As a college student, I often noticed that my friends and I always had something in common: we were constantly “broke”. On the one hand, we would want to go out as much as we could, but by mid-month, we’d suddenly find ourselves limited to inexpensive activities, so as to be able to get through the rest of the month.
Today’s youth are smarter, more advanced and independent, but on this front not much has changed- they are still brand-averse, keen on going to ‘fancy’ places, and discounts and offers hold the same invaluable place in their lives as they did in mine back then. This, along with several personal experiences of getting the money together to manage basic student expenses, were the foundation for the idea behind YUP Card.
A personalised privilege card for college students, YUP Card basically allows students to continue going out to their favourite places without burning a hole in their pocket, by offering them discounts, and better value-for-money deals than most places. Simply put, students can save money and go on as many outings in a month as they’d like.
While the idea behind YUP Card was in place at the end of my college years, what was lacking was a plan of action. I did not have relevant experience to start a business at that point. So, I got involved in my family’s business venture for a couple of years, where I observed, understood and learned how to operate with fields such as marketing, human resources, communication, and more than everything, how to keep things real and not get carried away. Technical knowledge in place, I decided to concretise the idea of YUP Card and was finally willing to start up!
Initially, I was reluctant to dive right into it completely, so I continued to work with my family and set aside a few hours every day to push YUP Card’s growth forward. With time and support from family and friends, I gathered the courage to get YUP Card bootstrapped, which I figured would keep a check on expenses and keep the focus on the goal of getting the privilege card to college students. It started off as a one-man mission but having a strong team was critical to give it the push it required. I always wanted YUP Card to have a lean team and hence, we started recruiting one by one, only when required. After the first hire, we moved into the business, which was based out of Kolkata, full time.
For YUP Card to work, we needed to focus and boost two key aspects: outreach to brands and outreach to students. We needed (and still constantly need) to ensure we have the best deals with the right brands to get students to trust us and use the card. We started out by reaching out to our personal networks to connect with college students, but of course, that wasn’t enough. So, we appointed campus ambassadors across colleges and built up social media accounts to disseminate information about what YUP Card was.
The initial reactions can’t exactly be described as encouraging. Expectedly, students were concerned about their money and had difficulty trusting YUP Card. They had to be assured that YUP Card was here to stay and that 499 INR for an annual membership was definitely worth it.
With passing time, we realised how important it was for us make our social media presence stronger. We worked on our online promotion strategy, analysing statistics and readership behaviour to figure out what was working and what wasn’t. All content was pushed out on our Facebook, Instagram handles, was carefully created based on this research, and the better we got at it, the more we realised that people were talking about YUP Card with their friends and some of them also got in touch with us to know more. Our brand image grew and we even received offers to collaborate. Moreover, we now also recruit through social media.
Progress was slow, and it took a whole year of carefully cultivating a solid customer base before we were finally confident enough to move out of our base town of Kolkata and set up operations in Delhi, our latest venture. But it did happen, with perseverance and hard work, today, we are expanding quickly in Delhi with ever-evolving content strategies, too!
Promoting YUP Card and has been a constant learning experience, albeit a challenging one. Certainly, the journey and its challenges are far from over. Even today, we work as relentlessly to optimise our social and offline media strategy, to improve on our past efforts and optimise sales and popularity of YUP Card. We now have a dedicated team working on analysis and execution of social media strategies. One thing that I’ve learnt through this entire exercise is, no matter how great the idea is, having your own values in place and to have your team believe in it and work towards it, are a critical part of success.