Youth Connect: Building platforms for youngsters and educational institutes
By handpicking colleges, institutes and universities on the basis of their popularity, need and location, Youth Connect Plus Network, is aiming to build educational institute specific magazines under the domain of youthconnectmag.com, without incurring any mandatory costs.
'Youth Connect' started off in 2012 by Rahul Bhagchandani and Divesh Aswani, as a print and digital forum for young India to voice their opinion. “It was a random Facebook conversation between me & Rahul that got us talking about how there is a whole lot of stereotypical content in the market and how there needs to be some content for the youth,” says Divesh Aswani, Co-Founder and CEO.
“Against popular belief, we found that the youth wants to read but does not have like-able content to read. Rahul was into writing & blogging and I was good in designing and thus, we formed a good team,” he adds.
The duo started working on it in 2010, when Bhagchandani completed his school and Aswani was in first year studying engineering in the Gujarat Technological University. Later, the university incubated their venture under the Student Startup Support System (S4).
Motive behind this initiative
The singular view behind this innovation was to integrate the educational ecosystem in terms of events, talents and content. Alongside, this gives the educational institutes an opportunity to upgrade their public image and get free PR activities for their institutes.
Often, the existing websites of the institutes are meant solely for admissions and results. However, with the help of 'Youth Connect' domains, colleges will be able to share messages, opinions and so on from the student committee, the Principal or any student/teacher.
Benefits of using Youth Connect domain
- Fully functional content management system - Each institute’s website will be hosted on a sub-domain of youthconnectmag.com. For example, if XYZ becomes a part of the network, it will be allotted as xyz.youthconnectmag.com. It will come bundled with a fully-functional content management system, and easy to use tools to publish content.
- Customised content – All institute-websites will have the same look & feel, but the content that will flow on these sites will be created & produced by the students of the respective institutes.
- Editorial Assistance - 'Youth Connect' will provide editorial assistance to the institutes and the technical side will be managed by them.
- Integrated platform - The best content from all the institute-websites will be displayed on the home page of 'Youth Connect' website. Exclusive content will be used for its print platform. Since the circulation number print edition is about 11,000 and 60% new users every month, these institutes will be able to broadcast the talents they are generating, without any additional costs.
- Free of cost - The platform will be available free-of-cost to all institutes. In three months of launch, it will be available to only 150 – 200 selected institutes and gradually it will start broadening the platform for others.
Currently, they are approaching various colleges, institutes and universities to sign their Memorandum of Understanding. They have started with metros and will gradually expand to small cities.
“There are some administrators who are trying to get their college to the next level. For them, having a technical maintenance support of a network that has a reader base will give them exposure. Therefore, they don’t mind having sub-domains,” says Bhagchandani, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief.
Furthermore, the sub-domains have been made available for free to encourage institutes to join Youth Connect. In the next 18 months, they expect a considerable number of educational institutes to join them. Also, they are anticipating some competition till then, "since this site and this idea isn’t difficult to replicate," says Bhagchandani.
Funding and sustenance
“Venturing into the print business when the industry is not doing so well was the riskiest thing we did; the fact that the risk paid off is a different story,” says Bhagchandani.
Youth Connect’s primary source of revenue is advertisements in the form of banner ads and sponsored stories. On a long term basis, “we plan to conduct inter-institute events using the platform. Being in this space, for about two years now, we have a solid clientele of advertisers who will be willing to advertise on a platform like Youth Connect Plus Network, helping us grow our ad revenue rapidly – which will eventually help us to sustain the entire model,” he adds.