How students turned entrepreneurs, and tasted success with Valonia
The present Indian education system needs a lot of fixing and a group of students from BITS, Pilani Hyderabad started Valonia with an aim to make a difference. They decided to give students that all-important “extra-textbook” experience. Started as an early project, Swapnil Vats shares with us how has his journey as a student entrepreneur been.
The team members were all in their first and second year of under graduation and theirs was the first, for profit startup at BITS Hyderabad, says Swapnil proudly. But they were not taken very seriously by colleges in their initial stages. Things started changing a lot when Valonia conducted their first workshop in a school, won their first business plan and took lots of advice from alumni. Today they are seen as a genuine organization providing high quality and cost effective workshops. Swapnil shares a proud moment when recently, in a workshop at a college in Hyderabad, their proposal was accepted over proposals from two other much bigger companies (full-time organization). Not only was the director of the college impressed, but the chairman of the institute himself came and appreciated their workshop methodology.
Despite the low costs, their profit margins are pretty decent. As a student start-up they are about to touch Rs 1 million in revenues.
Swapnil tells us how his college BITS-Pilani, Hyderabad helped him in initial stages and also funded them. “The atmosphere of encouragement and success stories around the campus keeps inspiring us from time to time, that could be the reason why there are so many startups from BITS. People earlier saw Valonia as a hobby, but it is now seen as a successful startup,” says Swapnil happily.
Swapnil started up quite early -- in his second year and then most of his college activities also started revolving around startups and entrepreneurship related activities. “I know it sounds quite textbook’ish’, when I says it helps you manage time, increases your networking skills, management skills etc but all that is true to the word,” says Swapnil. Starting up early has also helped them make a network with professionals, entrepreneurs and academicians for life. “Whatever advice you need, there is always someone to seek advice from. This not only gave us visibility but also helped increase our brand quotient,” he says.
Swapnil admits that there have also been many cons of starting up as a student, but it is possible to overcome those, he says. “You shall have a lot of distractions, which makes managing your company all the more interesting. And yes, when you go to startup meets and other networking platforms we got attention when people saw our figures and realized we were still students,” shares the proud entrepreneur.
Another thing that Swapnil says he shall miss is, as students, they never worried about volunteers and they could always ask friends and juniors who have knowledge in the area to come and assist. So if you need a website to be designed, you can find someone in your own campus who does it quickly and at much lower costs, but now that their college life has come to an end, Swapnil realises that they have to gear up for market realities.