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Benevo: Providing Essential Life Skills

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Today, we got to speak with Ms. Soumya Jitendra Baniwal. She is the founder of Benevo Management, providing a comprehensive suite of training and advisory services.

How they managed it, what issues and challenges they faced and where they are headed in the future were some queries that we had and Ms. Soumya Jitendra Baniwal enthusiastically shares about her work with us.

With a rigour in her voice, she says “Being a woman entrepreneur, people don’t take you seriously. This is the first issue I face whenever I go and speak to the clients.”

Read ahead to know more about her journey as a woman entrepreneur.

Anu Jain:

Who all were the founding members, and who all were there in the founding team of Benevo?

Soumya Jitendra Baniwal:

Two! There were only two members—the founder and co-founder. Soumya Baniwal, that’s me, and the other is Ashish Baniwal.

Anu Jain:

What was your idea behind getting into this business?

Soumya Jitendra Baniwal:

I wanted people across the nation to understand the laws. A lot of people in the country do not know about their rights, which we believe are very much required for every individual. For example, we see that many laws which have been made for the common man, like the consumer protection rights, rights and welfare of senior citizens, rights and welfare of people with disabilities (PWDs), women protection rights, crime against women, child protection rights, POCSO, POSH but people aren’t aware about them. I am into paralegal training programmes and individual counselling and felt a strong need to develop a platform to cater to this need. The basic idea behind starting this company is hidden in the name itself, Benevo, derived from ‘Benevolence’ meaning ‘a humanistic and kind approach towards people.’

Anu Jain:

How do you target your customers, and how do you segment them?

Soumya Jitendra Baniwal:

Our major client is the government of India. We are already working in three states, Delhi, Uttrakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. We don’t have to do much for our branding as we are renowned already in these places. We give weekly and monthly trainings, have a team of tele-callers, write letters, talk to corporates and the government. Post which we schedule a meeting and crack the deals. Sometimes it takes five days, sometimes three and sometimes the same day itself. There is no fix timeline to conversion

Anu Jain:

What is your go-to-market strategy? And is there any difference in your approach and the approach of other organisations that provide similar services?

Soumya Jitendra Baniwal:

Well, yes! We have a USP. I have seen that people who train think that they have knowledge, so they can train, but there is a model for training that you must follow. LSRW i.e., Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing for their language. Additionally, we involve our participants in our training and design games for each and every training that we conduct. These are a mix of classroom games, classroom activities, and sometimes outdoor activities.

Anu Jain:

For sales, do you approach your customers offline, online, or both?

Soumya Jitendra Baniwal:

We utilize both the channels as using just one is not enough in today’s scenario.

Anu Jain:

Did you face any major challenges in doing sales? It has been just three years since Benevo’s inception. In the initial phases, start-ups usually face challenges. So, are there any challenges that you faced?

Soumya Jitendra Baniwal:

Yes, we do face! Firstly being a woman entrepreneur, people don’t take you seriously. This is the first issue I face whenever I go and speak to the clients. Initially I started the company alone and was the only one working for it. I was designing the content, delivering the training, doing marketing, sales, and everything. Now, I have an office and a team. But initially, nothing was there. So, people don’t take women seriously. This is point one.

And another is travelling. Travelling independently, alone, PAN India is again an issue. Apart from this, there are many other issues. People don’t take these trainings seriously. People feel that trainings are a non-productive segment of the corporates or any organisation. So, pushing them to release funds for trainings and employee development, instead of spending it all on AC and fancy furniture is actually very difficult. Honestly!

Anu Jain:

Could you tell us something about your revenue streams and what portion of it do you spend on sales and marketing?

Soumya Jitendra Baniwal:

I would not be able to tell you the exact figure as usually the CA takes care of these things. But what best I can tell you, in terms of accounts, is that we do not come under tax audit right now. Maybe we will start coming in for an audit from this year, so we are hoping to touch that 1 Crore mark.

Anu Jain:

Who all do you consider your major competitors? Any other companies which provide similar services?

Soumya Jitendra Baniwal:

Yes! Mentora, apart from them nobody as of now.

Anu Jain:

Do you feel that there are any other substitutes for your services which customers can cater to?

Soumya Jitendra Baniwal:

Yes! Nowadays, people also do freelance training, and at times, customers prefer to hire them. Thus, freelance trainers are a big challenge for us. We have multimedia content and games for our training. In a male dominant society, at times, I am asked to explain to a male crowd, topics like ‘Sexual Harassment of women at workplaces must be stopped’. That becomes difficult for me as well. Still, I do my work, and I design games for that purpose.

Freelancers offer to do the work for lesser pay, say, Rs. 5,000, and the companies do it only to fulfil the mandatory requirement set by the Supreme Court. They calculate that if the guidelines can be met by spending just Rs. 5,000, then not to spend, say, Rs. 10,000 or Rs. 15,000 for the same. And they end up compromising on the quality and thus the target of employee awareness is lost. The problem is that people don’t want to create awareness about such issues. We live in a society where we wear helmets just to avoid the fines rather than being bothered about our safety. But the end target for us at Benevo is public awareness and therefore we welcome the freelancers working in this sector in our company. We work together in panels and design platforms aiming to provide actual trainings to the customers instead of just doing it for formality. Actual trainings must be conducted at the workplace.

Anu Jain:

What are your future business plans? Do you have any growth plans? And where do you think the industry is headed in the near future?

Soumya Jitendra Baniwal:

As post-COVID, everything is in digital form only, so we are doing the same programs online as well. These are paid programs. For example, I conduct online trainings for Delhi Development Authority, SPIU Uttrakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. All of these are conducted online. But yes, being honest with my profile; I am in this profile for the past 10-11 years; I can say that the offline trainings for teaching cannot be replaced by technology. We are just running our business right now. However, our business is still not back on track due to COVID-19.

Anu Jain:

Do you have any plans to outsource any verticals like sales, marketing, or finance anytime in the future?

Soumya Jitendra Baniwal:

We are already doing that. 

Anu Jain:

So, do you think that outsourcing was fruitful for Benevo?

Soumya Jitendra Baniwal:

It’s a bit difficult to answer it right now as we are yet to check and measure the output.

Insellers’ View on Benevo

Benevo serves a niche segment of customers who want to get trainings through professional organisations. It does not have many competitors per se. However, the freelancers act as substitutes for the training and advisory services provided by Benevo. Moreover, customers seem to be less aware and concerned about the need for such training and mostly do it just to meet the government’s mandatory requirements. Even the companies who take the trainings for their employees are sceptical about spending a large sum of cash on them.

Right now the challenge for Benevo is two-fold. Increasing awareness about the importance of trainings among the companies along with increasing their brand’s awareness and the second challenge is from the freelancers that provide the trainings at lower costs even if it is sometimes not up to the mark.

The first problem can be addressed by – Benevo could increase the awareness about its trainings through market research. They could conduct researches for the companies, highlighting the percentage of employees who think that they are aware about the laws and who think that these trainings are important for them. They could then use this data to increase the awareness among the stakeholders and persuade the HR department to conduct such trainings for their employees. This way, they could get the relevant data as well as a foot in the door in their target companies’ offices. Also, they could provide free demo trainings initially to those companies that might provide large business in the future.

 

The second problem can be addressed by – Benevo could also initiate different trainings at different price points catering to specific customer segments, to match or even beat the prices set by freelancers. Customised trainings for each of the segments may be done. As Benevo has already started with online training, it may leverage it to increase its reach and cater to a much larger customer base.

We wish Soumya Jitendra Baniwal and Ashish Baniwal luck for their future and hope that they accomplish all their endeavours.

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