An Interview with Harsh Narang, Founder of Phokatcopy

Harsh Narang, a final year student of Masters in Mathematics and Computing at IIT Delhi, is out to take the student community by surprise with his venture – PhokatCopyTM – which is expected to start full scale operations from the 16th of July when the new session of Delhi University commences. Let’s hear about his journey of making the idea into a full fledged business venture!
VP. Tell us a bit about PhokatCopyTM
Harsh. PhokatCopyTM is a pro student initiative which has the premise of ‘Free Photocopy’, offering students photocopying services at no cost, subsidized by revenues gained through advertising initiatives on the back page.
As a part of our project, we will also be installing Green Bins on all campuses. Once our supply chain is in place, collecting paper won’t be a hassle and then we will be sending that paper for recycling.


VP. Where did this idea stem from? Any inspiration?
Harsh. I have never maintained a notebook since class 8th. Naturally, I’ve relied on photocopies all my life! Once in IIT, needs increased further and at times I used to get upto 500 pages photo copied per semester! Then one day somewhere in January 2008, I saw a poster on campus advertising for Vishisht, a Business Plan Competition in IIT D itself. This competition gave me the impetus to come up with this idea and formulate it into a Business Plan.


VP. I believe you conducted a pilot survey in IIT D for business plan. How was that experience? What kind of response did you get at that time when the project was at its early stages?
Harsh. The survey was basically in the form of a questionnaire. So well, it was all thanks to one of my lecturers (who had a good impression of me!) who got the forms filled in by a lot of students. I also conducted a kind of online survey to get my friends and others opinions.
I got a very positive response from everyone-they were generally very enthusiastic about the idea. You can expect that you know, since the name itself is so catchy- PhokatCopyTM- well it’s a trademark now! And then the idea of free photocopying is also populist by nature.
Even today when I contact some companies, even the receptionist sounds genuinely interested-‘PhokatCopyTM you said?’ is the normal response I get- Its all in the name I guess!


VP. What’s the present status of things with PhokatCopyTM?
Harsh. Today, PhokatCopyTM is a private limited company-all the paper work is done. Over the last two months (and earlier too) we have collaborated with colleges and advertisers. We have tied up with approximately 25 colleges, mostly from Delhi University and are in touch with advertisers from various segments of industry ranging from education to telecommunication and even food and beverages.
Recession is a common word today and primarily because of that, it has been tough to get money from companies-however we have over all got an extremely positive response from lot of them.


VP. Every new idea faces roadblocks-what were yours?
Harsh. Yes I also faced my set of problems. A pertinent question every advertiser would ask me was guarantee of visibility. However we developed a way to ensure that. As part compensation, we would be giving company vouchers to students on availing the photocopy service from our outlets. These would be redeemed by a specific process which would ensure visibility to the advertisers.
Also, one of the major problems I faced was to build a committed and dedicated team. Getting people to believe in your idea and get them involved in a start up is surely a tough task-you will always encounter skepticism. It can never be a ‘One Man Show’ and therefore one always needs a strong team by his side.


VP. What’s your vision for the company? Any new services or plans that are on your mind as a diversification plan-later?
Harsh. 4.7 million students-photocopy 450 pages a year on an average when they have to pay for it-it’s a big market. This works for me as well as for the advertisers-who are perhaps the most important part of this venture-after all, it’s them who are paying for the photocopying. A lot of firms these days are anyway targeting the youth through their advertising campaigns. Take for example Virgin mobile or even Pepsi’s Youngistan campaign.
If things go on well, we would like to introduce a social angle to our venture too. We plan to start an NGO which will build a book bank, collecting old textbooks from private schools and make that accessible to kids from government schools and at a later stage even have our own PhokatCopyTM stationary etc distributed or perhaps sold at a highly subsidised rate in these schools.
Compiled by:

Hemantika Verma