Armed with a degree in Engineering, Geetanjali Khanna was a passionate hands-on supply chain specialist. A valedictorian all across her academic years, she has always been very passionate about education and its universe. Growing up in a Defence family, Khanna had the chance to experience the ebbs and tides of educational institutes all across the country.
Sensing the need to find out the solution for this, Khanna decided to enter the market in the year 2013 with her product named, ‘Fastudent.com’.
Fastudent.com is an online platform for education supplies and it claims itself to be India’s first and only B2B2C DIY education eCommerce platform. It has partnered with more than 200 education institutes to help them create their own customized virtual shops - using the Fastudent technology platform.
It does not stop at just giving a readymade branded e-store to the institute; it also takes away the entire hassle of vendor integration, inventory management, delivery and fulfillment at the backend.
We at Entrepreneur India caught up with Geetanjali Khanna, Co-founder and COO Fastudent.com to understand more about her mission and vision in respect to its venture.
Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey, how you came up with idea.
Fastudent is an idea born out of personal experiences. During my student years, I can recollect the panic and the high level of uncertainty we all put in to get hold of any Learning supplies. Unbelievably so, I still noticed the same musical chairs (like) rush that parents and students face, when it comes to meeting their academic needs. From as obvious as getting an authored book of choice, to choosing art supplies- be it testing their skills digitally or even choosing the best suited sports products-it was all happening on a buy-what-you-manage phenomenon.
What is your Business Model? How do you make money?
We conceptualize it in a way that one Fastudent could be split in multiple Fastudents to satisfy demands related to books, stationery, uniforms, branded merchandise, digital learning, sports goods, art & craft, electronics for each and every educational institute. Fastudent partners with Schools/institutions and lets them sell and educate their students better by enabling them with their own branded e-store.
With the largest educational portfolio, we have a curated product catalogue of 1, 00,000 SKUs. These products are scrutinised and zero-ed down to after immense filtering and approval from acadmecians. Our strong vendor base and tie-ups with 1000+ top brands in education has helped us service the student community like never before.
With Fastudent's proprietary model, we have eliminated the agony of the Hunt for supplies. With curated super focused product ranges for each educational institute, we are empowering the student with choices, access and predictability in the supplies domain.
Have you raised any funding so far? What was it that attracted the investors to your business?
With our last round of funding we have some marquee educational investors backing us, prominently led by Ashish Gupta, ex-Evalueserve and Founder and Trustee of Ashoka University. The funds have been allocated for team expansion and technology advancement.
Our unique model of eCommerce which rose out of necessity has helped us stand out constantly. We tested the waters with a pure B2C education eCommerce model for the first 18 months, to pivot into the current B2B2C model. The strong operational metrics and the against-the-tide profitable eCommerce model and has helped the right investors reaching out to us.
Tell us something about your team, office culture, etc.
We are a young and dynamic team of 60 people. Our Fastudent office culture is an extension of the free-spirited yet highly dedicated corporates that we founders have come in from. We celebrate the smallest of occasions with great zeal and have special bonding activities for the ones afflicted with Monday blues. It’s a family of young talents who our mini entrepreneurs in their own domains. Hence, we get a team is highly aligned with our passion to create a seamless education mall.
Who has been your mentor in your entrepreneurial journey?
Ashish Gupta, our investor, has been our mentor throughout. His learnings as an entrepreneur and the finesse with which he has handled the different stages of his startup to take it to the level it is at, as been absolutely inspirational. My learning from him has always been, to let the business numbers do the talking.
Is there any business fundamental that you strongly believe in?
The only business fundamental we stuck to was customer satisfaction. We have heard the customer at every aspect. Every little change that you see in our business, has originated from some consumer feedback. In essence, fastudent is actually our consumer's Brainchild
Would you like to share with us any A-ha moment you had in the business?
We are hugely kicked to get a A-ha moment almost every day, with a customer testimonial that simply blows us off. The youngest of customers from 11 year olds, come up with the best motivational lines one can ever think of. I remember distinctly, one of our young customers from Trichy, called us to say that all the products in the order can be delivered to his Paternal uncle, since he is not allowed to handle money at this age.
What is your personal style of addressing the challenges you face?
Being a first time entrepreneur, every day has been a new lesson in my entrepreneurial journey. Coming from a corporate setup, the gender bias was not too evident. In fact, hiring fellow women employees was never an issue. As supply Chain management is one of the domains I take care of. 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 of a lingering crisis, to maintaining a continuum between various aspects of business like supply chain management, product development and customer experience was all a tricky challenge for me.
Any future scale-up plans?
Our focus is towards creating a global brand synonymous with student buying. We want to empower the student with our technological capabilities, to give them a platform which promotes self-assisted learning. Our mission is to eliminate the inefficiencies in accessibility of education products for all stakeholders-be it students, parents, academicians and institutions. We are targeting 1000 educational institutions in the coming fiscal.
Lastly, have you experienced any changes in yourself after you enter into the entrepreneurial world?
Running a startup brings a 360 degree view to ones thinking. Taking decisions on multiple facets, taking the considerations of all stake holders has been immensely satisfying. To think like your customer, your colleague as well as your investor, all at the same time and take decisions to help each one grow has been my biggest change so far.