Over umpteen cups of masala chai and a heavy dose of guilt, the discussion between me and Madhup was clearly pointing out that we were not involved in our kids’ progress at school. Leave alone being involved, we were not even aware of half the things they were doing at school.
I had two kids and a job that required me to travel to US frequently and spend late hours in the office. Madhup also had two kids and was working hard to expand his family business of distribution of stationery products which meant he was on the road at least 10 days a month. Our wives, expectedly so, were unhappy at having to cope up with all that the school diary messages, misplaced circulars, cryptic SMS and various fees payment to schools.
We realized that there was an app for my bank, my health records, and even cab booking, but where was the app for our kids’ school? In this time and age, it was hard to believe that the schools still used archaic paper diary systems and printed paper circulars. We realized that this was something that had not changed in the last 25 years! We started meeting with schools and parents to see if having a mobile app for communication between schools and parents would be of use and to our delight not just the institute and parents but the teachers and students were enthusiastic about it too. Our start-up was born!
We set up EduCommerce Technologies as a private limited company in September 2014 and continued market research. In January 2015, we communicated to our respective organizations that we wanted to get relieved of our duties and pursue the new venture full-time.
Thus began the learning journey. We initially wanted to do create a mobile platform for schools to communicate and transact with students. We found a software company in Chennai to develop the same based on our guidelines so that we could focus on the product rather than spend time on coding. Then we decided to also do student focused e-commerce and got a prototype of the portal developed. However, we quickly realized that we were fighting a lost battle and decided to close down the e-commerce portal.
The outsourced development didn’t go well either as the vendor could never understand the vision of the product and we could never document enough. In March we got fed-up and decided to bring the development in-house. Here came the second learning. Despite managing large teams in the past we could not convince anyone to join our grand dream. No one was willing to join as we were “too young”, “unstable” and “not financially secure”. However, we kept trying and our persistence paid off when we hired a brilliant graphic designer to get our website going. Then we hired a web designer who desperately wanted to move to Jaipur, where we were based. The team grew from there on. Key take away was to be ready to sell your dream to people who would be a part of your dream.
We put together a team of programmers and put out the beta version in May and first release in July 2015. The product was called SchoolA2Z and we decided to charge customers INR 10 per student per year. The next learning was not too far away. Schools took forever to decide, on what we thought was a very small amount. Sales cycle was never ending.
We ended up making the product free. Things turned on its head.
Suddenly, we had schools picking our calls and sometimes even calling us back (yes, actually!) to sign-up. The product was maturing, and so was our sales pitch.
Another interesting development happened when we got calls from hobby classes and coaching centres that they wanted to use the product but were hesitant because of the name SchoolA2Z.
We were meeting with potential investors at that time and in one of the meetings a certain gentleman told us to make two changes: change the name to something more neutral and market the product to not just schools but all kinds of educational institutions. We debated hard internally and agreed that there was merit in the idea. We called him in the evening to tell him that we agreed to his suggestions, and he in turn said he had made up his mind to invest in our company! We renamed our product – myly.
In parallel, we signed up an agreement which gave us access to a physical sales team of 500+ people who would go to schools, colleges, hobby classes etc. to implement myly.
Today, we are leveraging the funding to build a strong team, robust product and a multi-pronged marketing and sales strategy. The results are encouraging, we are signing up 100+ institutions every month and already have 35,000 students registered on our platform.
Myly is established as a serious contender in the educational institution-to-home communication space and will be launching learning services on the mobile app. Content from course curriculum, language learning and vocational training will all be available on the platform leading to revenues and profitability in the medium term.
In our run-up to getting investors interested about myly, Prajakt Raut, a dear friend I have known for many years, asked us to create our start-up profile on Applyifi – his portal to assess start-ups. Firstly, the questions asked on Applyifi got us thinking hard. We had to verbalize things that we were only comfortable (wishfully!) thinking about. Applyifi questions actually got us thinking to the extent of going back and making changes in our strategy and b-plan. The detailed report from Applyifi further highlighted areas for us to go back and fix in our strategy on both – macro (strategy) and micro (operational) levels. We are very thankful to Applyifi for being an integral part of our journey.
We are now looking for our second round of funding to go for market capture. Visit us at www.mylyapp.com
First published here.