I Started A 14K/year Marketplace For Students While In College

Published: January 2nd, 2023
Nitesh Garg
Founder, Clankart
from Bathinda, Punjab, India
started January 2022
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello! I’m Nitesh Garg, the founder of Clankart. I’m a computer science engineer with an ardor for entrepreneurship. We are based out of Bathinda, India, and are trying to build a marketplace for students helping them to sell their used books online in India.

Clankart is an online marketplace dedicated to students. It is a free platform where students can sell their used books to other students just like them located anywhere in India.

I started Clankart as a college project, but soon after realizing the brilliant response from the students, I decided to turn this project into my dream start-up with a vision to empower every student to connect independently with other book buyers and sellers (other students) online. Currently, we have more than 25,000+ students from all across India registered with us.


Earlier I used to believe that if you have an out-of-the-box idea to solve one’s problem then boom! You have already won the market. But it’s a big no.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Good things happen at the right time. It all started during my college time.

As most colleges are located on the outskirts of cities, students find it quite difficult to buy books when they move to their new semesters. Some of the common challenges include travel hassles, high prices, non-availability, etc.

Students know that the books they use in their courses are needed only for one or two semesters. And after that, those used books are of no use to them as they move to the higher grades. But the same books are needed by their junior grads.

In the present system, students do one of the three things with their old books. They either sell their used books to scrap dealers by weight for a few pennies Or they just keep them on the bookshelves or in a cupboard and forget them.

Both these steps are the act of commiseration. How can one throw something invaluable in cupboards that always stood with them? Books are meant for the dissemination of ideas, and fruits of knowledge. They are never meant to be kept inside boxes or to be sold as ‘scrap’.

Or at last, the third way, some students approach booksellers to sell their old books. But booksellers barely pay them the actual worth of the books and sell the same used books to other students at much higher prices. (Like they generally buy these old books at 25 to 40 percent of their actual price and sell the same books at 55 to 65 percent.)

If you notice, there is a discretionary need for these middlemen, but because there is no way out, this discretionary need has become an obligatory one. Tossing this middleman from the transaction would be a win-win situation for both buyer and seller. At Clankart, we do the same.

Take us through the process of designing, and prototyping your first product.

As I mentioned above, Clankart was started as a college project. So our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) was launched in my college only with not so many features.

Versions of Clankart logos that I created back then

As it was the MVP at that time it had very limited features where users could sign up and list their used books for sale. But if a student had to ask another student for a book, he/she had to make a phone call or had to send the query by email. But then after getting the reviews and I also felt that it needed a chat feature where buyers and sellers can chat with each other on the platform itself without revealing their personal information like email or phone number.

So after the launch, our next phase was adding the ‘chat feature’ with which both buyers’ and sellers’ personal contact information is kept private, and they can interact with each other at our portal itself. And adding this chat feature took me around a week.

Recently we have integrated WhatsApp Business Platform Cloud API with our platform, which has helped us improve our reach and engagement with our audience. This integration was worth the addition, because, previously for every notification alert (whether for the seller or the buyer), an email was sent. Which students do not open frequently. And we have seen in many cases, students missing those notifications. But Whatsapp, since it is personal and everyone is there. It has solved this ‘missed notification’ problem by almost 98%.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Well, the launch of Clankart was very simple. As it all started with a college project. So it’s launch, or I’d say the first demo was in my college. It was simply a website hosted on some web server, and boom it was launched!

There was no cost associated with the launch. To choose from various web hosting platforms, I discussed with a senior friend who was already into the web. He suggested that I choose a Linux-based web hosting platform over Windows hosting.

During the starting days, most of the listings that we got were from a sort of different market, like the student training institutions, student mentors, etc.

Then we started submitting our platform to startup listing websites, and other relevant blogs. And thankfully, we got a chance to publish our story on startup-related platforms like NextBigWhat, StartUpFreak, TimesNext, LaunchingNext, and others. And meanwhile, Google started noticing us, indexing us, and bringing good relevant traffic. And then after, after a few improvements, we started coming on the track. This time we’ve got a chance to get featured on Starter Story, so I believe this will give us brand exposure to its 1M+ readers.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Well, to be honest, we do run paid ads mostly on social media like Facebook and Instagram, but not to that extent. Most of the ad campaigns that we run are of type ‘brand awareness’ campaigns targeting students of age 18-24. The main idea of our ads is the cognizance of this concept among students.

Most of the students that come to our website are those who search for specific queries on Google. Queries like ‘sell old books’, ‘where to sell used books’, and ‘how to sell used books’. This is the targeted audience, I would say.

Some of these keywords are highly competitive, but anyhow, we have managed to stay on the top three results even beating Amazon.in.

And the rest are our direct visitors who come from word of mouth, social media, or Quora answers.



How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We currently have around 25,000+ students registered with us and are growing at a good pace. Though it’s not a rocket ship by any means, the signs are promising. Clankart is, however, still a part-time gig.

On any marketplace platform, building the trust of both the buyer and seller is quite challenging. Because the seller always thinks about how he will collect the payment for the book from the buyer, or how he will ensure that he will be getting payment after he sends the product to the buyer.

And at the same time, the buyer always doubts in his mind that if he makes the payment to the seller, is there any guarantee that the seller will send him the book? So to solve all these problems and to make the buyer’s and seller’s buying and selling experience secure and trusted, last year we launched a new feature – Clankart Teleport. This feature offers students a secure buying and selling experience by allowing them to sell used books throughout the country with full security of payment.

Right now, our predominant intention is cognizance of the concept among the students. Presently, the student community is not much apprised of this concept. And they are more accustomed to conventional 'bazaar-based' trading. However, we are trying to aware the students about this concept through blog posts, articles, and advertisements.

Going forward, we will add more functionalities and drill down into more categories. Our idea is to consistently keep adding something game-changing and worthwhile to Clankart's experience.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I have learned so many things during the journey.

Earlier I used to believe that if you have an out-of-the-box idea to solve one’s problem, then boom! You have already won the market. But it’s a big no.

When you get into the field, then you will realize that your ‘out of the box idea’ will become a stumbling block for you. The same thing happened to us. The main problem was to cognize the concept among the students. Students are accustomed to conventional ‘bazaar-based’ trading.

They are not very enlightened about how they can sell their used books to other students and earn some extra cash. So the dissemination of the idea itself among students was a significant drawback and new learning for us as well. But since marketing to college students is quite easy because they are educated, geographically stable, and most important, Gen Z is highly active on social media.

So going forward we will be targeting them on both online and offline platforms. Like with online campaigns on social media, and free coupons. And hopefully, we will start organizing student events in colleges.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

As I started Clankart in college, I tried to keep it as simple as possible. No fancy stuff at all.

For our blog, we use WordPress with famous plugins like Yoast for SEO.

For SMTP services, we use Zoho. Ahrefs is our keyword research tool.

For our social media marketing posts, we use Adobe Photoshop, and Canva to create nice and simple-looking posts. Canva, with its drag-and-drop feature, becomes a very handy and easy-to-use tool, on the other hand, Adobe Photoshop gives you the freedom to play around.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Books like Zero to One by Peter Thiel, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

As with any online business, SEO is what brings the business. So blogs like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, and Ahrefs YouTube channel helps us bring new SEO updates, Google algorithm changes.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Well, to be honest, I don’t think I’m in a position I can advise as I am still learning. To a person having an ardor for entrepreneurship, I would say don’t spend too much time thinking and creating a ‘perfect’ product.

First, create your MVP, bring it to the market and see your customer’s response and validate your product.

By adopting this agile methodology, you can understand your customer behavior much better and can modify your product according to what your potential customer wants.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are looking for a skilled writer to help us write our blog posts. Interested candidates can reach us at [email protected].

Where can we go to learn more?