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Making moolah: For these students, holidays are meant for launching businesses

Meet youngsters who set up their own businesses using social media, while still in college.

education Updated: May 11, 2017 09:20 IST
Antara Sengupta
(HT Illustration: Siddhant Jumde )

Vaibhav Juneja and Mohit Adnani, both 27, were one of the many students at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Vile Parle, who craved homemade food but had to settle for bland canteen meals on campus. However, unlike others, Juneja and Adnani transformed their cravings into a WhatsApp-based food delivery service. In June last year, in the final year of their two-year course, they launched Daily Bread to help fellow students get freshly made home-cooked lunches on campus. The duo hired a cook, a delivery boy and rented a shared kitchen to offer cooked meal to their college mates. They now deliver food to at least 80 students a day.

For students who are dreaming up big ideas while still in college, summer is the best time to shape them into real businesses. Vacations leave more time to invest in a start-up, and social media is a great, inexpensive platform on which to find users and shape promotions. Debashis Sanyal, dean of NMIMS’s School of Business Management says online platforms are now the go to arenas for young entrepreneurs. “They also help an individual showcase the skills that boost their resumes. It shows that they can keep up with the times.”

Looking to set up a business? Start small, don’t blow the budget and work fast, advise Juneja and Adnani “We chose WhatsApp over creating a mobile app as we wanted to start quick and spend the least amount of money on marketing,” says Juneja. “We were delivering food to 36 students per day from Day 1.”

Uday Wankawala, mentor for early-stage start-ups, advisor at academic incubators and business evangelist at Lemon Ideas, calls digital platforms new-age business tools. But they’re not the only tools you need. “Involve or inform parents and take advice from experienced professionals at the early stages too,” he says

Here are some student entrepreneurs took their first steps in digital business while still studying.

Crafting designs

Riya Bakliwal, a 23-year-old, finished her Masters in Commerce this year and is preparing for her MBA entrance exams. She’s also proprietor of the stationery and lifestyle accessories brand, PapelJam, which decorates passport covers with images of holiday drinks and hats, illustrates animal figures on notebooks and creates colourful tinted lines on A4 folders. The business is entirely online – her store is on Instagram and Facebook.

Riya Bakliwal’s stationery and lifestyle brand Papel Jam does business entirely online through Facebook and Instagram.

Bakliwal’s venture started out as a photo-blog in 2015, when she’d document her art for fun. Friends noticed and besieged her with orders, planting the idea that her hobby could make money. She started her own retail brand in July last year, when she was in the second year of her Masters course.

Going online made it easier to connect with potential customers, she says. “I would get enquiries on Instagram and Facebook and that took care of the marketing part of it,” she says. “I simultaneously started my website, to make the purchasing exercise easier,” she says. PapelJam now has 2,800 followers on Instagram.

Managing studies and the business is not easy, Bakliwal admits. She recommends preparing a timetable to manage your time – her own schedule dedicates the afternoons and late nights to plan for her products, with the rest of the day devoted to MBA preparations.

“Be sure of your product line and give importance to both studies and business,” she advises. “It is tough but not impossible.”

The city as muse

Ankita Chakraborty, 19, a second year sociology student at St Xavier’s College, Kolkata, and Rishi Ghosh, 20, a hospitality management student, have a unique business – celebrating Kolkata. The two run Calcutta Cacophony, a social media publicity firm aimed at soaking in and preserving the city’s artistic traditions.

It all started with a Kolkata-themed Facebook page in December 2015. As popularity grew, several brands approached Chakraborty and Ghosh to publicise their products to their many viewers. Last April, the duo turned the page into a content-based portal, adding on an Instagram account that now has 30,000 followers. “We only accept projects that promote art in some form and is relevant to an audience in Kolkata,” says Chakraborty.

Calcutta Cacophony is a Facebook page dedicated to celebrate the city and its artistic traditions.

This means business is either a barter deal for cross promotion or an out-an-out commercial contract, depending on the value of the brands.

Both graduate next year. Until then, most off-campus hours are devoted to brainstorming their next strategy. “It is never difficult to squeeze out time if you are focused enough,” Chakraborty says. “This initiative has helped us network, build important contacts and learn from our mistakes. We are more confident as entrepreneurs now.”

Feeding the campus

Last June, MBA students Vaibhav Juneja and Mohit Adnani, both 27, set up a business in the unlikeliest of places – a kitchen. Daily Bread, their food-delivery service is aimed at outstation students at their college NMIMS, who miss home-cooked food. They circulated the menu every day on Whatsapp and Email to a student base of 1,000 on campus and accepted payments through PayTM. “For 2 pm lunch, we would open orders a day before and close at 11 am on the day,” says Juneja.

A typical vegetarian meal of rice, three chapatis, dal and gravy costs not more than Rs 79, and there are days when there are special items such as paneer or masala rice. “We had to concentrate on three areas – procurement of food items, delivery and payment and marketing,” says Juneja. “We hired a cook and a delivery boy, and rented a shared space to save costs.”

t was a lot of effort managing studies and operations every day, but it’s the kind of management they needed to study about for their course as well. “Taking care of finances was our biggest learning,” says Juneja. They’re keen to keep Daily Bread a campus initiative and now that they have both graduated, they hope to hand the reins over to students in the next batch.

Creating clink

Annesha Ghosh, 17, first-year engineering student from KIIT School of Biotechnology, Bhubaneshwar, was fond of handmade jewellery. One time, she even tried to replicate a pair of earrings she liked. The results caught the eye of friends, who suggested she start her own line. And in April last year, just after she finished appearing for her Class 12 board exams, Chics and Artsy was born.

The label sells junk jewellery such as earrings, bracelets, neckpieces and rings and sold on Facebook, where she has 1,500 followers, and Instagram.

“My target audience is school and college students. So, my prices are between Rs 30 and Rs 300,” says social media jewellery businesswoman Annesha Ghosh.

My target audience is school and college students. So, my prices are also very low,” Ghosh says. A pair of earrings can cost anywhere between Rs 30 to Rs 300. “Because of social media, I get orders from all across the country. As soon as I put up a post, I receive at least five to six orders.” Ghosh takes customised orders too.

To manage studies and business, she dedicates two hours (12 am to 2 am) to make her stuff and post updates. “It’s my first year of college, so I don’t want to miss out on studies, so I have judiciously divided my time.”