Exclusive Conversation: Smruti & Ankit, Co-Founders CollegiateStore
Launched back in 2013, CollegiateStore is looking to make a change by being the first custom based e-commerce company to start operations in Odisha with its founders Smruti Ranjan Mohanty and Ankit Acharya. Smruti born and brought up in Odisha comes from a business background.He did his B.Tech from JSS Academy Bangalore and MBA from NIT Rourkela. Further, he has worked with many big names before starting this venture in 2013. He sets the direction for Collegiatestore’s and leads the thinking on what e-commerce can offer to the society through Collegiatestore’s vision. Ankit hails from a non-business family and was born in Odisha but has travelled all over India.He is due to join a graduate college this year. Ankit has done a course in digital marketing and is a certified digital marketing expert. He is also one of the youngest startup entrepreneur to be featured by Odialive and YourStory. and undoubtedly the youngest to lead an e-commerce company.
1) What was the idea behind starting this venture?
E-commerce has come a long way in India but we see very few attempts in the space from Tier II cities. Having spent almost 90% of our time in cities outside Odisha, we realised it was time we bring in a change in the State.
The way custom based business was running in the state, was rly disappointing. It was time that someone walked in and set it all right. This is when Collegiatestore came into existence. Today Collegiatestore has successful managed to create a change in the custom based field in Odisha, and all in less than 6 months time we have worked with over 50 clients.
2. Please brief us about your business model?
The collegiate store is our very own store which is basically of the people, by the people, and for the people. We aspire to be a leading online store in this segment. The main idea behind starting up this venture was to make this store the final destination where you can find Round Neck T-Shirts, Collared T-Shirts, Pullover, Zipper Pullover, Sweatshirts, Personalized Mugs, Mobile Phone Covers and Books (a new inclusion), Wallets, Jackets and a lot more accessories.to suite your needs as well as the occasion for which it is being made.
At “the collegiate store” it is you who designs the merchandise according to your requirement and we will take the honour of making your ideas and dreams come true at the convenience of your door step. In addition to this in case you are a bit doubtful about the design then our executive designer will take care of all your worries.
3. What is your target group? Are their any significant trends or patterns that you have witnessed in the consumer buying?
Collegiatestore is designed keeping ‘today’s youth’ in mind. So we basically focus on targeting the youth. We have noticed that over 90% of our clients are from schools, colleges and universities, while less than 10% are corporates or NGO’s. So this automatically shifts our focus to keeping the 90% happy, because that is where the business comes from.
4. How do you manage logistics?
After production, you can say logistics is the most important thing to be managed with perfection. There have been instances when you create the best of products but it has either got misplaced or damaged by the logistics company. Therefore we ensure that our focus never shifts from choosing the most reliable and reputed logistic companies in the market. We have a dedicated team that keeps track of the products right from the origin of the shipment till the final destination. We haven’t tied up with any particular company now, as delivery and cost has not been an issue till date.
5. How has been the uptake of the business so far?
Usually for a startup getting clients is a very tough job. Its usually the trust that is the issue or the pricing but for us the response hasn’t been all that bad. There are clients who wish to give us a chance, and its really great to see that over 90% of our clients return to us without having a second though. We have worked with the biggest of colleges and universities in the country such as the IIM’s , the IIT’s , XIM-B , IIIT , NIT’s etc. We have even managed to work with a few Indian and Multi national Companies.
6. Tell us about your three most successful user acquisition methodology?
- Content Marketing
- Public + Media Relations
- Referral Programs
7. Tell us about your three major challenges and how did you overcome them?
- Spreading the brand name amongst the youths – This was something which was something not really easy to achieve, in order to achieve a success in this we ensured that we hired a “Campus Manager”. Today we have over 25 campus managers who work with us in spreading the brand name and also work as a medium for communication between the students and the company.
- Production – This was another major challenge. As we out source our products currently, we used to face a lot of issues like production error, size error, design error or their have been instances were in the manufacturer has packed less number of products than what has been ordered. To avoid this we ensured that we hired a team which looks after the production and ensures that everything is double checked, before being dispatched to the customer.
- Talent – Finding the right people for this type of business was also a very important task for us, finding the people who are familiar with this type of business, the current youth, the fashion etc isn’t really isn’t an easy task. We ensure that each of our employees are well versed with every thing important.
8. There are a considerable number of sites selling such merchandise online. What would you say differentiates your website from others?
Yes there are a lot of companies who do similar type of business but not many have dared to start operations in Odisha and become successful. We are known to be the first custom based e-comm business that has base in Odisha. Apart from this very fact, we would very soon be launching leather accessories which is not really available in any other custom based store.
9. What are your future plans?
We haven’t really planned a lot for the future but certainly we have a few things in mind such as launching of new custom based products, very soon we would also be launching products under our brand name which is going to be our in-house production and apart from that .. well yes. An important one – finding an investor/VC.
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