India’s educational scenario still poses a gross contradiction. While we do not settle for anything less than world-class education and Ivy League schools that up the elite quotient for city folk, majority of India still struggle to get their hands on basic textbooks and syllabus even days before crucial exams. Any extra study material to have an edge is out of the question. Combining two causes, Digital India and education, therefore, struck as an obvious solution to this ambitious woman entrepreneur.
As an army child, Geetanjali Khanna had travelled the length and breadth of the education system in India. “I changed eight schools across eight cities during a 12-year school span. That gave me the best insight into India’s schooling. From convents to co-ed, from Kendraya Vidyalayas to Army Public School, I have tasted it all first hand. Finding patterns amongst chaos, streamlining difficult situations and coping up to win against odds, were all a regular part of my childhood,”she remembers.
“I once realised that many IITians around me were not the pure result of perseverance and talent.There were many who had the right medium of educational information and products at the right time.I remember I had to get a specific book of mathematics sample papers couriered all the way from Delhi to my then-home Jammu. My 99% scorewas attributed solely to that coveted book.Many years later, I noticed the same pain parents and students faced in getting their choice of books, stationery,hiring a tutor or testing their skills digitally,” she adds.
Geetanjali proceeded to get a formal engineering degree. “The only girl to be dressed in denims, I walked, with my chin up, right into a Haryana engineering college with a gender ratio of 1:100, only to come out with flying colours,”she says.
The corporate world managed to entice Geetanjali for a long and successful stint, right after. “I had a very blessed work life. Climbed up the managerial ladder very fast, and was handling a team size of 70 people, geographically dispersed brands of account size of $four million, all by the age of 25. In my corporate run of seven years, I achieved all that I could think of:double promotions in a fiscal year, 100per cent salary jumps and highest money grosser accounts of the year,” she says.
But remembering marginalized Indian students still struggling to match shoulders with the outside world caught up again. “I still wished to change what I had once experienced, to ensure access of world-class products to students in every nook and corner of this country; to enable the Indian student like never before.”
Hence was born the idea of Fastudent which is claimed to be the only education dedicated marketplace with study material, extra notes and other nomenclature for every stream of education need.
Geetanjali took up this cumbersome, one-of-a-kind endeavour when she was a new mom, with a six month old baby! “I started off Fastudent treating it as my second infant in tow. Being a first-time entrepreneur, I had the zeal and persistence of a lion, but at the same time, the innocence of a curious child. I learnt, re-invented the wheel at many occasions, and innovated at every little step,” she says.
Obstacles flung themselves at her by the dozen. “It was quite an experience, dealing with the supply chain teams
which were still pre-dominantly male. From the logistic team members refusing to call me at late hours, despite a lingering crisis, to maintaining a continuum between various aspects of business like supply chain management, product development and customer experience, I experienced it all,”Geetanjali recalls.
In spite of the hurdles, the startup was raring to go from day one. “Within seconds of launching our portal, we received orders to the tune of Rs 40,000! And we kept growing steadily with a lean team, until we emerged as a leading education portal and were at par with some of the top educational websites,”she says.
Fastudent started off as a small scale enterprise with a limited audience base, but has now grown to a 12-million-strong customerbase. Having witnessed a 100per cent quarter-on-quarter growth in the last three years, its repeat customers are close to 65per cent of its audience.
“We have reduced the buying cycle of our customers from once in three months to once in three weeks. We are looking to close this fiscal at $1 million of revenue,”Geetanjali adds.
Overcoming the odds to build a meaningful business has a lot to do with a utopian shift in trends, Geetanjali feels. She notes, “Woman entrepreneurs are very sought after right now. I recently met a booming startup which was looking for a woman co-founder for their four-member team, to bring the ‘sixth sense’ women team members get into the startup. It’s a mighty powerful phenomenon. It is an encouraging scenario to witness government bodies like Bharatiya Mahila Bank extending non-collateral based funds to women entrepreneurs and organisations like Weconnect looking for startups with women founders having more than 50 per cent equity in a startup. To sum it up in Steffi Graf’s words: ‘I never look back, I look forward.’”