Weekly Startup Profiles > CEON Solutions

CEON Solutions
Keep an 'I' on your child

Quick Facts
Entrepreneur : Abhay Panjiyar
Age : 27
Company : CEON Solutions
Based in : Ahmedabad
Founded in : 2004
Industry : IT / Internet / Telecom / BPO

Business Summary


Education Process Management Solutions and Consultancy

The Idea

At 12:00 noon Sharma receives an SMS that his eight-year-old son Sahil asked four questions in Geography class. Radhika's mother is furious to know that her daughter in class 9 bunked two periods in school today. Welcome to the new-age 'parent-teacher' meeting-I-school.

I-school is a knowledge-based software package for schools comprising personalized tools for multi-dimensional assessment of a student. It gives instant feedback to parents about their child's progress, tracks performance and aids in scheduling and planning. "The software can inform parents about a child's level of attentiveness or whether he enjoys sports more than studies. It helps teachers understand a student's weak areas, which can be further used to develop a different pedagogy," explains Abhay.

Abhay's idea came as a part of his project in his second year of engineering, where he tried creating an effective administration process for a Bhopal-based education NGO. Vinaykant, a retired IAS officer, saw his technical expertise and asked Abhay to use it to analyse students' progress. "While creating the software, I got so involved, that I made 20 modules in a go" says Abhay.

More schools expressed an interest, and Abhay realized the software's potential. "I started participating in B-plan competitions with this revolutionary Educational Process Management (EPM) software," he recalls. Abhay and his two friends won an invitation to incubate at the IIM-A's Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE).

CEON Solutions has two more products-an NGO Resource Planning Solutions and Police Inventory Management software.

The Opportunity

Education is a knowledge-driven sector in a booming, knowledge-driven economy, he says. At the same time the market is growing, schools also face competition and wish to improve the quality of the education they provide their students.

Abhay saw that one hurdle to improving the quality of education is that teachers, parents and students were not sharing information - information that could be critical to the student's success. Abhay developed software that enables schools efficiently to connect all these parties, and thereby involving parents more effectively in the education process, as well as improve the school's own processes.

He believes, "In a country of 1.2 million schools, at least 10 percent would require this software. We are creating this market, so it's difficult to predict growth rate. The education sector needs to move from a people-driven approach to a process-driven approach. Our sustainable advantage is the package of software coupled with support leading to customer satisfaction. Also our prices are very low."

His strategy: "Minimum resources, excellent and committed manpower, research-oriented business structure and direct marketing to good quality schools in big cities."

The Money

Abhay began by borrowing money from family and maintained a low cost of management in the company. In the first year, he paid salaries out of this capital and the Rs. one lakh fees from his first client.

Recently, Abhay raised funds from the venture firm, GVFL. In the first meeting, GVFL board members insisted that the marketing plan was not strong and that India was not ready for the software. However they agreed to another meeting.

Undaunted, Abhay and the market proved them wrong: during the one month between the meetings, he and his team doubled CEON's client base. With that validation from the market, GVFL went on to invest Rs. three crores.

The Team

Coming from a family of self-made businessmen, it wasn't difficult for Abhay to walk the path. However, building a team has presented challenges and required Abhay to employ some real creativity.

He conceived the idea with two batchmates, who moved on within two months of the birth of CEON. One of them recently rejoined.

Unable and unwilling to compete with sky-high salaries, Abhay has grown his team from 10 to 25 members, combining the ability to inspire with flexibility. "The numbers kept fluctuating. I asked my juniors from college to work with me, but I didn't tie people down." Abhay let people work for shorter times, longer durations - whatever suit them.

Also, the work is interesting. At CEON, the team members develop products that they could never do in colleges or in the compartmentalised corporate scenario.

The CEON team comprises MTech professionals, MBAs and a strong community of academicians, principals and teachers as advisors. With clear vision and drive, he is steadily walking towards his target of 200 employees next year and 700-800 people by 2008-2009.

The Company - today and tomorrow

Just one month after both his partners quit CEON, his father- a pillar of support, passed away. Abhay faced an extremely difficult time, but he decided to move on. "You might lose your ticket, but, the train is going to its final destination."

Today things are speeding and many companies are interested in funding CEON Solutions. Abhay prefers to complete his personal target first-of having diverse clients. "I want my product to be in one good school in every big town and city in India." At present, CEON has 13 clients, with presence in seven cities. He plans to reach out to 50 more schools this year and a target of 2,000 schools over the next five years.

What keeps you awake at night?

Surprise-It's not competition. The pie is big enough for everybody. For Abhay it's retaining a few good people. "My business is successful because we give immense attention to detail. I need good manpower to clear the backlog of our customised and task-oriented products."

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