The bigger the risk, the higher the rewards. This is very true, even more so in the case of startups.
Startups don’t guarantee success. In fact, statistics say that more than 90% startups fail.
So, entrepreneurs who risk everything to pursue a startup idea are a rare breed. It helps to know about them and their startups.
Regardless of their successes or failures, it is important we learn from such entrepreneurs. There is no better education than learning from their experiences. After all, continuous learning is what helps one succeed.
Preparing for the exams the right way is the key to being a topper, says @sumitbhagat. He and his friends at TopperNotes wants to bridge the gap between average students and toppers by providing everyone access to innovative study material prepared by exam toppers.[hero heading=”Sumit Gupta, COO, ToppersNotes”]I grew up in a village. While preparing for engineering entrance exams I was finding it very difficult to get good study material.[/hero]
Here’s their battle for the top spot.
1. The Pitch
ToppersNotes is an advanced educational portal started by IITians to bridge the preparation gap between a topper & average student by providing quality & innovative study material. With this we provide cost effective technologies for school, coaching institutes and tutors There are close to 15 million students in India who prepare for competitive exams(IIT JEE, UPSC, GATE, Banking, etc). Our team has worked day and night to bring the best possible products for students. Currently we provide study material for IIT JEE preparation such as handwritten notes of toppers, test series etc.
We launched our beta model in jan 2014 and grossed revenue of INR 1.2 million in 4 months which is quite exhilarating with more than 400+ students served. We’re aware that our online product needs a facelift for which we are looking to raise funds. The company is self-sustained at the moment and sells enough material to keep the company ticking.
2. The Motivation to startup
I grew up in a village. While preparing for engineering entrance exams I found it very difficult to get access to good study material which will help me compete with people who attend coaching institutes. So, I used to buy all sort of books but they were not very helpful.
While attending IIT-Bombay, I was surrounded by very entrepreneurial people. Most of them were doing really good having started their own start-up and they all wanted to either fix or revolutionize things. So obviously this influenced me and it was very natural decision for me to jump into doing a startup.
3. The Top Capital
We are group of 4 members each equipped with different skill set. Deepak , Avinash and I are batch mates while Aditya got involved with us at early stage of our startup.
Deepak is undergrad from IIT Bombay. He is skilled in analytical thinking, coding, strategy development, online marketing, SEO & SEM. He has also worked in 2 different startups, aimthetarget.com and giftsvilla.in. He oversees operations and marketing and is our CEO.
Aditya has completed M.Tech in Mathematics and Computing from IIT-(BHU), Varanasi in 2014. His skill set is coding, data analysis and business development. Instead of joining a big firm he decided to do a start-up. Apart from that he plays Tennis, Chess and likes to travel. At TopperNotes, he takes care of technology and business development.
Avinash an undergrad from IIT Bombay is skilled in html, mysql, python & various other programming languages. He loves skating, traveling & meeting new people. He is our main technical person and is also a Co-founder of another startup, dealwithus.co.in
Most of us in our school/college days would have borrowed/relied on the notes of the subject topper at-least once. We too turned to toppers when we had doubts. Our motive behind this Startup was to solve a common problem that every JEE average aspirant faces i.e., “How to be topper?”. An average student always wonders “How does a topper make notes”, “How does a topper study”, “What is the topper’s study plan/strategy etc”. There is always a cloud of uncertainty.
ToppersNotes team wanted to bridge this preparation gap between a topper & average student by providing quality & innovative study material. What better way to begin than with compiled Notes of previous Toppers and that is how ToppersNotes got its start.
5. Value Proposition
Before starting our startup we researched every study material and found that none of the material is usable without guidance and support of a faculty or teacher. So, it is a waste of time and money for students.
On the contrary, our material is quite self-explanatory. Our test series platform for teachers which is quite unique provides analysis of student performance to teachers. It is the most cost effective and advanced platform available in the market.
6. Initial customers & Market validation
After we had the idea, we were still confused as we didn’t know where to start. So, we contacted all the previous year’s toppers of IIT JEE, collected best handwritten notes and materialized the toppersnotes through our intensive search and development. This was our first product. At this time we came to know about indiagetonline who were providing free domain name and hosting services. So, we registered our domain toppersnotes.in and started building our website.
Deepak created whole website in a single night. Then it dawned to us that you have to market your website to generate visitors to site; we researched and learned all about Internet marketing. Within 4 days of our launch we got our first order. At start we used Indian post for sending our material.
We also went to various schools in Mumbai and organized seminars, talks etc. Those days taught us a lot and that is how we understood what it takes to run a successful startup.
We got a very good response from our customers who encouraged us to develop more innovative material. We then started developing our test series platform for student and teachers along with video lectures. Within 5 months we shifted toppersnotes.in to toppersnotes.com, our more advanced platform and subsequently attracted very good team members.
7. Growth & Metrics
Since launch, the response has been really great. Some of our customers even referred our material to their friends and family. Moreover, most of the tutors & teachers also liked our material.
We generated a revenue of more than INR 1.2 million through various tie-ups with schools & coaching institutes & served 400+ students during our beta release itself .
8. Growth pains & Lessons
Finding the right team is the biggest challenge an entrepreneur would face while working with just an idea. If you find a enthusiastic and hardworking team, every idea has potential to become a big company. Initially, we tried to do all the things by ourselves without taking help from experts which wasted lot of time and resources.
9. Growth plans
We plan to expand our domain and cover medical examinations, civil services (UPSC), GATE and various bank preparation examinations. We have study material ready for UPSC and medical examinations. We are focusing more on innovative products which are trustworthy and technologically sound. As we grow we will develop cost effective technologies and content for students, schools and coaching institutes in the form of test series platform and behavior based study plan s.
10. Growth funds
We have not raised any funding till now. We have gained good response from our customers and because of that ToppersNotes has grossed INR 16 Lakhs in 8 months from date of inception in competitive exam business. We had more than INR 4 Lakhs of revenues just through our online website. So far, we have managed toppernotes by bootstrapping and from revenues we generated by selling our products.
11. Hiring Effectively as a startup
I personally look for a candidate who asks the right questions and tries to find common interests or shared values. I also observe if they listen well and retain knowledge and most importantly do they possess a skill which will help grow my business.
12. Trends in Test preparation market
Indian test preparation market is growing 12% per year. All the entrance examination are now shifting towards online mode which is very promising advancement for the future of education in India.
13. Our local startup eco-system
IIT Bombay is our Alma matter. The atmosphere for entrepreneurship is very healthy and provided us access to best possible talent and right contacts. Mumbai is the city where we were able to validate our product because consumers here are ready to try new things.
14. Expectations from an ideal startup hub
An ideal startup hub should give easy access to much-needed startup capital and have environment which is adaptable to innovation and be healthy in terms of establishing right policies conducive for conducting business.
15. Areas needing help
We are bootstrapped and operational for 8 months now, grossing revenues of about INR 16 Lakh. We are actively seeking funding to carry out expansion and development in more than 8 exams.
16. Advice to Entrepreneurs
Even at toughest time, don’t give up. Work hard with your team; eventually you will get out of situation. But if things are not working even after giving your best, it’s better to start working on new idea .
17. Finally…what makes TopperNotes special
We believe in creating cost effective technology and products which can be used by everybody and give more incentive to innovations rather than traditional way of learning.
18. For more info
You can go visit toppersnotes.com to see the latest updates or can mail us for any suggestions or queries. We are at “hello” _at_ “toppersnotes .dot. com”
[Edited for clarity]
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(If you are an amazing Indian startup founder or enabler of startup eco-system in India and would like to be interviewed or featured on Startups.in then I’d be happy to talk to you. Contact me right away.)
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