Computer Science engineering graduate, Aakanksha Gaur is not exactly a woman of a few words. Yet it is the sheer passion she displays that puts into perspective the success she has tasted in the short time of her journey in the world of entrepreneurship.Founder of early stage educational design company Pictualize, Aakanksha lists herself as part of a growing set of edu-preneurs who’re fuelled ahead by the knowledge of contributing new techniques to the learning and educational landscape of the country, thus creating value for generations to come.
With a focus on English vocabulary learning, Pictualize launched its first product Weboword – Vocabulary Visually in February 2009. Through a one-picture-a-day format, a pilot program was conducted on a dedicated website www.weboword.com, as a test to gauge the response of users towards their product. Functioning as an enterprise in its own, Weboword introduced to users the concept of simple and sticky learning, i.e. through creative illustrations that are memory friendly and easy to remember. It helped tremendously that complementing this creative backbone of the product, the team also added features like pronunciation, grammar exercises and supplementary information to bundle up as a wholesome solution for English language training.
The scope of the product was soon unveiled through the numbers that came ringing in. Ranging from test takers for examinations like SAT, CAT and GRE etc. to students gearing up for jobs in a corporate ecosystem, where good communication skills are a bare necessity, the site registered 50000 visits & over 200,000 page views within 8 months.
Says Aakanksha, “Weboword represents the proverbial “Web” people find themselves in, when they want to improve their vocabulary, hence the name. It is a unique blend of creativity and technology in learning where distribution barriers are easier to surpass and hence also to offer tailor-made solutions. We now have an email subscriber base of over 2000 members as also a continuous stream of requests to wrap our current format into a testing platform.”
On acting on the requests, Aakansha shares that there are already a number of platforms functioning on the exam testing format. They are instead in the process of launching a learning and testing platform which has a double advantage of scaling up the process of learning and testing by integrating it with various mediums like web, mobile and desktop applications.
The decision to not make haste looks intentional and is justified by Aakanksha “Scaling up a venture like ours is like scaling up a painter’s output. Every picture is unique with it’s own background and descriptive entities.” Naturally skepticism abound and introducing automation did not seem like a wise idea. It was streamlining processes that changed the game and the assembly line framework helped every individual contributor to introduce his bit of creativity at each process point.
Although she regrets not having had the same vision earlier, Aakanksha cites another reason behind the commercially inactive activities of the venture. “The idea of integrating design with educational products and tools came from the knowledge that a one-size-fits-all approach is not able to provide the end users the kind of learning experience and interactivity as specifically designed products do. The value addition our techniques add to an exam preparer are way more then our price shall ever be. Touching lives is our business model and appropriately priced products & solutions are the way we intend to keep our growth engines running”
For now the team is occupied adding content, growing it by about 50% every three months, as a benchmark to be able to adapt quickly to growing needs and upcoming opportunities. Combine this strategy with their growth in terms of reach as well as their constant lookout for strategic partnerships and tie-ups and one can foresee the milestones this team is out to achieve.
Concerns over sustenance are put to rest by Aakanksha’s revealations of backup plans that have involved the undertaking of smaller projects to fuel the content creation for Weboword as also ongoing talks at an advanced level for seed capital injection.
“There have been times when the sheer guilt of doing things my way and not earning money have torn me apart. I would be lying, if I were to say that I haven’t considered applying for a regular job. But thankfully, I have been able to stick to my path. I don’t see the mistakes that we made as “biggest mistakes” or felonies, as “there is a difference between errors of ignorance and breaches of morality”. Having a failed startup behind your back is like climbing the mountain of entrepreneurship with excess baggage.” puts Aakanksha very aptly adding that what pushed her to stay on was the challenge of growing in a competitive entrepreneurial world as also ‘the mind set to create things as I see them’.
So what is her vision now for Pictualize?
“By the end of 2010, I would like to see Weboword having reasonable acceptance in business areas that we pursue. 2010 would see Weboword launching the 3 learning platforms for SAT, GRE and CAT. We would be taking the company to a next level of growth and would be catering to the student community in the most efficient manner possible.”
For someone who has defined her goals to match customer happiness, it goes without saying that takes positive feedback to be the ultimate recognition. “Our users not only want to use our product but also want to evangelize for us.”
Certainly an inspiration for many, and as Aakanksha ends beautifully “The sky is not the limit. It is where you should play.”