Four students of Hindustan University are bringing out a magazine for children.

Managing your time for assignments, record works and regular course work is difficult enough during college, but to manage a small business also is even more challenging.

Yet, this is what four students (Vignesh Iyer, Hitendra Tellakula, Rahul Thaur and Gopikrishnan Santosh) of Hindustan University have managed to do in the past few months. They are running a small publishing house that comes out with a magazine called Gyan Bharati for school children.

Vignesh Iyer, founder of Perlite media that publishes the magazine, is a third-year aeronautical engineering student. He says this was an idea that took root when he was in school out of his interest in media and printing business.

“This interest led me to working in local media houses in Mumbai to understand journalism and how a media organisation works. When I was working with Mulund Meet, a local newspaper I had an idea for a magazine for school children. I shared this idea with Sanjeev Deshpande, senior journalist at Mulund Meet. He was excited and came on board as our Editor.”

Vignesh, who joined Hindustan University in the second year after completing his diploma, met three fellow-Mumbaikars in the hostel who were interested in business. “We used to talk about doing something big and I gave them this idea, and from then on we started working towards getting the company registered for formulating a viable business plan.”

The magazine is aimed at children from Class V to Class X and has a range of features from puzzles, crosswords, sports section to some articles on current affairs. “While the focus is on keeping it as a fun read, we have also tried to make it educational,” says Vignesh.

Another interesting aspect is that all contributors for the magazine are college students who write for their campus newsletters.

Making waves in two cities

The monthly magazine has a small presence in Mumbai and Chennai, with six and two schools, respectively, with a subscription of 576. “One of the challenges we are facing is we don't have enough people to go to schools and market it,” says Hitendra Tellakula, who is in charge of advertisements.

They say that they are short of hands for the sales department and those who do are part-timers who can do only after 5 p.m. in the evening, which is not ideal when the target is schools.

He adds that with more time, they can realistically target a few thousand subscriptions with their relatively modest cover price of Rs. 10 per issue.

Another challenge the students have to contend with is the fact that the main team is in Mumbai and have to plan for the issue only through email threads and that too after their college work is done for the day.

“Our time for the magazine is always between midnight and 3 a.m.,” says Vignesh.

The team started their first issue in September 2013, and the magazine is published on 15th of every month. Four issues have been brought out, so far, except November, which they say they couldn’t bring out because of technical issues.

So what about the revenue model? Vignesh says that they do rely on advertisements and that they have been able to post a relatively strong profit of 30 per cent so far.

The students seem to be learning on the go in terms of production quality, too, with stark differences in the quality of newsprint, for the better, from the first issue to the latest one.“We are learning and have now introduced colour pages in the January issue though it meant we had to scale back the number of pages.”

The team is quite ambitious. They say their next plan of action is to venture into Pune, but before that, they aim to get a subscriber base of 5,000 by March this year. They also have a long-term plan to start a weekly tabloid-newspaper for colleges next year.