Indian Angel Network (IAN) today announced its investment in Alma Mater, a Bangalore based online brand for official school and college merchandise. The investment size was not disclosed.
The investment to be done in two tranches saw IAN investors Ravindra Krishnappa, Joe Fernandes, Rajiv Mehta and Deependra Moitra leading the investment round in the start-up. Ravi and Joe will join the Alma Mater board.
Founded in 2009 by Varun Agarwal and Rohn Malhotra, Alma Mater was started with the intention of creating and online brand for official school and college merchandise. Over the last three years the company has supplied products to over 500 educational institutions spread over more than 60 cities. The primary offerings of the brand are: Customised merchandise for colleges, schools & corporates and Online memorabilia store for colleges and schools.
Both the founders have invested about Rs 1 lakh each of their own investments to start the business. “We will use the investment primarily for three things - marketing, infrastructure and hiring. We plan to improve our technology focus so that we can operate on a bigger scale and hire the right talent to help us achieve the goals that we have set up for ourselves,” said Rohn Malhotra, co-founder, Alma Mater.
Unlike some of the other ecommerce venture which have been spending huge amount on marketing over TV campaigns, Alma Mater has focused on social media. It has over 2 lakh followers on Facebook. “We want to go from 60 city presence to 200 over the next few years. We also want to be able to overhaul our infrastructure since we want to cater to a large scale. We also want to hire the right talent,” added Malhotra.
In last few months, Alma Mater has branched out into newer markets and has been able to establish a national presence. The brand has seen significant growth in Tier II and III cities and has been growing at 300% year on year.
Varun Agarwal, co-founder, Alma Mater said, “With a national bestseller to our credit Alma Mater has firmly established a cult following amongst the Indian youth serving as an inspiration to many young entrepreneurs. We approached IAN as we wanted to bring the vast network of the most networked people and the deep business and domain expertise which will help us build a scalable business quickly.”
Agarwal further added that though the company initially started with online memrobilia, it is its customised merchandise segment that has been growing the fastest. Both the founders claimed that the site receives 140-150 orders for customised merchandise per month.
Ravindra Krishnappa, an IAN Investor member said, “There has been a dramatic shift in consumer behavior in the last few years in India. Freed from supply chains, printing costs and shelf space limitations, online retailers' space has developed gradually but surely. We liked the business and the founders because they understand the mindset of their customer, and what impressed us was the way they boot-strapped their business so far.”
Indian Angel Network has over 200 members and has funded over 35 start-ups across multiple sectors like IT, Mobile, Healthcare and Education, across India and overseas and has made several successful exits. In 2011 alone, IAN invested over $8 million in 11 start ups making it almost a deal a month.