Turn up your style quotient and blend fun with funky when you attend college. To make it happen for you are Varun Agarwal and Rohan M, with their two-year-old T-shirt venture, Alma Mater
“It all started when I saw my cousin in his Mayo sweatshirt,” says Agarwal. “I thought we should have
something similar for my school, Bishop Cotton, too. Then, one at a popular restaurant in Bengaluru, we decided that we should do this for all schools and colleges and set up an e-commerce portal where people could order and get T-shirts delivered to any part of India.”
Till date, the duo have been featured in the Economic Times and CNBC Young Turks. On their journey so far, Agarwal says, “We were both 22 when we started this venture.
So far, it’s been great. We are now catering to schools and colleges across the country. We are already very popular among Delhi students and are getting regular orders from them.”
Ask them about the managerial lessons the business has taught them and Agarwal is quick to reply, “The start-up process was actually unlike most start-ups. We did not waste time on market research, projecting numbers, drawing charts and the like. We were pretty confident about our idea so we kept it simple. We got samples made of our own alma mater – Bishop Cotton – and showed up on the Old Boys’ Day to test out the idea. We had many people saying no to the idea. The biggest challenge as a young entrepreneur, at least initially, is getting people to take you seriously. Whether it is the principal of a school, a vendor or your own parents – they tend to see you differently. In fact, my dad continued to call me a T-shirt salesman until we got featured in the Economic Times and mum constantly worried that no one would ever marry me because of this.”
The experience has been so interesting for Agarwal that he has decided to document his experiences in a book. “The way we started this company and the series of events that took place were nothing short of a masala Bollywood movie. So, I started blogging about my experiences. Each blog would get like 70-80 likes and numerous comments and requests from a lot people for a book on my story. I never took any of them seriously because I’m not a writer and have never been one. So, just to test the waters, I sent a couple of my blog posts to Rupa Publishers. Surprisingly, they replied in a couple of days, asking for the complete manuscript. I am in the final stages of publishing my book, which is called, ‘How I braved Anu Aunty and co-founded a million dollar company’.”
After the book, the road ahead for the duo and Alma Mater is “to build our brand and cater to many schools and colleges. We want the brand to be strong enough and to be easily recognised across the country. We are opening our new office in Delhi this month and that should give us more exposure,” concludes Agarwal.