When 32-year-old Ganesh Ram attended an ‘Innovators Identification’ camp organised by Vellore Institute of Technology’s (VIT) Technology Business Incubator (TBI) in 2008, he had presented fresh ideas in the mobile sector that got him selected for a three-month advanced business coaching programme. This course eventually led to the inception of Vellore-based Mobile Veda, a company that deals with mobile publishing. Though Ram had earlier worked in the web solutions domain under eMahatva Technologie Pvt. Ltd. (eMahatva), with Mobile Veda, he and co-founder Saravanan Nagarajan shifted their focus from web services to developing products. With initial funding of Rs. 4.2 lakh on loan from VIT, the young team is able to utilise the university’s resources, especially its students who often help in its project development and some of whom have been employed by the company. Besides the loan from VIT and the founders’ seed money of Rs. 4 lakh, the company was also supported by grants from the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises, Government of India for Rs. 4.5 lakh for one of its projects.
“One of the first projects we did was in 2008 to publish a Tamil book about Periyar on our website Fublish, for users to download.”
The team consists of about nine members with Ram overseeing administration and sales, while Nagarajan, who joined full time in 2009, looks into technology development. Ram soon hopes to shift base to Chennai, where a separate team of six works on product development and support. “One of the first projects we did was in 2008 to publish a Tamil book about Periyar on our website Fublish, for users to download,” says Ram. The website now has over 16,000 registered users with 300+ books and has seen about 60,000 downloads. According to Ram, the Thirukkural has been downloaded more than one lakh times. Most Java-enabled phones can download these books once the users register on the site and applications are also made available for various smart devices. Many of these classic books are copyright-free content available publicly which Mobile Veda chooses to publish that customers can download for a fee. Others like the yet-to-be published crime novels of Tamil writer Rajesh Kumar are done in agreement with the authors.
Founders: Ganesh Ram and Saravanan Nagarajan
Year founded: 2008
USP: Mobile publishing
Post its inception, it was not long before Mobile Veda ventured into publishing in other languages with the help of its mobile content packaging system platform and currently publishes books in eight languages including Hindi, Gujarati, Kannada and Telugu. Seed was another venture that brought out the publication of 1,000 English and Tamil books, which also helped the company bag Tamil Nadu’s best software award of 2008 and a grant of one lakh rupees. “For a reasonable fee, users can get these books either onto a memory card or on a CD. We are also revamping it currently to add more categories like short stories, children’s books etc. and make the process simpler,” says Ram. In 2011, Ram won the Young Publishing Entrepreneur award given by British Council and will be participating in the London Book Fair next year. The company is also looking to tie-up with publishers in other local languages to get its books published on the mobile platform. It also partners with smaller publishers to digitise their content or licences its technology to them, as in the case of a Tamil weekly magazine, Ananda Vikatan.
CellNool is an ambitious project of making Seed available to a million people, as Ram says. To make this happen, the company is hoping to attract angel investors in the near future. “We are looking to hire more experienced people in this domain and have a dedicated sales team. We are hoping, in the next six months, a complete structure falls into place to move forward.” The company also plans to publish academic books in the near future.
The digital domain has never daunted Pradeep Chopra (34) and Kapil Nakra (34), founders of Digital Vidya that imparts training on digital marketing. “Since establishing the company in January 2010, the challenge of convincing professionals about the need for digital marketing has reduced,” says Chopra, chief-executive officer, Digital Vidya. The company has differentiated itself from other competitors by being among the first to hold workshops on social media marketing (SMM). With over 70 workshops involving more than 1,200 participants in India and Singapore, Digital Vidya’s corporate client list spans various industries.
“It is a case-study based workshop with hands-on training for two days that is usually attended by about 30 people. We basically guide them through various steps about the importance of SMM and leveraging various social media tools from creating, strategising to measuring the return on investment.”
Prior to Digital Vidya, Chopra and Nakra, batch mates at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, co-founded Whizlabs, an information technology education company and later OMLogic Consulting, a digital marketing company, and helped both these companies to leverage the digital medium in establishing their brands. Having seen the role digital media, especially social media, plays in a brand’s development, they decided to impart the same knowledge to others. A year later, they were joined by their college-mate Manas Garg, who takes care of the technology division from Bengaluru. With seed funding of Rs. 5 lakh, the founders relied on their network to setup the first workshop, but soon word of mouth helped set the process in motion. Digital Vidya holds both public and customised corporate workshops every month in New Delhi and Mumbai and once every quarter in Singapore. Though Chopra and Nakra are the principal trainers, the company is also internally training its team of 20 employees besides occasionally bringing in outside trainers. “It is a case-study based workshop with hands-on training for two days that is usually attended by about 30 people. We basically guide them through various steps about the importance of SMM and leveraging various social media tools from creating, strategising to measuring the return on investment,” adds Chopra.
Founders: Pradeep Chopra, Kapil Nakra, Manas Garg
Place: New Delhi
Year founded: 2010
USP: Digital marketing with specialisation on social media marketing
According to Chopra, the biggest fear most professionals have of social media is the rippling negative effect. “But having a presence in this medium makes sure you can take steps to rectify anything negative, than to be completely in the dark about it. Plus, SMM is about building relationships with customers, it cannot be seen as a promotional campaign,” he states. The company’s tangent business, dvBytes is an extension of Digital Vidya that offers consultation services to companies in executing digital marketing. “By serving real customers, we bring in practical knowledge to these workshops, along with our 11 years of experience in this domain,” says Chopra. And Chopra feels a company can benefit by having an in-house digital marketing team. “There are quite a few companies that already have internal teams, but this medium is so fast-paced that it requires one to be constantly updated, including us.”
Digital Vidya has become profitable over a year even as it has expanded its team and services arm. “We are not looking at any further funding. We are in talks with a few advertising agencies to partner with them and hope to expand our workshops to more cities,” concludes Chopra.