IAN invests in Alma Mater, A Bangalore based Online Brand for School and College Merchandise

Indian Angel Network (IAN) today announced its investment in Alma Mater, a Bangalore based online brand for official school and college merchandise. IAN investors Ravindra Krishnappa, Joe Fernandes, Rajiv Mehta and Deependra Moitra led the investment round in the start-up. Ravi and Joe will join the Alma Mater board.

Founded in 2009 by Varun Agarwal and Rohn Malhotra, Alma Mater was started keeping in mind the emerging trend and opportunities offered by a dynamic shift from a product-centric to a customer-centric service attitude in the e-commerce industry. Having started off with the intention of creating an online brand for official school and college merchandise, Alma Mater saw a vacuum that they quickly morphed into a customized merchandise brand that supplies products to over 500 educational institutions spread over more than 60 cities and with over over 2 lakh followers on Facebook. The primary offerings of the brand are: customized merchandise for colleges, schools & corporate and online memorabilia store for colleges and schools.

Ravindra Krishnappa, an IAN Investor member said, “There has been a dramatic shift in consumer behavior in the last few years in India. Freed from supply chains, printing costs and shelf space limitations, online retailers’ space has developed gradually but surely. Varun and Rohn have found an interesting niche to build a business as the emerging student community is both appreciative & adoptive of brands. Varun & Rohn form a really passionate team and we are looking forward to work with them.”

Alma Mater approached IAN and presented to them in February this year. The 8 month period was used to keep Alma Mater under observation. Eventually, the driving factor for IAN’s decision was Alma Mater’s performance even during the lean season of the year.

In last few months, Alma Mater has branched out into newer markets and has been able to establish a national presence. The brand has seen significant growth in Tier II and III cities and has been growing at 300% year on year. Going forward, they will focus on building a platform they have created for themselves and constantly innovate to ensure becoming the market leaders in this space. Unlike other e-commerce players, they don’t intend to set up their own logistics or manufacturing units even over time on scaling. They see brand building as their strength and intend to focus only in that space.

While talking about the investment, Rohn Malhotra, co-founder, Alma Mater said, “We will use the investment primarily for 3 things – marketing, infrastructure and hiring. We plan to improve our technology focus so that we can operate on a bigger scale and hire the right talent to help us achieve the goals that we have set up for ourselves.”

Varun Agarwal, co-founder, Alma Mater said, “With a national bestseller to our credit Alma Mater has firmly established a cult following amongst the Indian youth serving as an inspiration to many young entrepreneurs. We approached IAN as we wanted to bring the vast network of the most networked people and the deep business and domain expertise which will help us build a scalable business quickly.”

Joe Fernandes, IAN member, who is joining the Alma Mater board said, “Alma Mater’s focus is to establish itself as the go-to brand in the customised merchandise space which to date remains highly fragmented and dependent on local players. However, more exciting than the e-commerce consolidation opportunity, is the ability for this young and dynamic team to stoke the imagination of today’s vibrant Indian youngster.  An ability to wear as a bold statement who they are and what they want to achieve.  Varun and Rohn are ambassadors inspiring those dreams and Alma Mater is a vehicle to make that happen.” IAN also foresees the niche players like Alma Mater leading the market towards a more matured version of ecommerce.