Education is the key to unlock the golden door to Freedom. Also it is aptly said that education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned at the school.
We all have been through a phase where we were forcefully dragged out of the bed by our parents to catch that early morning school bus. With the technological advancements as well as emerging start-ups like Booksol, schools have now become the source to create overall development of the student.
Wonders can be created by the little enlightened minds if they are provided practical knowledge along with theoretical one. Booksol has taken a milestone ahead in this endeavour.
Booksol is an educational services provider offering modules that supplement students’ learning in school. They help the educational institutions to strengthen their classroom learning by blending practical proficiency. They have designed creative and innovative modules that facilitate the development of various domains of mind and personality such as intellectual, emotional, social and moral development. Creativity, Enthusiasm, Positive thinking and effective expression of thoughts and ideas are some of the facets of personality development and the outcomes of these modules.
They are providing creative solutions to the students through their modules. Research has shown that the children are able to grow at a faster pace when they are exposed to a friendly teaching environment. Booksol provides such kind of environment through their Activity Based Learning method. Their programs cater to kids from 1st to 10th Grades. Each program serves its own unique purpose ranging from bringing out creativity in child’s mind to practical relevance of topics learnt in text Books to career guidance to mould their future and pave path for their bright future.
This venture was founded by Vasanth Neelagiri. She is an IIT Graduate and a software Engineer turned Entrepreneur. She says, in few decades countries of the world will be governed by today’s school students. Their thoughts and actions will be shaped by what they know and what they have experienced, making education in many ways, one of the best predictors of nation’s future success and hence it’s high time we invest in the quality of education and there is a pressing need for these kind of programs in Indian Education System. Her inspiration comes from some of the famous business tycoons like Jeff Bezos and Indira Nooyi. She believes in seeking contentment from her work and wants to transform and disrupt the Education system in India.
They are helping the students learn and grow in a creative manner. Booksol is an endeavour to make learning as much fun and exciting as possible. They call it FACTIVITY Learning: Fun based Learning through Activities. The founder did a lot of research and found that VAK (Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic) Learning Styles are the ways through which different kids learn. After a lot of brainstorming, Vasanthi and her friends created fun filled innovative modules applying all the 3 styles. And the end product was Booksol. Let us have a detailed look in this start-up through the lens of the founder in this exclusive interview.
1. What is the Name of Your Venture? Any specific reason for this name?
Name of our Venture – Booksol.
Booksol is an educational services provider offering modules that supplement students’ learning in school. We help the educational institutions to strengthen their classroom learning by blending practical proficiency. We have designed creative and innovative modules that facilitate in the development of various domains of mind and personality such as intellectual, emotional, social and moral development. Creativity, Enthusiasm, Positive thinking and effective expression of thoughts & ideas are some of the facets of personality development and the outcomes of these modules.
Reason – Books & Learning are inseparable and hence the name. SOL stands for Solution/Solace
2. Who is your target Audience/clients?
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.
3. Where is your venture based (city, state, country) & What are your geographical target areas?
We are based out of Hyderabad, India. We plan to expand PAN India.
4. What problems does your venture resolve? What are your products or services?
We are trying to transform School Educational practices through our Innovation. Our programs are
Creative Story Writing
Public Speaking/Presentation Skills
Epics & Ethics (To bring our forgotten epics and superheroes to life again with actions and expressions) etc.
Research proves that children enjoy learning in Activity Based Learning (ABL) in a child friendly teaching environment. All our activity based programs are very enjoyable and exciting for kids. Our programs cater to kids from 1st – 10th Grades. Each program serves its own unique purpose ranging from bringing out creativity in child’s mind to practical relevance of topics learnt in Text Books and Career Guidance to mould their future and pave their path towards success.
5. Share the idea or story behind the venture. How did it come to an existence? What motivated you to start your own venture?
After almost working hard for 1.5 years in my first job, I realized corporate IT Job is not for me and I was inclined towards Entrepreneurship. I always dreamt of having my own business and making a difference in the sector I choose. The joy of building something from scratch and making an impact (no matter how small) got me excited. But I did not know how to start or where to start. I do not come from a business family. Just when I was letting this feeling settle down, life hit me hard and I was going through a very tough phase personally. I found it very hard to focus on my job and take care of myself. A friend of mine recommended me a good book and that’s how I started reading books. That year I resolved to read 1 book every month and I found solace in reading. So, I slowly started recommending books to my friends and office colleagues. Even non-readers started enjoying and they asked me for more recommendations. That is when I realized everybody is a reader and they just haven’t found their right kind of book yet. I used to teach kids around my home during my free time. They used to hate reading and they did their homework s for the sake of parents or fear from teachers at school. At this exact moment, I resolved to make kids taste the joy of reading & learning. Learning is as much fun and entertaining as a movie, TV show or sport if taught the right way. I did a lot of research and found that VAK(Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic) Learning Styles are the ways through which different kids learn .I discussed with few of my friends and we brainstormed and created fun filled innovative modules applying all the 3 styles(Auditory, Visual and Kinaesthetic) to create a positive impact on the child’s mind with everlasting effects. We were overwhelmed when we took our first class from the response we received and since then there is no looking back. The schools would not show much interest initially but after one demo they would be super impressed and would request for more & more classes.
6. Who are your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
Educational service providers are my competitors but there aren’t any which do exactly what we do. There are few freelancers who do similar activities/workshops. However, our techniques and methodologies are way unique like never ever before in India.
7. How did you identify your co-founder? Tell us something about your co-founder/s
My Co-Founder was a senior from college. However, he had to leave due to some personal reasons. This made me even stronger and taught me to do things on my own.
8. How did you hire your first team members? What skills do you want in your employees/team?
My friends were my first team members. They were all excited to start a new venture but as a leader it was very important for me to make sure they didn’t lose that excitement. I would want all my team members to be Dedicated, Passionate (about our idea/concept), Team-spirited, Creative and Dynamic with Go-Getter attitude. We have our own set of technical requirements they got to meet though.
We believe in ‘All the great minds think alike’ and we look for those great minds.
9. What expansion plans are you looking for the next 2 years, next 5 years?
2 Years – At Least 100 schools in Hyderabad
5 Years – To 5 other cities in India
10. Where do you want to see yourself in next 10 years?
Get featured on the Cover page of Forbes as the CEO of a Billion Dollar company
11. What are your goals over the next 1, 3, 6 and 12 months?
We have got over 20 client institutions on board for next academic year. Next 1 month goes in hiring, training and content development. By 3 months, we would be in our initial implementation phase and by 6 months we want to leave a positive mark behind every soul and school we touch and by 12 months; the mark should supposedly expand with our elite Marketing team because there’s no stopping a good work with a great motive.
12. Have you raised any funding? Or have any plans for the funding?
I have bootstrapped this venture with my own money. We are a self-funded registered start up and are open to funding. However, the business model is designed intelligently in such a way that we are already self-sustaining and not burning cash.
13. What were the problems you faced during the starting days and how did you resolve them?
The biggest problem I faced was to convince my parents. They were strictly against me quitting my job and starting a business. They said I was too young and naive to be a founder of a company. I was 23 then. But, that only got my will stronger. I rolled up my sleeves and determined to prove them wrong. I would work very hard and take all their criticism as Red bull. I didn’t quit my job till I showed them something solid about my start-up. It was very tough to manage both but I didn’t give up.
14. What was the most challenging part of your journey till now? How did you overcome those challenges?
Getting our first client on board was the most challenging part professionally. We didn’t know if kids/schools would accept these kinds of programs. We didn’t know the market very well. We didn’t know which kind of schools were our target audience. Getting the right people to do your work when you have zero revenue and then deciding on the price tag with insufficient market knowledge were very challenging. The only way to overcome the challenges is to just do it. Try it. Only then you will know. If you don’t go out and explore and talk to your clients the idea will always be on paper.
15. Are you married, single or in a relationship?
Single (Getting Married this August)
16. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I am a fitness freak, adventure seeker and experience collector. I love to try different fitness activities. I practiced Yoga for 2 years. I regularly hit the gym and I am planning on going for Pilates or Acro Yoga classes soon. Recently, I made it a point to learn something new every year. This year it is going to be Horse Riding. I love to travel, meet new people, listen to their stories and know about their cultures & traditions. I involve myself in a lot of diverse activities and fortunately I have friends from different walks of life. My close friends are from Film/Entertainment Industry. We hang out, share our stories, eat, gossip and explore the city.
17.What’s your favorite food & holiday destination?
I mostly prefer healthy, home food. However, Once in a while, during my cheat days I would love to binge on outside food (Doesn’t matter which cuisine). I am a chocoholic, deeply addicted to chocolates. I set strict targets (personally as well as professionally) before I treat myself with one.
Actually destination doesn’t matter when I spend quality time with my loved ones on a holiday. Be it family or friends. However, Paris & Maldives are my favourite vacation destinations.
18.Whom do you consider your idol or biggest motivator?
Jeff Bezos – To have successfully disrupted multiple and diverse segments.
Indra Nooyi – I went all gaga over her when she said women can’t have it all. Her tips on work-life balance, Her coping mechanisms/Adaptation strategies were very inspirational and I see all her videos/interviews to keep myself motivated.
19.What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Firstly, being an entrepreneur is a 24×7 Job. Our roles are never completely defined, as we have to wear several hats. I designed my own website learning HTML, CSS and a bit of PHP in 10 days. I played the role of a teacher, Content developer and even Marketing Manager. I think an entrepreneur has to be jack of all trades and should be very empathetic to be able to put himself/herself in anybody’s shoes. However, an employee needs to be a specialist, master of that trade to excel in particular field. Entrepreneur has to take ownership, full responsibility and be that accountable captain to sail the ship smoothly during cyclones & hurricanes. One best thing about being an entrepreneur is you are your own boss and Holidays & Working hours are flexible. It’s okay to take off, chill and recharge when you are very stressed. After all, there is only one life. I do it quite often and this only helps me work more efficiently.
20. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I don’t want to change anything. I am happy with the way things unfolded. Success is not easy. You always learn it the hard way. The struggles, pain, sleepless nights, Blank-dumbstruck Moments will only make you stronger and prepare for bigger challenges. As Mike Tyson said “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. The real game begins when you have to keep going despite the pain and disappointments.
21. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family & Social life?
Being an entrepreneur is like doing 10 full time jobs. Work is always inviting and my To-Do list for the company is never ending. But, I think you got to treat your company like a baby. It needs your attention, care and time in the beginning for it to nurture and sustain later.
There were many sleepless nights, restless days and constantly haunting thoughts but everything just fades away when you taste the fruits of success. Work-Life balance is very important and I smartly manage to take adequate breaks and spend quality time with my family and friends. I have lot of friends and sometimes they complain of my non-availability but they understand and support me achieve my dreams. I make up for the missings with my sweet gestures and they forget the past.
22. Anything, you would like to say to our readers or upcoming entrepreneurs?
The journey is more important than the destination. Contentment in life is very important. Only when you enjoy the journey you will have contentment. Make every second worthwhile living your dreams.
23. Tell us something about your education & family background.
I did my schooling in Khammam, Telangana. I am an Electrical Engineer from IIT Bhubaneswar. My father is a Doctor (General Physician). My Mom is a homemaker and my brother is a Radiologist. We are a close-knit lovely family. My parents imparted right values in us and always encouraged us to aim higher and to not give up when we hit roadblocks.
24. What is your USP which makes it unique & different from other Start-ups in similar domains.
Unique teaching techniques, Child-Friendly staff, Dynamic programs, Pleasant & Enjoyable sessions
25. What do you think is the biggest threat to the success of small businesses & Start-ups today?
A brilliant idea is not enough for the success of a company. Start-ups don’t fail because they are start-ups. They fail because of the founders or the team. Start-up is nothing but a bunch of people passionately working on the same idea. If something goes wrong the team is to blame to. The reasons are countless. Few could be the founders getting stuck on the original idea and refusing to pivot. They spend a lot on the idea and burn out all their cash on marketing campaigns or giving discounts but they won’t even be sure if the idea would work. Instead they should rather work on validating idea, studying market and be sure it works, then implement and slowly expand.
26. Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?
Success isn’t a one-way street. It’s a continuous lifelong journey. I believe success is doing what you love, Following your dreams, Living each moment, Overcoming Obstacles, Treating people well, Work life Balance(Getting to spend time with loved ones – Friends & Family), Finding Love, Being Grateful, Being Healthy, and Leaving the world a better place.
27.Please share complete name, address, phone number, email id & website of Your Business & Contact Person
Booksol(Registered as Olibro Online Services Private Limited)
Vasanthi Neelagiri – Founder – [email protected]
K.S.K.Chaitanya – Design & Creative Head
Chilukuri Akash Reddy – Theatre Head
Shiv Kumar – Operations Head
Abhay Ranjan – Marketing Head
Junaid – Story Teller
Rishika – Content Developer
Mohan – Creative Team
Ranjith – Marketing Team