cities and localities they live in. They can also customize merchandise for famous restaurants which institutional reputations and boast of thousands of loyal fans like Goodluck Café in Pune, Kailash Parbat in Mumbai, Khan Chacha in Delhi and so on.

THREATS Increasing competition: Until Alma Mater carved a niche for itself in the Indi a Market. The customized merchandising sector in India was highly un- organized and restricted to a number of small unprofessional players. However in the recent times a number of companies (li ke the Alchemy store and Zovi) have also launch ed online customized merchandise stores. These companies are actively competing with Alma Mater both on price and quantity
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IRACST – International Journal of Commerce, Business and Management (IJCBM), ISSN: 2319–2828 Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2014 484 Prospect

of stricter imag e rights in India- Alma Mater today uses the insignias and logos of a number of schools and colleges on all types of memorabilia. Based on the current image right controls in India they aren’t strictly required to pay royalties to these schools or colleges and hence save what would otherwise be a huge dent to their revenues. However in recent years India is s eeing stricter image right controls which may lead to problems regarding copyright issues . ALMA MATER’S PRODUCT LINE Alma-Mater boasts of a large and impressive product line for its customers to choose from. This is

broadly divided into three broad categories. Pre-customized institutional merchandise by Alma Mater, Non institutional Apparel by Alma mater and the Alma Mater Play store. Customized Institutional Merchandise Alma Mater permanently displays their products on their online store ( ) for Schools, Colleges, Organizations and Companies. These goods mainly comprise of T-shirts, Hoodies, caps, stickers and Mugs. They are classified according to Institution. Alma Mater’s institution store has a number of schools across India. The impressive list includes, Modern High School

Barakhamba Road in Delhi, Don Boscos in Chennai and Kolkata, various Delhi Public Schools across the length and the breadth of this country, Sophia’s and St. Josephs in Bangalore and so many more. They also have similar merchandise for a number of India’s leading Colleges like the IITs and the IIMs, Christ University in Bangalore, Symbiosis Law School in Pune, etc. Recently they have also added T-shirts and Hoodies for various GOs like the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy, NGO’s and Companies like Bosch and Amazon India. Non Institutional Merchandise Alma Mater has branched out from its

traditional exclusive institution only character and now has a new range of apparel. These basically include funky t-shirts with catchy and hilarious slogans. They also cash in on a number of popular (insert appropriate word) and make apparel reflecting these. For example, they launched Gang nam style t-shirts during the Gangnam style sensation. THE ALMA MATER PLAY STORE This is the epitome of customized merchandising in India today. Using the Alma Mater Play store one can log onto a computer anywhere in India and customize a t-shirt in any way they want and have it shipped to them. The Play

store is really easy to use and offers you a wide variety of choices to design your ‘Tee’ in any way they want. Alma Mater’s play store takes away the hindrances of customized merchandising. Earlier one had to find a producer and explain your idea to him. Then he would send you sample designs which you may or may not like and the cycle w ould continue. But here Alma mater has given customers a one stop-hassle free method of designing their apparel that too at very affordable prices. ALMA MATER’S EDGE OVER THE COMPETITION Alma Mater’s growth story is indeed a rare and incredible one. It is one

which from many of India’s young entrepreneurs can take inspiration from. But all of this has not been easy. Alma Mater’s fantastic growth trajectory has been an impressive blend of hard work and shrewd business acumen. It is a feat and a story which many of India’s young and aspiring Entrepreneurs can draw inspiration from and hope to emulate. The core value of Alma Mater’s products lie in the nostalgia they bring about to their customers and for the generation of young entrepreneurs they repres ent. They have been able to cash in on people’s emotions and in this, lies their greatest asset.

Varun Agarwal and Rohn Malhotra’s success story can be attributed to these facts. The Indian Angel Network’s in volvement in Alma Mater IAN is a premier venture capitalist firm which is stimulating the growth of Alma Mater. Recen t investments by Indian angel network have enhanced the company’s projected growth .The network has invested a considerable amount of money in the company. However, the exact amount is undisclosed. The company claims to use the funds for hiring ,marketing and business infrastructure .After investing in Alma mater IAN’s investments has increased upto 13 in the year

2012,others being Birds Eye System. The network in addition to funds, provides constant access to high quality mentoring vast networks and inputs on strate gy as well as execution. The network members because of their background are better abled to assess the potential and risks at an early stage. Indian Angel Network’s involvement is a huge boon for Alma Mater. Not only does it give them sustenance for survival, growth and expansion it also gives them prestige in a number of business circles. They will play a very crucial role in Alma Mater’s success story in the days to come.

IRACST – International Journal of Commerce, Business and Management (IJCBM), ISSN: 2319–2828 Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2014 485 CUSTOMER FEEDBACK One of Alma Mater’s greatest strengths has been customer satisfaction. Since a decent amount of promotion has been and is through word of mouth, customer satisfaction has definitely paid its dividends in full for Alma Mater. This is what some of Alma Mater’s customers have to say. “We got our corporate t shirts made by Alma Mater. The quality is good and the service was quick - Sanya Ahmed – Google India, Bangalore. “Alma Mater’s custom t-shirt

maker is very easy to use. I can now design and customize my t-shirts within minutes. Paloma Noronha – Sophia Women’s College Mumbai “We bought bulk custom t-shirts from Alma Mater recently. Hats off guys for making the entire process so simple and easy. Ashima Gupta – Cummins College, Pune “Alma Mater is a one stop shop for customized merchandise. I love your range of customized t shirts and hoodies. Akshit Bhatnagar – IIT Indore “Thank you, Alma Mater for my personalized t shirt. It’s exactly the way I wanted it Shaila Ankolekar – Christ Chruch School, Mumbai “Alma Mater has made shopping

for customized t shirts online in India a whole lot easier Raunak Verma, XISS, Ranchi INTERVIEW WITH SHREYA SHRIDHAR (Alma Mater’s first bulk order customer) Q) What did you order from Alma Mater? I ordered 300 sweatshirts for a ll the girls in my batch. I studied at Baldwin Girls and we loved our school and wanted to remember it and all our friends from it. Varun was really nice and designed the sweatshirt with all our names on the back of the sweatshirt in the shape of 2010 . Q) Do you remember how you went about it? It was quite simple actually. You go to their official website ) where all their merchandise is displayed according to the different institutions. Back then there was no Play store so I had to deal with Varun over the phone, but recently I did a bulk order for a group I work with and used the play store to design the Tees I wanted . Q) Were you happy with their service and quality of their products? Oh yes,I still wear the hoodie I bought three years ago.The fabric used is of good quality and even after a number of washes there is no difference between it’s current condition and when I just bought it. The new Tees I’ve bought are

really good too. Q)Were there any difficulties or delays? Not at all. It’s the simplest procedure. he product is delivered to you within a couple days. It is very efficient. Q) Is there anything else you would like to say about alma mater or its founders ? Alma mater is a young company with a high prospect for growth and expansion. Rohn and Varun(the founders) are young and enthusiastic entrepreneurs definitely take this company far. I wish them the best of luck. ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE FOUNDERS Varun Agarwal has won the Rotary Young Achiever award 2012. Has been featured on CNBC Young Turks Mr

Agarwal has been the keynote speaker at conferences and conclaves held at IIM Bangalore and IIT Guwahati Varun’s Video channel today has over 800,000 views ALMA MATER AT A GLANCE A company worth over a million dollars Three Hundred thousand satisfied customers Fifteen Thousand customized designs Ranked 3 rd in Silicon India’s Most Promising E- Commerce Companies Over two thousand five hundred school and college clients Close to Four Hundred thousand fans on facebook An annual growth rate of over 300%. Revenues in excess of Fi ve hundred thousand dollars
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IRACST – International

Journal of Commerce, Business and Management (IJCBM), ISSN: 2319–2828 Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2014 486 E-COMMERCE IN INDIA TODAY E-Commerce in India today is a growing phenomenon. Infact India today is the fastest growing company in the world in terms of E-commerce.E-commerce in India has tipped double from its current value of$ 10 billion to$20 billion by 2015. Companies like Flipkart, Myntra and MakeMyTrip have revolutionized the E-Commerce scenario in India The Main Advantages of E-Commerce are Easy Accessibility Higher Profit Margins Better Customer Service Information Sharing, Convenience and

Control. The success Alma Mater can largely be attributed to E- Commerce. As mentioned above Alma Mater is a wholly E- commerce based company. This was very beneficial for them in the initial stages as it helped them save money and also gave them a Pan Indian reach right from the beginning itself. Alma Mater still uses and innovates using E-Commerce. Their play store on their website today is the epitome of E- commerce. Using this you can design your very own apparel and have it delivered to you. Alma Mater truly bears testimony to the advent of E-Comm erce in India today. THE UGLY FACE OF EN

TREPRENEURSHIP IN INDIA TODAY Entrepreneurship in India Today has been given Step- motherly treatment 1) The Main Roadblocks that Indian Entrepreneurs face today are 2) Youngsters today prefer the safety and security of corporate jobs and are rarely ready to take risks 3) Societal Pressures 4) Red tapism and Bureaucracy Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors prefer to invest in startups of older and more experienced entrepreneurs Varun and Rohn obviously faced the very same problems. Varun in his autobiography mentioned a number of times that he was ready to give up. But he didn’t and

moreover he overcame these difficulties to start his own successful business. CONCLUSION There is a growing platform for entrepreneurs in India today than over a decade ago. The reason being that entrepreneurs today are more mature and that these venture capitalists are willing to invest in their companies.. The ecosystem of angel investors is better developed as opposed to a couple of years ago. Recent investment by Indian angel network has boosted the company’s projected growth and reach. With the involvement of IAN, Alma Mater is projected to grow to new heights. Entrepreneurs crave for a

global reach now than they have ever before. Hopefully, this change in the environment induces an increase in number of young entrepreneurs-willing to take risks. BIBLIOGRAPHY MAGAZINES India today Fashion ink NEWSPAPERS The New York Times The Economic times The CNBC The Times of India The Deccan Chronicle The Deccan Herald BOOKS USED ‘How I Braved Anu Aunty and Co-founded A Million Dollar Company (Varun Agarwal’s autobiography) WEB REFERENCES USED mater-a-bangalore-based-online-brand-for-school- and-college-merchandise/ april-2012/author-talk- varun-agarwal-how-i-braved-anu-aunty-and-co- founded-million-dollar-company angel-network-invests-in-almamaterstore-in/ http://techcircle.vccircle.c om/2012/10/30 /ian-invests- in-bangalore-based-alumni-merchandising-site- alma-mater-store/ AUTHOUR PROFILE All the three authors Mihika Hegde, Neeraj Bhat and Sanjit Ganguli are currently studying at Symbiois Law School, Pune. They are pursuing

their BBA, LLB. degree