Today, the nation calls for a need to be self-reliant; the need to be Aatmanirbhar. It was with a similar vision that Atul Bengeri, a serial entrepreneur launched Acumen Today, two years ago. The company designs educational resources that focus on conceptual thinking, learning, and application in sync with the Indian educational boards – from the various state boards to CBSE and ICSE. Atul says these books are aimed at students from grade 1 to grade 10 and have been designed keeping in mind their different learning styles and needs. “The books encourage students to get a grasp of the fundamentals, think, and learn by themselves at their own pace. and space. In a way, it makes them self-reliant when it comes to learning,” explains Atul.
Gaining increased relevance
An internal survey conducted by Acumen Today revealed that parents and educators feel the overdose of online content is hampering the learning process for children, in the light of the challenges brought about by the pandemic. To reduce screen time for kids, they are turning to Acumen Today.
“Another factor is that not everyone is fortunate enough to have the luxury of going digital. We are seeing that parents from tier 3 and 4 cities are turning to books so that their children continue to learn. Also, our products are extremely affordable. A pack of three books is priced at Rs 299, inclusive of shipping.”
The entrepreneur says they use the acronym -SIMECORE to explain their learning methodology. “It stands for SImplified, MEaningful, COnceptual, and REinforced.” The books, 7-inches in size and 60 pages each, focus on learning concepts for exams but also real-life application, he reckons.
The journey with Flipkart
Acumen Today operates on a hybrid business model – a B2B offline business and a B2C online business model. While they reach out to schools, teachers, and organisations working in the area of education, they also retail to consumers directly on Flipkart. The primary decision to opt for a B2C model was driven by the intent to widen their target market.
“We wanted to expand our reach and scale our operations across the country, which is practically impossible to do offline. I have seen the growth of Flipkart right from its early days when it began selling books online. Flipkart pioneered the growth of e-commerce and brought the e-commerce mindset to people in India. For us, Flipkart was an obvious choice,” he says.
Conceptual books, being a fairly new concept, necessitated Acumen Today to undertake online advertising campaigns on Flipkart to create awareness and enable customers to familiarise themselves with the idea. “This helped to create visibility and drive interest. From 2-3 orders a day, we began receiving 10 orders a day in a span of three months. When the demand started to grow further, we knew the business had found its place in the customers’ minds,” shares Atul.
Since the launch of the business in October 2018 on Flipkart, the learning company has grown from retailing seven products to over 30. This growth has been fueled by the steady rise in demand and also the seasonal swings – peaking at the beginning of the academic year and during the start of the annual vacations.
Establishing its presence on Flipkart not only opened a new revenue channel and market but, it also boosted the company’s B2B business, which continues to be the major revenue driver. “Initially, when we were a B2B- only business, we didn’t have an online presence. During this time we found customers being dismissive of the value we were bringing to the table.” However, that changed with Acumen Today building its presence on Flipkart.
“Once people saw we were on Flipkart, they had a lot more confidence in our products. It has also happened quite a few times that when we approached schools and teachers offline and they searched for our products on the Flipkart app and opted to buy them online. That’s how Flipkart has helped us in terms of visibility and confidence-building in customers.”
While the company reached an annual turnover of Rs. 55 lakh in the first year of operations, in FY2020 it touched a revenue of Rs. 1 crore. “Today, 22 percent of our revenue comes from our online business. But we are anticipating the B2C business growing bigger in the coming months,” he says.
Revving up after a four-month-long hiatus during the pandemic
Like most businesses, the onset of the pandemic in India and the nationwide lockdown drastically impacted the business. “The business was non-functional for four months,” informs Atul. The company resumed operations in July and since then the sales have picked up.
In addition to the trust of its loyal customers, the company rides on the support of its team to steer through the tough times.
“I think one of our biggest strengths during this time was our small team. We had always made a cautious decision to keep our team small and efficient,” says the Founder and CEO.
This conservative approach towards resources helped them during the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic, wherein they could retain their seven-member team despite no sales. “We have been able to pay their salaries, though with a slight pay cut. We however have promised to make that up once the sales pick up over the next few months.”
An additional area of support for the business came from Flipkart. Atul explains, “We got to be part of several webinars and customer awareness programmes led by Flipkart, which really helped us stay confident about the future. The training on how businesses can leverage social media platforms with the right kind of messaging has been especially helpful.”
The team is now channelising all efforts to increase brand awareness, especially for its online arm, and has also introduced conceptual books for pre-primary and nursery classes.
While the efforts have intensified to put the business back on its feet, the Pune-based company assures that the safety and well-being of its employees and customers continue to be a top priority. “Employees come to the office on alternate days and not at the same time. A maximum of two or three employees are present in the office to fulfill the orders.” While the packaging is carried out as per the mandate and under sanitised conditions, Flipkart has also increased its pickup time, giving the business two additional days to keep the orders ready for dispatch.
Atul says while the pandemic definitely impacted the business, it has accelerated Acumen Today’s expansion in the digital space. “In addition to the conceptual books, we have now developed three apps. While we will continue to drive our core business of conceptual books, we are also excited about the launch and our foray into the digital space. It’s time to look at the bright side.”
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