Grey Matters

Giri Balasubramaniam, Founder Greycaps India

Quizzing has grown in a big way over the last few years. Derek O’Brien’s Bournvita Quiz Contest was one of the most popular quiz shows to hit television screens in the year 1994. Soon the Landmark quiz and Odyssey quiz caught the fancy of the country’s quizzers. It was then that the world realised that Bangalore has a pocket of some really serious quizzers who would give up holidays and free time to exercise their grey cells and indulge in brain war.

Greycaps India was set up just for such ardent quizzers by Giri “Pickbrain” Balasubramaniam in 1999. Greycaps is a quizzing and knowledge services company based in Bangalore that has revolutionized the quizzing community and its activities in India. Besides conducting on-stage quizzing events in schools, colleges and corporate houses, they have a host of other services on offer. For Balasubramaniam, the transition from a cushy job at Walt Disney to starting Greycaps wasn’t easy. “While one half of the B-school batch mates I had spoken to at the time advised me to take the plunge, the other half thought it was foolish to quit a Disney job,” explains Balasubramaniam. But, the key is to support and give yourself a chance sometimes, states this avid quizzer wisely.

Beyond quizzing

“The business of quizzing is like films. It is no different from the life of an actor – the audience decides your shelf life,” opines Balasubramaniam. This is why Greycaps has gone beyond the quizzing tag and designed a variety of programmes to suit people in different stages of life. For schools, Greycaps has introduced a ‘Global Awareness Program,’ which aims to create a knowledge economy by involving students in happenings around the world. By adopting a unique 360 degree approach to this programme, they package the information in vibrant colors, through interesting games that makes the child’s mind more receptive to gaining knowledge. The college-specific programmes are created to increase student employability and empowers them to face the industry with a fresh approach. At the corporate level, Greycaps develops human capital by involving people in improving business communication, team building and leadership skills and even offers customised services depending on the organisation.

The business of quizzing is like films. It is no different from the life of an actor – the audience decides your shelf life,” opines Balasubramaniam.

Their primary revenue streams include the quiz shows, their publication, their training programme and knowledge consulting for educational institutions and corporate houses. Their charges are customized, based on the role they play for the client, which could be building an entire knowledge property or just researching and hosting services. “It is not a business that is operated on rate cards,” explains Balasubramaniam.  They have a strong research team, which powers their shows. As information has an expiry tag too, these dedicated researchers validate every bit of information.

Traditional model, the key

Greycaps grew from Quizbrain, which was India’s biggest quizzing portal started by Giri Balasubramaniam and a few other quizzers. “We did have a dotcom dream like many others did in early 2000 but were quick to understand and realise that the medium does not translate into revenues easily as compared to the traditional models of chalk and blackboard. The model of Quizbrain was certainly right, it was just way ahead of its time,” explains Balasubramaniam.

“One doesn’t always need venture capital to grow. If growth happens at a pace that is acceptable to you then there is no need to look for acceleration ahead of its time. Most entrepreneurs mistake VCs for Santas doling out money and pay the price for it sooner than later,” quips Balasubramaniam when asked about his fund-raising plans from VCs.

Rural market

Like every other company that has explored the rural segment as a part of their target audience, Greycaps has established their presence here as well. Be it for conducting quizzes or knowledge-based programmes, Greycaps believes that entering rural markets requires a simple approach. “This market requires anything that would improve their lives or future. The key lies in being able to give them the same inputs that an urban audience receives. It has to be only packaged in a language the rural audience is more comfortable with,” says Balasubramaniam.

The future

Chalking their journey for the past 11 years, Balasubramaniam says, “Quizzing has changed more in the last 10 years than it has in the last 50 years! Quizzing, today, is a sport and not just a hobby over wine and cheese. It is also about big budgets, prize monies and has become more competitive than the fun days.” In short, it is serious business powered by corporates and technology, he adds.

With a global footprint in Middle East, Singapore, Sri Lanka, UK and the U.S., their strategy has to be path breaking to work in such a vast demograph. “We have to change the content and tune it to the awareness level of the audiences. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to answer it,” feels Balasubramaniam. Clearly, customised research is the key to success in this business.

The future of any company in the knowledge services domain is in the global market and Greycaps is no different. “We are upbeat about our prospects and confident of the core strengths we possess. We would have to leverage this in various forms ranging from products to services as we grow,” says Balasubramaniam. Having presented close to 1500 shows across 74 destinations, Balasubramaniam attributes the show’s success to his fantastic research team. With an earnest and motivated team in place, predicting this company’s success in the future is definitely a no- brainer!

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