Aglasem – Case Studies on Marketing Management

12

Aglasem*

Life as an engineering student is not easy—when it comes to collecting notes, photocopying books and running for assignments, especially during semester examinations.

It was one such day in the month of January 2009 when a second-year undergraduate computer science student, Anand Meena, was waiting in a long queue at the college photocopy shop to get his 10 pages photocopied, and it took him more than an hour to get the job done. In a world where the majority of the students were used to this scenario, he and his friends dreamt of something unique that would completely change the current scenario and the students’ outlook.

Anand Meena, along with his friends, used the mightiest tool of today’s world, the Internet, and within the next 12 days launched Aglasem.com. Currently, Aglasem.com has six founding partners: namely, Anand Meena, Anwesha Bose, Abhishek Bindal, Samrat Malik, Divya Chhaochharia and Akash Aggrawal.

AGLASEM: MOVING ON TO THE NEXT SEMESTER

Aglasem literally means ‘moving on to the next semester’. It was created with the aim of ‘helping the student community’. It houses anything and everything to make the student’s life smoother. It offers various kinds of content that a student need in their academic life. Aglasem strives to ensure good quality content and authentic updates. Each section in Aglasem’s course content has a dedicated team working behind it to make the content absolutely self-explanatory as per the section’s objectives.

What Does Aglasem Offer?

Aglasem is associated with numerous colleges in North India and is constantly expanding its horizons (see Exhibit 12.1). Aglasem caters to all essential needs of the student community and strives to provide authentic and updated information. The facilities provided at Aglasem include the following:

  • Courses offered: Aglasem comprises the database of the various courses offered by the colleges/universities associated with Aglasem and assist the students during admission sessions.
  • Question papers: The question papers section at Aglasem provides the previous year’s question papers for students’ access to help them save time.
  • Course books: Aglasem offers a list of the various textbooks for different semesters that can be helpful for the students in their semesters. These books are in accordance with the syllabus of the course and hence vary from department to department and college to college. Aglasem also offers an option of purchasing these books online.
  • Syllabus: The syllabus of every stream/branch/course is available under different college heads, under the ‘Syllabus’ section of Aglasem.
  • Semester results: At Aglasem.com, one can easily check the results for all the semesters of the various colleges associated with Aglasem. Aglasem maintains a database of the results of various colleges which are easily accessible even after the link is unavailable at the college Web site.
  • Departmental ranks: In an era of cut-throat competition, everyone wants to know where they stands. With the given results, departmental rank (DR) is equally important and thus, Aglasem has a technical team especially dedicated to calculate DR. These DR results are often used by various companies at the time of recruitment.
  • Placements: Aglasem offers various placement-related information for students in their final year, provide them with various success stories and resume-building strategies and focus on various critical issues which end up as the deciding factors at the time of placement. Aglasem keeps in mind the legal rules and regulations and abide by them, and hence facts such as pay packages are not published.
  • Lab manuals and files: Lab manuals and files for the various departments are provided for the student’s access thus saving their time and energy. Aglasem also has plans to upload some of the top students’ files as references for other students, helping them in their file compilation.
  • Notes: Aglasem provides the latest notes and assignments provided by professors for easy access, so that every student can easily access these resources, even if he or she is unable to attend a class for some reason.
  • Discussion forum: This is where the present students and prospective students can connect to discuss important issues. The importance increases even more during the time of admission when an aspiring student can seek the personal opinions of current students regarding the college/university. This is also the case during the placement season, where the students can keep themselves updated about the types of interviews and topics alike.
  • Updates: This is where news/information regarding each college/university is posted. The latest information regarding college innovations, festivals and workshops are regularly updated.
  • Groups: This is the social networking platform exclusively for students of the same college/university. Here they can socially interact with present students as well as the alumni to discuss their academic issues. Moreover, it provides a platform for the alumni to be connected with their alma mater.
  • Photo and video gallery: Memories of college life is what everyone wants to carry throughout one’s life. With this gallery, a student can have access to it anywhere in the world.
  • Admissions: Aglasem provides the entire process of counselling for admission to various colleges/universities, and thus offers a helpful medium for students to track their progress.
  • Societies: Colleges/universities have a number of societies dealing with technical innovations, cultural activities, debating, drama and so on. This section takes care of the various student-managed activities in the colleges/universities.

Aglasem Customers

Aglasem caters to all the necessary resources useful for an undergraduate student studying in an engineering college. Hence the prime and foremost customers of Aglasem are the students. Thesestudents are mainly the undergraduates, who visit Aglasem.com for their various requirements such as semester question papers, files, and notes. During the company’s first year these students were mainly from the Delhi Technological University (DTU), but in the subsequent years Aglasem attracted students of other colleges and universities as well, and is currently the most visited student-based Web site in the north Indian region catering to such facilities for the student community.

We are happy that students from other universities as well are trying to associate with us. Aglasem is striving hard to provide them with all the necessary information required at the undergraduate level.

Anwesha Bose, Co-founder, Aglasem

As the company progressed, Aglasem started involving students as interns to work in the technical field. One day, one such intern proposed the idea of DR calculator for the students to provide them with their standings in their respective departments. Slowly the section became popular and some companies also started referring to this section at the time of college placements.

Aglasem also offers live online streaming and builds Web sites for various college fests, societies and various techno-management events organized by several colleges. It is therefore developing potential customers by offering them services of online streaming of various events available globally.

It was a nice concept to introduce live streaming of the various workshops in the universities to provide facilities for students to globally mark their presence for the events.

Anand Meena, Founder, Aglasem

Aglasem is also involved in various other domains apart from students at undergraduate level. It has started sections for students at the school level as well as for students opting for higher education, and those looking for jobs. This has resulted in widespread popularity of Aglasem among a larger student community, and it has progressively become an inevitable part of a student’s life.

Aglasem: Marketing Approach

Aglasem.com has a three-month global Alexa traffic rank1 of 61,683. The site has a ranking of 5,255 in India. Relative to the overall population of Internet users, Aglasem.com appeals more to users who are under the age of 25; its visitors also tend to consist of childless, less affluent men browsing from school and home. The site has a bounce rate of about 66 per cent. For achieving such statistics, Aglasem worked hard on its marketing strategies to promote, popularize and familiarize Aglasem among its target audience (see Exhibit 12.2 for traffic rank for Aglasem from 2010 till present, and Exhibit 12.3 for various age groups of people visiting Aglasem).

Initially Aglasem was only confined to the DTU, and hence the founders did not have any problem in marketing and publicity within the college as they themselves were students of the same university, and hence reaching out to the college mass was not difficult. Also, due to the limited exposure, the Web site had a shared hosting, and hence Web site maintenance cost was also minimal.

During its initial stages, Aglasem remained confined only to DTU, and hence marketing Aglasem was not a problem. The first year, they built their network inside the university and the students volunteered to work with Aglasem with great zeal. The founders of Aglasem also built Web sites for college fests and other college societies. The revenue thus generated was utilized entirely for developing Aglasem. Aglasem did not make much profit in its first year of operation, as it remained in a shell, working for basic student needs such as providing question papers.

Intially I wasn’t aiming to take this start to zenith it has attained. I just started all this to provide students with an easier access to the most necessary resources required by a student during his exam days.

Anand Meena, Founder, Aglasem

The problems arose when Aglasem started spreading its network in the other colleges/universities, first in north India and then associating with the universities in other parts of the country. The major problems encountered by Aglasem include hiring more workforce, basic hosting issues and monetary issues. Initially, when Aglasem was confined only to DTU, students of the university were enthusiastic to be involved with a start-up by their own university students, but as it expanded its network, technically skilled people dedicated solely to Aglasem were not available and getting a full-time working force became a tough task. The second major issue of concern was site hosting, and due to limited monetary resources, the team was unable to purchase a dedicated server for the Web site. Hence, to develop the company and expand its boundaries, Aglasem initiated various marketing strategies and approaches time to time, covering both offline as well as online platforms for marketing.

We being in the initial phase of our company, tried out various different approaches. If you consider our development and progress, it is fluctuating in the starting years.

Anand Meena

The Aglasem team used to take assignments of Web site building for various college events, festivals and workshops, and the revenue generated from that contributed to the initial investments for Aglasem. As the Aglasem network was limited to a few hundred students at the initial phase, this investment was sufficient. Initially, the annual expenses for Aglasem only involved ₹ 3,000–4,000 for Web site hosting. Gradually as the company evolved, the traffic on the Web site increased and a need for better Web site hosting emerged. This certainly raised the expenses, from an initial ₹ 3,000 per year to ₹ 21,000 per month. Some miscellaneous expenditure on technical issues and other problems also contributed to around ₹ 10,000 per month. Originally, Aglasem’s only revenue source was online advertisements, which provided the company with monthly returns of ₹ 15,000. This certainly led the company to a loss, and hence an urgent situation of exploring more and better investment options arose. Aglasem being a start-up lacked basic investment options for the development of the company. They therefore got into a partnership with another student start-up, Acube Solutions, in terms of revenue sharing. Acube Technologies LLP is also a student start-up of DTU owned by some of the batchmates of Anand Meena. The partnership was mutually beneficial in terms of investment and revenue generated. Aglasem also partnered with other globally acclaimed brands such as flipkart, Entrance corner, final year projects and Notehall India. The partnerships provided huge benefits in terms of marketing as well as revenue generation to Aglasem. The proposals include brand promotion of the companies on each other’s portals along with additional revenues for Aglasem. The idea involved a profit sharing with these partners based on sales through Aglasem. Aglasem owns a section of ‘Aglasem Store’ for its visitors providing them with a facility to buy various products such as books, mobiles, games, computers and electronic gadgets, cameras, Web hosting domains and other gift items. On each sale, Aglasem is given a percentage of the profit. These affiliation programmes helped the company increase its profits. Aglasem’s advertisements also became a prime source of revenue generation. Aglasem provides various advertisement options on different sections such as the main page, section of Aglasem updates, admission portal and institute-specific pages. Aglasem quotes different pricings for different advertisements.

Aglasem has also tied up with the largest student-run business magazine in North America, Arbitrage Magazine. This helped Aglasem market itself globally. The partnership involved a deal of mutual promotion of the companies on various platforms in India and North America (see Exhibits 12.4 and 12.5 for the map and statistics depicting the presence and popularity of Aglasem around the globe).

With the launch of Aglasem in 2009, the founders of the company simultaneously started promoting the brand among the students via social networking sites Facebook and Orkut as well as placing notices and posters on DTU notice boards. By the end of its first year, Aglasem moved out of the borders of Delhi and started associating students from colleges in different parts of the country. Some of these included NITs, IIT Bombay and PEC Technological University. This made Aglasem a much-admired company throughout the country.

After the founding batch finished their graduation at DCE (now DTU), they decided to form a team for each college involved. Within a week, Aglasem conducted interviews among students within the DTU campus for the various departments such as marketing, technical fields, R&D and research analysis. The interviews were conducted by the founders themselves, which took place on the campus. The turnout for the interviews was enormous, and the team conducted 200 interviews on the very first day. Students from all the years participated in the interviews showing much enthusiasm to support and work with a start-up of their own university. In the first 10 days, Aglasem managed to develop a student team in the university to help them grow in the university. This boosted Aglasem’s popularity among the students. The students’ hard work and the founders’ ideas collectively helped Aglasem to progress within the university. The hard work was reflected by the number of hits and Web site views on Aglasem.com during the semester examinations. Slowly and steadily, Aglasem came in coordination with the students of various esteemed colleges and universities of Delhi, such as Netaji Subhash Institute of Technology (NSIT), IIIT Delhi and IP University. Aglasem followed the same strategy as followed in DTU and employed a student community in these colleges willing to support Aglasem. Aglasem appointed the senior students of all the colleges/universities as the heads of the various departments dedicated for different fields such as technical, and marketing. It also provided business cards for the heads. Thus, the initial marketing strategy of Aglasem became a huge success and built free brand equity for the company amongst its customers.

Aglasem student communities in the colleges really boosted the growth of the company, but we were aware of the problems to be faced in the near future.

Anwesha Bose, Co-founder, Aglasem

Within a few months of the foundation of various student communities, Aglasem started facing difficulties in coordinating with these communities due to lack of communication and paucity of time. Soon, the communities became stagnant, and the work stopped. Aglasem faced a decline in the number of Web site visitors due to unavailability of updates and required materials for which Aglasem was known.

Soon the founders devised a new strategy and appointed a student ambassador for each college/university. This campus ambassador was the head of the Aglasem student community of that college/university. This helped Aglasem to easily coordinate with the campus ambassador for the entire college updates.

Simultaneously Aglasem also engaged itself as sponsors for various college events and festivals. This made Aglasem popular among its target audience, and the company developed as a stronger brand among the students. The sponsorship agreement with Aglasem never involved money, but was based on mutual promotion of the two brands among their audience. Some of the festivals Aglasem sponsored included the college festivals of NSIT, DTU and IIT Delhi. Aglasem also sponsored various technical events, workshops and other courses happening in the colleges.

All these strategies revived Aglasem, and it regained its initial fame and reputation.

In today’s world of increasing use of technology, Aglasem knew that online publicity and marketing are essential to survive in the market and thus it entered the arena of social networking. Starting from basic accounts and groups on some popular social networking sites such as Faceook, Orkut and LinkedIn, Aglasem penetrated the roots of online marketing inviting advertisements and promoting various college events and workshops through live streaming. Aglasem specially prepared a team of students dedicated solely to the online promotions and devised numerous formulas for promoting the brand. It carried out various surveys for releasing a list of top engineering colleges of India and started online forums. This emerged by far as the finest tool for the company’s marketing strategy and provided it a completely new online avatar. Aglasem’s online strategies immediately caught the attention of students. The online success of Aglasem was reflected in its Web site statistics highlighting the page views, site visits and daily hits. Until now, Aglasem only focused on the free marketing options available, but it soon realized that its efforts were not enough to reach out to the masses and so the company slowly started exploring other dimensions of online marketing.

The interactive sections at Aglasem, such as Aglasem Forum and Group, were open platforms where students could discuss, update college information and guide, or take guidance from juniors and seniors. Apart from this, a dedicated workforce was also needed that could responsibly take up matters of authentic information update, query solving, technical expertise and marketing. To pin down a solution to this, interns were invited. Again, students benefited from this by learning with the Aglasem team and got awarded with certificates. This opportunity offered students with a scope to work for Aglasem as interns in return for a certification, some credentials and stipend for their work. As the internship could be carried on for the entire year, this strategy allowed Aglasem to have a definite workforce for the company. Considering the competitiveness in the cyber world, Aglasem also started job recruitments from 2010 for its Web site maintenance and technical work.

Workforce is always a problem for any startup and we are not an exception for this. As the revenues are limited, one cannot hire people for the company. Similar is the case with Aglasem, which was initially, solely dependent on the student community for its survival.

Anand Meena, Founder, Aglasem

After graduation, a student is likely to either opt for a job or go for the higher studies. In the beginning, Aglasem offered facilities to the students at the undergraduate level only, but gradually the company expanded the portal including sections for jobs and higher studies. This hugely marketed Aglasem among the students of other domains as well, and helped Aglasem reach global standards. For the growth of these sections, Aglasem tied up with a student immigration consultant, who approached Aglasem for the partnership, and offered counselling and consultancy services for the students opting for higher studies.

The team also devised an innovative marketing strategy to reach out to the students at the school level by providing them a platform at Aglasem.com that offers them guidance for school preparation, notes and information regarding competitive examinations. Aglasem started a forum for the students from classes 9 to 12, which provided them with the facility to interact with students studying in some of the prestigious institutions of India, and well as offer them guidance for their course preparations.

Aglasem will be approaching various tutorials in the country to tie up with, which will facilitate students to navigate through the various tutorial sites in India. Such a partnership will ensure Aglasem’s reach to school students.

Aglasem is also striving hard for student expectations and satisfactions at all levels of education. We initially started with undergraduate level, and slowly and gradually expanded the impact at the school levels.

Anwesha Bose, Co-founder, Aglasem

The recent marketing strategy by Aglasem involved the concept of reward points for the visitors accessing Aglasem. The company has come out with a scheme which provides the visitor a certain number of points every time they visit Aglasem and perform a certain activity on the Web site such as data sharing and writing comments. A visitor can collect a certain number of points every day which can be redeemed for various gifts such as accessories, T-shirts and coupons. It is yet to be seen if this marketing strategy can take Aglasem to its next level of growth.

EXHIBITS

Exhibit 12.1 List of Colleges/Universities with Student Communities Associated with Aglasem2

Exhibit 12.2 Traffic Rank for Aglasem from 2010 till Present3

Exhibit 12.3 Relative to the General Internet Population How Popular Is aglasem.com with Each Audience Below4

Exhibit 12.4 Map Depicting Presence and Popularity of Aglasem Round the Globe5

Exhibit 12.5 Aglasem‘s Visitors from Across the Globe6
2,40,987 visits came from 157 countries/territories

ENDNOTES
  1. ‘© 2012, Alexa Internet (www.alexa.com).’ These ranks change every day, according to the traffic on every individual day. For Web sites, within rank of 1 lakhs, www.alexa.com analyses the Web sites every day.
  2. http://aglasem.com/about/index.php
  3. ‘© 2012, Alexa Internet (www.alexa.com).’ http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/aglasem.com#
  4. ‘© 2012, Alexa Internet (www.alexa.com).’ http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/aglasem.com# Red means that a group is UNDER-represented relative to the general internet population. Green means that a group is OVER-represented relative to the general internet population. The size of the bar illustrates the relative strength of the under-or over-representation.
  5. http://aglasem.com/about/Stats.pdf
  6. Ibid.