Established in 2008 by Vidya Vyas Collegespeaks.com is a networking site that features Indian college campuses.
The Young Entrepreneur explained the concept to us saying “Collegespeaks.com is a campus networking website where users get an inside scoop of Indian campuses through experiences shared by students. We’re based in Indore and have a small team of 5 which includes our technical and admin people. The first of its kind campus-centric website, we would like to turn Collegespeaks an encyclopedia of higher educational institutions in India.”
“As is evident from the name of the website, our target audience is constituted of the college-going youth, college bound students and alumni network. For the college-going students and alumni, we have features like Quotes – which are like modified blogs with various pre-defined categories where students can comment and share experiences on various aspects of their campus life; Pictures – which are exclusively Campus photographs and Grades – where students grade their colleges on various parameters. Currently we have about 15000 quotes posted by users from more than 250 campuses across India. For the college-seeking guys we have a comprehensive search within the site which offers students to search for colleges based on their choice of courses and specialization.”
As far as social networking sites go Collegespeaks is a step aside from the normal friendship site. Vidya elaborates saying “Unlike social networking websites, Collegespeaks is the first of its kind campus networking website which represents the campus in its various moods and colours. Unlike other sites, the content here is user driven and most importantly here we have the students’ version of a campus. I would say this is an unofficial brochure of the college in stated in Web 2.0 format. Our database of courses is our strength, as I haven’t come across any site so far which offers such a detailed search. Talking of our business model, advertisements will be one way of generating revenue, but we plan to bring more customized listing for colleges so that their visibility is optimized for their choice of audience and courses.”
“We plan to make strategic alliances in future with companies which also cater to the youth and would give an edge to both businesses. At a later stage we could also branch out to other similar services which are youth focused. However at present the website is in its nascent stage and needs to grow and attract more traffic.”
Vidya has the attributes of a true Entrepreneur, for she is always ready to take a calculated risk. She relates her risky turn towards entrepreneurship saying “I did work for sometime when I was in Glasgow, with a Spanish bank, Abbey National. However, unlike in the west where job hours are fixed and 9 to 5 in the true sense, in our country with the working hours not being defined, things become even more difficult with kids around. Although, sacrificing that ‘monthly salary’ was a risk, but being an entrepreneur I found I could do so much for the same time and energy than I put working for someone else.”
She also has a candid take on her learning phase. Vidya admits that everything and anything can be a gain or a loss. She gave us her views saying “I think the initial days of any venture are very difficult. Quotes was the very first feature that I introduced on the site and I was very apprehensive of how people were going to write because it wasn’t like sending one or half line scraps or messages. People had to write and write meaningfully. We started the point system and giving out small freebies as incentives so that people would come often to share their campus experiences. Every next feature that we introduced was relatively easier as we already had a loyal set of users with us.”
Mistakes were a part of the game for Vidya as she treated everything as a lesson to be learnt. She says “I don’t remember any one mistake being the biggest one because being a first gen entrepreneur everything I did was trial and error. Although there have been time and money losses, but if I look at the overall picture it has been a self-evolving and learning experience. What is important is that we don’t repeat those mistakes.”
“The seed fund was a pool of my savings and my family’s contribution. We started with 5 lacs and we are looking for some angel funding to take the venture to the next level. We started with a team of 5 people including technical team and admin jobs. We also have a growing number of campus representatives across the country who are our assets spreading word for us and strengthening us with content.”
She is pleased about the level of success and recognition that the site has among college circles. Vidya believes that the fame they have gained has been an endorsement of her beliefs. She says “I think by bringing in this concept of campus networking, we have again proved that there are many opportunities and gaps specific to our environment which needs to be addressed. The packaging and presentation are a challenge but they can be improved. Although our users are aware of these gaps, yet when we introduce something new, what is important is educating our users.”
They were nominated in the TATA NEN hottest startups. She also counts the increasing user base as the biggest acknowledgement of their work.
Although Vidya has been beset by the despair and frustration that is every entrepreneurs cross to bear, she wears her responsibilities like a crown. She says “There have been times when I have felt down but the thought of giving up has never occurred. Sometimes the money and time invested without any monetary returns does seem scary, but it is worth it for the user base and content that we have earned.”
“The risks, the challenges and most importantly, the result of all the hard work and patience – all these prepares me to continue on the road of entrepreneurship.” Her next goal is to make the site a financial success, and also to create a new application for her users.
Vidya was a trend setter and original thinker even in her school life. She recalled an incident that she cherishes from her school days saying “I used to participate in musical and science competitions during my school and college days and have won many prizes too, but the one that I remember most was the prize we won for a French play. Everyone in our batch was divided into groups and asked to do a play. We were looking for some interesting script when we came upon this idea of re-doing this popular Hindi film “Chupke-Chupke”. The play turned out to be so interesting and hilarious that we won the first prize for it. Not just this, thereafter, doing short plays of popular Hindi movies became a trend for sometime. The film still remains one of my favorites with so many fond memories associated with it.”
Vidya believes that a true entrepreneur has to have the heart to take calculated risks, and she advises everyone saying “I would say the younger one starts the better as the risk taking abilities are greater when we are young. Entrepreneurship should also be taken as a social service as it generates employment.”
We at Yourstory applaud Vidya’s entrepreneurial fire, and hope she reaps the fruits of her labors for many a day to come.