For any institution or alumni association, trying to organise a reunion with all its nitty-gritty - communicating with the alumni in time, estimating how many will turn up and making arrangements accordingly - is always a Herculean task.
Not any more, say Paresh Masade and Sanjeev Chowdary Kosaraju, co-founders of Coherendz, a Hyderabad-based company that has built Vaave.com, an alumni engagement portal that helps educational institutions build an exclusive networking portal. It is like a "closed (or exclusive) Facebook or Linkedin" for the institution.
A few of the vital add-on features offered by Vaave.com in conjunction with the institution's portal are alumni CRM (customer relationship management), placement and training portal, a students' portal, a merchandise store and an event registrations system.
Vaave.com's powerful search system enables institutions know the location of each alumnus and any other details from their profiles. An event can be created on the networks and invitations can be sent out to all alumni with a single click of the mouse. In case of paid events, the registration fee can be collected online on the network itself, through an integrated payment gateway.
Masade did not take part in campus placements at National Institute of Industrial Engineering; Kosaraju dropped out of his Master's programme at IIIT-Hyderabad. The two then joined forces to start Vaave.com six years ago.
"We have noticed a stark difference between how alumni relations are handled by universities abroad and by those in India. The alumni of universities in the West are strongly connected to their alma maters through proper channels and the interaction between them is regular and effective, which is not the case in India," said Masade.
From the interactions with institutions and alumni associations in India, he claimed, they learnt that alumni are constantly looking for ways to connect to their alma maters and are more than willing to give back, if provided with proper channels. Vaave.com is the result of an extensive research and hard work put in by the team over the years and suits and caters to all the needs of alumni and institutions, Masade adds.
Vaave.com had raised over Rs 18 lakh from friends and family over the last couple of years. It recently raised Rs 25 lakh from Utthishta Yekum Fund, the maiden seed one from Hyderabad-based Utthishta Management Advisors LLP. These will be utilised to strengthen their product offerings.
The portal, which operates in the nascent alumni engagement space in India, which is yet to be groomed, generates revenues from a "pay-one-time" setup from institutions that sign up, which ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000 per year depending on the institute and the features requested by them, besides garnering revenues from annual maintenance costs. Vaave.com is offered in two pricing models - basic and premium. At present, Vaave.com garners annual revenues of Rs 10 lakh, and is estimated to increase exponentially as more institutions are signed up and more users come on to the platform.
According to independent reports, the total number of institutions of higher education, which are in need of an alumni engagement solution, is estimated to be around 20,000 in India, with the total market size being at least Rs 100 crore annually.
P Rama Krishna, general partner at Utthishta Yekum Fund, believes that at this stage it is crucial that Vaave.com gets quick traction in the market and they are working with the team to help them speed up their sales cycle and sign up more clients.
"Vaave.com is currently working on scaling up its operations to serve the top institutes in the Indian market and we are exploring the possibilities of the company expanding its operations globally. We expect the company to touch Rs 25 crore in revenues in the next five to six years," Rama Krishna says.
The next lap
At present, nearly 50 educational institutions, including IIT Kharagpur, SPJIMR, UDCT, SIMSREE and MSRIT, have signed up and got their official alumni networks powered by Vaave.com.
"We expect to sign up around 150 more institutions under the premium model and another 300 under the basic model in the next couple of years. We are also working to improve our add-on features and services and increase the revenue through them," says Kosaraju.
With a 12-member team, Vaave.com currently has no plans to increase the number too much for the next six months.
Kosaraju says that they will be increasing the number slowly over the next two years as new roles and responsibilities crop up with an increase in operations.
EXPERT TAKE: Vijay Habbu
Alumni networking is not new. There are alumni associations that are more than 100 years old. But with the advent of the Internet, networking became simpler and the possibilities grew. A few companies and website developers are building websites for several institutions. Some engineerng colleges are building their own websites, with the help of the teachers and students.
The difference between other companies providing similar services and Vaave is its engagement model. It provides continous engament with the instituion, alumni association and the network of the ex-students.
With more insitutions coming in, the challenge that Vaave will face is in the area of human resource.The level of operations will increase and more employees will be needed.
More and more additional sources of revenue like merchandising and event registrations. which are already being implemented, should come in. But with more revenue channels, the need for dedicated people looking after them increases and it is an important business call. Unless there is a planned and systematic approach, they will be spending more than generating revenue. Vaave should try tying up with other commercial entities to offer a variety of special and cheaper services to registered alumni and earning commission from them. It can generate more revenue by streamlining the consulting services they are already providing to institutions with respect to organising events, handling funds etc.