We all are accustomed to seeing advertisements in newspapers, magazines, on television, websites and the like. But we never would have thought that notebooks could be used as a medium for advertising. But two graduates from IIT Rorkee have changed the way of looking at advertising and revolutionized the way advertising works, through their venture Adister. Their story is replete with creativity, conviction in unique ideas, confidence, and the spirit of entrepreneurship. Right from the threat of disciplinary action to winning major B-Plan competitions to telling people they had graduated from IIT when they had not, they have done it all.
About six years ago, Shubham Agrawal and Anubhav Goyal were looking for ways to kill free time in college. Frustrated with this free time, they started an online daily known as ofcourse.in, a portal where they recorded tales and experience of students across all IITs. Although the site was running well, they were forced to close it down, as their Principal did not want stories from IITs to be publicized. During this time, they participated in a lot of business plan competitions and started working on a viable business model. They wanted to create value in the arena of advertising.
They discovered that although the cost of manufacturing a newspaper is very high, it is sold at almost 10% of the cost price because the money earned from the advertisements printed in it substantially reduces the price. They wanted to do the same for notebooks-subsidizing prices by adding advertisements to the notebooks. Also, since notebooks lasted longer than a newspaper, ads would remain with the target audience for a long time. This idea was brilliant because students were bound to buy low cost notebooks even if they did not buy newspapers. Then, they inquired in the local areas about the cost of manufacturing a notebook and finally found a paper mill in Saharanpur, which manufactured notebooks at a reasonable price. Moving further, they xeroxed the ads they had obtained from local markets and put them in these notebooks. All these notebooks were given for free in IIT Rorkee, even then they managed to make a profit!! And this is how Adister was born.
Yes, their idea had worked, but the going was not easy for them as they were charged with carrying on an economic activity inside campus and were faced with the possibility of a strict disciplinary action. Since, they had not ‘sold’ anything, they were let go with a warning.
They were facing problems, as they had not formally incorporated a company. Many advertisers refused to collaborate with them, as they were still students. However, these minor speed bumps did not discourage them. They won the IIT Rorkee B-Plan challenge and used the prize money to incorporate their company. After this, they went on to clinch a series of B-Plan competitions, and invested the prize money in their business. They also represented India at the All Asia B-Plan competition and were the only undergrad finalists at Google for Entrepreneurs. Slowly, their business grew and they contracted with brands like Levi.
Since they wanted a broad business base, they decided to move to Delhi, where companies with large marketing activities were situated. They told people they had graduated from IIT in order to secure clients. They would get phone calls in class and say that they were in important meetings!!! However, carrying on studies and business simultaneously became cumbersome and they decided to go on a hiatus on the business front. But being the entrepreneurs that they were, in the meanwhile they started a book review site called Ghissu.com, which they run till today.
After college, they did not go for placements, thereby creating history in the institute. The next step was to join an accelerator, which would help Adister gain a more professional outlook. But this also had problems as they had missed deadlines. They were forced to travel far south to Bengaluru and Hyderabad, looking for finance and people to guide them. They found their mentor and financier in an alumnus, who believed in their idea and gave them funds and infrastructure. Since then, there has been no looking back and they have strived for excellence under the mantra of ‘madness for creativity’.
The Adister notebooks have become a rage among the students for their simple yet creative look. The founders have battled against all odds- lack of support, no money, no big clients and emerged winners. Their story is one of determination and confidence and they have proved that perseverance makes distant goals achievable.