Bangalore: At the peak of online boom in 2000, Giri Balasubramaniam launched Quizbrain, an online quizzing venture. Incubated by IndiaInfo.com, a division of DB Corp. Ltd, Quizbrain failed to take off.
“We were ahead of our time. People don’t have a culture of paying for online content,” says Balasubramaniam, who decided to turn the idea offline. Five years later, he launched Greycaps India Pvt. Ltd pooling in his savings and his father’s retirement money.
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Today, Bangalore-based Greycaps has 16 full-time workers, besides around 70 others on contract who research and present corporate quizzes such as Tata Crucible and the ET in the Classroom (run by The Economic Times, a business daily published by Bennet, Coleman and Co. Ltd).
The company also publishes general awareness books that cater to 25,000 schoolchildren, runs a diploma programme for business school students prepping them for the corporate world, and makes customized games and quizzes for companies such as Infosys Technologies Ltd and AOL India. With revenue worth Rs1.12 crore in fiscal 2008, Greycaps clocked a net profit of Rs25 lakh.
Greycaps’ clients are quite diversified; from schools, such as Bishop Cotton School in Bangalore and Welham Girls School in Dehradun to businesses such as the Aditya Birla Group and ITC Ltd.
Balasubramaniam calls himself second only to quiz master Derek O’ Brien, but insists his questions are different. “Our definition of quizzing is not about recall of facts but application of the brain,” he explains, stressing lateral thinking in framing his questions.
Balasubramaniam prides himself for being in four business areas without doing anything dramatically different. “Our competency is research,” he says, set on a vision to build each of the four businesses into Rs1 crore-plus verticals in the next three years.
Greycaps aims to provide quizzes and games on mobile phones and publish children’s books in Indian languages in addition to the existing bouquet of Kannada, Bengali, Hindi and Tamil.
The company risks being linked too closely to a few individuals, one expert says. “Quizzing is a low entry barrier space… It is also very core people dependent. The brand of the company may depend on one or two quiz masters,” says Srini Vudayagiri, managing director of Lightspeed Advisory Services India Pvt. Ltd.
To be scalable, the company had to expand into areas such as personality development and public speaking courses for students, adds Vudayagiri.
Daily Dump and Greycaps India Pvt. Ltd are among the nominated companies at the Tata NEN Hottest Startups competition, of which Mint is the official print media partner. Details of the competition can also be accessed at www.livemint.com/hotteststartups