There’s much more to insti than acads, sports, DC, trip sessions at Guru/Zaitoon and the usual mix of extra-curriculars – albeit with more variety than the average college. In addition to all this, the atmosphere at insti is inspiring – so much so, that it has encouraged many of its students to develop and commercialize innovative products and solutions during their stay here. In this series of articles featuring both alumni and current students, T5E takes a look at some of these ventures.

Maharishi
AP

Pizza Mutiny is a brand that many insti students are familiar with, by virtue of their notebooks that are, apart from being very reasonably priced, also popular for the sets of free coupons and the ‘bunk meters’ that come along with them. In this article, Isha B. catches up with Prashanth Ashok (better known as AP), co-creator of Pizza Mutiny, who worked with Maharishi RB and others on the venture.

Launching the idea

AP tells us how they began commercialising the venture. “As you might know, we started our company by offering free photocopies to students within insti. It was a successful venture, with over 1500 copies being distributed every day.” Although it was pretty successful, the idea of distributing free copies was just a proof of concept for the notebooks. “We had already thought about the idea of smart notebooks with coupons, bunk meters and other organizing options, including a smartphone app that integrates with the notebooks, but it seemed too ambitious at the time,” says AP. “We wanted to validate the idea (subsidies through sponsorship and advertisements) on a small scale with this venture.”

The positive response to the free photocopies gave them the confidence they needed to move on to notebooks. This was because “in terms of scalability, reach, shelf life and scope for innovation, notebooks were definitely the better alternative.” Is the smartphone app still a viable idea? AP says so. “Now that we’ve got the first batch of notebooks out, we will be concentrating on developing the smartphone app for the next batch of notebooks.”

Issues and practicality

There were several aspects of commercialisation they had to take care of to make the idea viable and bring the notebooks to the market. Among other things, AP says, “we had to handle several departments, from working on basic survey data collection to design and product development, figuring out manufacturing in Sivakasi, marketing, sponsorship as well as advertisements, distribution and sales, and of course, money management, because it was the first time any of us were handling such huge sums of money.” He feels that the task of planning and coordinating the manufacturing and the release of the notebooks was made much more arduous by the fact that they had to do it along with their regular college work.

Future plans and new initiatives

AP goes on to talk about how they plan to take Pizza Mutiny further. “With respect to notebooks, we are concentrating on developing the product further, rather than aiming for a huge expansion. We have several new ideas that we are excited to implement in the next batches.”

Do they have any other plans in progress? AP tells us they do. “We also have a few ideas on the technical side. An idea for another mobile application (independent from notebooks) and a technical consumer product is in the works. The mobile application will be a college related productivity and entertainment app that will aim at making your college life easier and better.” According to him, that app is in its developmental phase and will tentatively be released at the beginning of next year. “With respect to consumer tech products, we are currently concentrating on building a good tech team to join us for the venture.”

Customer response and sales

The sales of the Pizza Mutiny notebooks have been quite good. “Although most colleges had re-opened by the time we released our notebooks, we saw an extremely good response from students, with over 8,000 notebooks sold in the first month.” In addition, they also managed to establish their presence online, garnering over 1,000 likes on their Facebook page in 6 days.

As for the notebooks themselves, the coupons have hit a sweet spot with the students, and this is apparent in the customer feedback the team has been getting. “It felt great every time a student thanked us because he just got an extra Papa Johns Pizza because of our coupons,” AP says. The ‘bunk meter’ and timetable, although simple additions, seemed to be “things everyone actually found useful”.

Although their designs were mostly well-received and had positive reviews, their customers have had some complaints, which AP says “is not surprising, considering that we were experimenting with a lot of aspects of the notebooks.” In particular, the paper used and the binding were two aspects which students had problems with. So how are they dealing with the negative feedback? “Customer feedback is very important to us and we want to produce notebooks that students would genuinely like to buy. We have already rectified the components that generated negative responses and we are confident that this time, they will fit the needs of the students better.”

On a concluding note, we are sure a lot of people are wondering why Pizza Mutiny is called Pizza Mutiny. AP tells us (with a sigh) that it’s a question they get asked a lot. His explanation: “Pizza represents the young and carefree side of students, while Mutiny represents the potential for us to see beyond what society feeds us and make an actual impact on the world. Hence, Pizza Mutiny.”

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