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Getting FootNotes to top of an advertising plan

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Sonal Kapoor.
Sonal Kapoor.

FootNotes is a youth-oriented advertising platform currently running in Mumbai. Founded by Sonal Kapoor, a student at ISB, Hyderabad, it provides ‘photocopies’ to students by utilising the footer for advertisements by companies which want to target a youth clientele. It is an innovative means to market directly to the growing 18-24 year old segment incities. Brand recognition or loyalty earned at this age is sure to carry on, reckoned Sonal, giving the advertisers an edge as students gain purchasing power.

FootNotes is successfully running in over 30 colleges in Mumbai and is looking to partner with institutions across the country.

After her engineering course, Sonal went on to work with a consulting firm. During her two-year stint in the corporate world, she travelled extensively and consulted for clients across a wide variety of sectors ranging from power to plastics. Till she was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug. Associating herself with a start-up community, Headstart, she finally took the plunge last year and launched FootNotes along with a friend. She is now at ISB for a management degree while simultaneously managing her venture in Mumbai.

Idea!

The concept of cheap photocopying came to Sonal when one of her friends was discussing a similar idea that was once tried out before. She worked on refining the concept and the financials and fleshed out the idea. Along the way, another co-founder from IIM-I and others helped in executing the idea across campuses. FootNotes is an innovative marketing strategy which provides space for advertisers to promote themselves directly to thestudent community.

Huge Potential

Consumer products, innovative start-ups, fashion, technology, books, magazines can be promoted to this niche group. In India, around 4.7 million students photocopy 450 pages a year on an average and FootNotes exploits the opportunity by providing an easy and direct way to hook up brands on these copies. FootNotes offers photocopying services at low cost, subsidised by revenues gained through advertising initiatives on the bottom of a page.

The outfit has tie-ups with photocopying outlets on campuses where they supply their own paper with the footer on each page featuring ads for companies which are usually local shops and brands trying to target the student community.

Like all other start-ups, marketing was a problem for the FootNotes team. Making cold calls to companies’ marketing departments was never fun; the response was often indifferent or even rude. To keep themselves inspired they maintained an informal work environment. As they gradually learned how to pitch, they reached out to a lot of advertisers and were able to convince some of them.

Also, one of the major problems they faced was to build a committed and dedicated team. Getting people to believe in one’s idea and get them involved in a start up was a tough ask. It can never be a ‘one man show’ and therefore one always needs a strong team by their side, believes Sonal. Managing people who worked under her was also a problem as many of them were much older and not comfortable reporting to someone much younger. Sonal believes entrepreneurship is not as easy as it appears to be but this should not deter one from starting. “If you have an idea, which you believe in and are passionate about, go ahead with it,” she says. One always has an option of going back to a regular job. “However, the experience which you gain as an entrepreneur is something that you will not get; there will be sleepless nights but the work will be satisfying,” she emphasises.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 31, 2013)
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