Hello readers, Welcome to another edition of Startup Interview series. Today we are publishing an interview with Vasanthi Neelagiri, CEO & Founder, Booksol.
Let’s get into it!
At a glance
- Startup name: Booksol
- Sector: Edu-Tech
- Launch Date: October 2016
- Location: Hyderabad, India
- Funding: Self
Hello Vasanthi, Welcome. Could you brief us about Booksol?
In my free time, I used to tutor the children of our community’s security guards. This experience led me to reflect on the status of India’s educational system: a lack of creativity and enthusiasm, with students unable to effectively express thoughts and ideas. My engineering mind went to work analyzing the problem and identifying solutions – a process that created my company, Booksol.
I researched global educational practices, spoke to education specialists, and visited more than 50 schools in Hyderabad to understand the schooling picture. I worked tirelessly alongside my full-time job to design innovative programs.
My family and friends were initially quite skeptical of my project, but attitudes began to change once I presented a full plan to them. In two years, we have engaged over 2000 students. Watching these children become more creative and curious has given me unbeatable satisfaction. We’ve now conducted dozens of seminars with eminent speakers to increase awareness of holistic learning and broaden career awareness beyond the narrow doctor and engineer tracks prized by so many Indian families. I further aim to develop Booksol into a revolutionary venture in the Indian education system
Who founded Booksol?
I founded and incorporated the company in May 2016 and began our full swing operations in October 2016. Also, attended the Indian Institute of Technology, Bhubaneswar and majored in Electrical Engineering.
I worked as a software engineer at a Fortune 500 company, including a stint in Brazil and learned a lot there, but ultimately I decided to follow my passion and start my own company in the education sector. Outside work, I love to travel, meet new people, listen to their stories and know about their cultures & traditions. I also love to try out different fitness activities and adventures.
Who is your Targeted audience?
School going kids are our target audience. Ours is a B2B setup wherein we collaborate with schools/institutions and we closely work with them and fit our modules in their school curriculum to avoid any kind of redundancy. We meticulously plan with school management to make learning a fun-filled fruitful activity and not to overload/stress the child.
What type of strategies do you think is valuable to take the company to the next level?
Many successful small companies have the ability to see the big picture and envision how the company will look like tomorrow. Most important thing is to have timed meaningful goals and the team should push boundaries and step out of their comfort zone to meet the set goals. Also, the team should be quick and flexible to adopt a new technique if something is not working out.
Trying to meet the goals, the team should increase their productivity and commit to continuous learning. Top emphasis should be laid on Customer service. Being able to retain desirable clients plays a significant role in the continued success of small businesses. Not only does having regular customers mean regular income, but happy clients can also provide powerful word-of-mouth marketing
Tell us about your amazing team members?
My friends were my first team members. They were all excited to start a new venture but as a leader, it was also very important for me to make sure they didn’t lose that excitement. After we worked so hard to ready our prototype, we initially faced significant criticism from prospective clients. The team was extremely disappointed, but we worked to shape our personalities to collaborate toward a common vision.
The team felt energized when we could share each other’s frustration, stress, and disappointments, and set the direction for a bigger purpose, a movement. Our work, and therefore our commitment to the work, mattered. I trusted the team members and delegated meaningful work to them.
Together, we reinvented the product and found real success when we re-entered the market: 10+ institutional clients, reaching over 2000 students. Booksol wouldn’t have been where it is without the efforts and dedication of my team members.
What are your future plans?
My long-term goal is to establish Booksol as a sustainable and meaningfully impacting company, touching 100,000+ students and substantially transforming & uplifting the educational scenario in India.
We want to accelerate our nationwide expansion plans and add an audio-visual learning platform, unique and groundbreaking in India. We have already begun work with media and production partners to develop a platform with academic and enrichment content, targeting school-age children.
This platform will be the first of its kind in India, providing creative and stimulating content in a protected digital context that feels natural to the current generation. Through our programs, I want to empower each child with the skills, self-awareness, and confidence to conquer the world.
What is your best motivation line that inspires you?
Live like there’s no tomorrow
This line motivates me to make the best of my short time in this world. I want to fill my every day with Strange & Exciting things. I work so hard for the things I love, for what I want to become and love things which make me happy, get my adrenaline pump faster!!! And I don’t leave a stone unturned.
What challenges do you face within the market currently?
The major challenge I face in the current market is Human resources.
I see a scarcity of qualified educators with an art background and willing to work for the compensation start-ups are offering. And another challenge is client acquisition. Acceptance and willingness to try out new educational practices on behalf of institutions is something we are working hard to change.
Could you share details about the source of funding, revenue, client acquisition model and statistics so far?
I have bootstrapped this venture with my own money. We are a self-funded registered startup and are open to funding. We reached the break-even point in less than 1.5 years and attained 10+ clients with 2000+ students. This year we are expanding to a new city. Ours is a heavy marketing-focused model and most of our client acquisition costs go in Marketing.
What advice would you like to give the upcoming entrepreneurs?
I advise the upcoming entrepreneurs to take a calculated risk and put themselves in uncomfortable situations and roles. Believe in yourself, face your fears, challenge yourself, learn from your mistakes, have a vision, build a great team and finally deliver more than expected. Entrepreneurship has the power to solve society’s most pressing issues and make the world a better place. So, be proud of the path you have taken.