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Clear norms most important factor for e-commerce start-ups: Amit Mishra

SchoolSaamaan.com co-founder in an interview with smetimes talks about challenges faced by start-ups, government's role in e-commerce start-ups and how SchoolSaamaan.com is working towards transforming the eco-system and provide value to all its stakeholders.

Excerpts from the interview...

School Saamaan, India's first online one-stop online school shop, dedicated solely to cater the needs of students. Please tell more about your platform.

Amit Mishra: Each parent has time & again gone through the pain of going to market several time leaving all else behind to get one particular set of sock or shoes as required. Further these things have a habit of getting easily out of stock warranting a search of entire market or asking each & everyone be it teachers or other parents. The same applies with uniform, text books, and other small and big requirements. We ourselves suffered this pain and have run across the city's length leaving everything else aside. Thus came the question, why can't this process be simplified? And that's how schoolsaamaan.com began. We aim to solve problems of two primary groups: Parents - At SchoolSaamaan, we aspire to be a portal of first choice, from the first step of learning that a child takes to the entire lifetime of education and development related needs like uniforms and text books to resource base for curricular and extracurricular activities, sports, specialized coaching & Edtech products and beyond, Vendors - The journey in itself was quite interesting, we started with the problem that was faced by us, however as we progressed and talked to the different vendors to understand why isn't there an online option, we got to know about the challenges that are faced at the vendor end and the complexities of the industry. A typical vendor has usually been in business for 20-30 years and has to manage a fine balance between what is available and what is required.; they usually have limited resources and rely on their suppliers. We at SchoolSaamaan are building solutions for these sellers and service providers to create value for the ecosystem and convenience and comfort for parentstherefore are building a unique online offline model, which would create value & convenience for both vendors as well as parents simultaneously. We started in 2015 in once city with seven schools and only uniforms, now have offices in 4 cities and growing with a diversified range of products including uniforms, fancy dresses, text and general books, toys, bags, shoes and many much more.

You have started operations in February 2015. Being a start-up, what were the challenges you had gone through?

Amit Mishra: The whole concept took roughly 8 weeks to move from idea to revenue stage, however with each step that we have taken forward we realized several challenges that unique to our company or are on account of the industry.

  • While the ecommerce market has boomed in India, the challenges towards reaching out to customer and making us stand out among the crowd continues to remain.
  • Despite a clear value proposition, its usually difficult for people to change the way they have been operating in past. This holds true for both buyers and seller. Every stakeholder looks for an immediate gain / advantage, hence it's important that while working towards long term, sustainable solutions, we as a Company are able to provide immediate and recognizable value to the stakeholders.Hence though we have seen initial interest to achieve sustainable growth in scale there is a lot that needs to be done. But we believe we are on a right track.
  • At one point of time the market was awash with money and hence the only way to succeed was through big noise and big discounts. However the dramatic change in the market in 2016 ensured that business would return back to fundamentals and only the value would survive. This scenario is sort of a bitter blessing for a young company like us to grow and thrive. However with a focused approach towards unit economics and our ability to operate at minimal costs we have been able to sustain our growth.

How you counter those challenges?

Amit Mishra: The critical challenge all the startups face is the limited resources both in terms of money and manpower, this continues to remain our key challenge.

However, we have a dedicated and resourceful team with which we are quite confident to grow despite the challenges. Most of the founding team members have known each other for more than a decade now and bring on table a diverse set of experience of creating and driving value across varied domains.

Every challenge, by its nature also comes with the required solution, the only important thing is to keep our eyes and ears open. And we as a team always see and listen, we see what our sellers see and experience, we think the way our customers do and that makes the difference in the way we are building solutions or providing experience to our customers

Further we are extremely cautious on the cost front and rather than running for simply scale. We are focused on value based growth, wherein each addition to topline also adds to the bottomline.

Which issues are still challenging for a start-up like you?

Amit Mishra: It has been an interesting journey to date and the biggest challenge is to quickly convert opportunities into revenues given the limited resources we have. Also attracting the right talent is also one of our biggest challenge and priority to ensure sustainable growth of our operations.

Nevertheless, the response has been truly amazing and with each passing day we meet newer ideas and diverse opportunities which are keeping our hands full which greatly augments our confidence and resolve.

Would you like to say something to the government to facilitate this sector?

Amit Mishra: Most important factor for this sector, or any other, is to have clarity in terms of rules and regulations and their constant changes with change in technology or consumer behavior. E-commerce specifically is the new area and hence there are rules and regulations which still do have a view point from this sector. However, government today, is moving aggressively to ensure that there is clarity and parity for entrepreneurs across the ecosystem. This is what government can do best, be the keeper of regulations and their changes and keep away from the business

How can e-commerce transform the education ecosystem and how you see the impact of e-commerce on different stakeholders in the ecosystem?

Amit Mishra: E-Commerce works because it gives us not only choices and convenience but a platform where you can make informed decisions based on experience of others. One not only gets to know the options out there but also which are the good ones.

Add to it the current scenario where education is simply not what a child one learns in school and the homework but diverse activities such as sports, music, hobbies, drama are equally important and sought after. Additionally, there is a plethora of path breaking EdTech products out there making a large difference which a parent simply cannot not know about. Education is one thing a parent never compromises and We aim to create a platform which will bridge the gap between aspiration and information. no child or parent is deprived from the best options and tolls available in the market irrespective of their location.

We therefore don't want to be a simple shop online, rather our aim is to reach out to each and every parent from in the remotest corners of the country and partner with them in ensuring their child gets best of the options available. What we aspire to do is build a platform where stakeholders, parents, kids, sellers, service providers, institutes, can plug themselves and build an education community serving and helping each other while scaling up their individual businesses and aspirations.

In other words, we aim to inform, advice and provide whatever is necessary for an overall development of our future

Your e-commerce platform is totally dedicated to cater the needs of students. How you see the prospects of growth for this unique idea and what are your future plans?

Amit Mishra: India today has more than 300 milion students (at different level) across the country. They all have some common needs such as uniforms, books, accessories and some very specialized ones like, hobbies, activities, counseling etc. On the other hand there are sellers and service providers of these needs fragmented and unorganized without any systemic reach to the consumers. Then there are institutes catering to these millions of students, but have their own needs and challenges. We as company, see huge potential for integration of these needs and solutions across these stakeholders. We are aiming not be "just" an e-commerce platform but we see ourselves as a IT and solutions company with our front end as an e-commerce platform. We are building / connecting solutions for/with stakeholders and helping them meet their needs and solve their challenges.

The prospects of growth are tremendous as we have but taken a small step now. We are currently present in four cities (Bengaluru, NCR, Hyderbad and Pune) and plan to have our footprints in all the cities across the country. We see each and every institute, vendor, service provider as our potential partner and with everyone on board we simply want to simplify the education and development process for everyone.

 

(This interiew was pulibhsed on www.smetimes.in and can be read in full here)

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India’s first online one-stop school shop, dedicated solely to cater to needs of students. Started operations in February 2015 with a single objective “Simplify Schooling” for students and their parents. YoScholar.com is a brand of “Agrim Education Services Private Limited YoScholar.com aims at providing convenient, comfortable and door step services for parents and students needs. We are just born and our desire to learn is unmatched and so is our aspiration to change. We assure you of the best in class service with the needed personal touch. We are always listening, so feel free to talk to us, test us and change us!