Home / Companies / Preserving college memories with customized yearbooks

New Delhi: All students remember the days of signing slam books or scribbling parting messages on shirts or school uniforms. Group photographs are also an integral part of remembering the lasts days in a school or college. But Praneet Singh Sahai and Puneet Gupta were not quite excited about just getting a group photo as their parting memory.

They wanted something more to preserve their journey through college and decided to build something that offered more than just photographs but also memories, anecdotes and more. That’s when was born in February 2013. Unlike in the West, concept of yearbooks is not very popular in India but that’s what myepoch does—it builds customized yearbooks.

The idea was to build a social media platform where one can upload pictures, write testimonials, share personal details and put it together in form of a yearbook. Now these yearbooks are creatively designed, customized and printed for everyone in a batch. The entrepreneurs started off by making one for their own batch but soon other batches also asked for similar yearbooks.

All one has to do is register at using a batch id that’s provided by the site, complete a profile by adding basic information and a photo, and invite your friends and start writing testimonials for them. This process has to be completed in a given time for the company to print and deliver it by a certain date.

The initial problem Gupta and Sahai faced was to develop a web interface for myepoch as both the 22-year-old founders had no knowledge of coding. Sahai did his majors in mechanical and automation engineering from Amity University, Noida, while Gupta is a civil engineer from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

“When we started this venture, we thought we should have taken computers instead of civil or mechanical. We had to learn five languages in five months to get the basics right," said Sahai, founder, Epoch Services Pvt. Ltd. They tried using Google docs but it wasn’t feasible as it didn’t allow users to access other components of the content.

Before figuring out this particular idea, both Sahai and Gupta had brainstormed to form a list of some 40 ideas which included engineering counselling, stock brokerage, T-shirt printing, green buildings, e-commerce for mom and pop stores and personalized gifting.

In fact, Epoch Services was started by the profits both earned from their t-shirt business and personal savings. “We sold some 250 t-shirts in a week and all the profit that was earned was invested in Epoch," said Gupta, co-founder Epoch Services Pvt Ltd.

“I think ideas are just diameters, what matters is the execution. It took us six months to understand the basics of doing business but now I am confident if we now start anything new, it would take us 15 days," explained Sahai.

Not taking up jobs was something both had decided early on during their graduation. Gupta’s father is a rice mill owner in his hometown of Kapurthala, Punjab. “I was quite sure from the beginning that I wanted to do something of my own. I always had the option to join my father’s business but like him I also chose to become an entrepreneur," he added.

While interning with his dad’s company which is in to civil construction, Sahai decided that he didn’t want a job. But his parents were a little skeptical when he planned to forgo his admission and scholarship in M.Sc. at Nottingham University in the US. But he soon found his parents supporting him in his new venture.

Both the partners agree that they would have been financially better-off or would have had a better social life if they chose jobs, but the joys of entrepreneurship beats everything. “Sometimes we fear we will fail but it is a good thing as it motivates us to do better," said Sahai. Coming from business families have helped both secure support from parents.

Straight out of college with an idea in hand, execution of the idea and putting a business model in place was a daunting task. But Gupta’s internship with a chartered accountant and a minor in management coupled with the active knowledgebase of entrepreneurial discussion boards helped in overcoming these challenges

Instead of a big budget on marketing, the start-up relies on word-of-mouth and on-the-ground activities for promotion. They have chosen campus ambassadors at some 6-8 colleges who act as a link between Epoch and students.

“Initially it was very difficult to convince students as it is a new concept. So product awareness was a major challenge. Campus ambassadors have helped us pass that hurdle," said Gupta. They are present in few colleges at Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan and have plans to go to Hyderabad and Bangalore.

The biggest cost is printing and designing. They have managed to bring down by the cost by 25% by better negotiation and regular business.

“People didn’t take us seriously initially so we had to convince them that we mean business," said Sahai.

Sahai says hiring for a start-up is difficult as there is not much money involved. “It is not easy to retain talent and not pay them. So, we want to work with people who share our vision," he said. Epoch also works with other start-ups to tap a collective talent pool.

Epoch yearbooks are priced at around 500 for some 50-60 students. It also offers an e-book version in form of PDFs, which are priced one-third lower than the hard bounds.

The founders are not looking to raise money from venture capital firms or a seed funds. Instead, they would prefer tapping their relatives and friends for funds.

Hiring plans for next six months include a permanent design and web development on board. “We are also looking to have a mentor on board for guidance and help," Sahai said.

A social network for schools and yearbooks for reunion associations of colleges are other parallel business plans being explored by Epoch.

Myepoch literally means my duration of impact, and with this venture, Sahai and Gupta plan to impact the lives of many college students by preserving their memories for the years to come.

Mint has a strategic partnership with National Entrepreneurship Network, which hosts the Tata First Dot awards.

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