Engineering Announces $5,000 Storer Entrepreneurial Award Winner

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The award recognizes a student technological business plan

By: Gary Galluzzo

Karthik Ramachandran says that students are paying too much for textbooks, with prices having risen by some 186 percent over the past two decades alone. He says BookBox can do something about that.

BookBox—a student business plan for a company using vending machines and low prices to move used college textbooks—is the winner of the University of Iowa College of Engineering’s 2011-12 Hubert E. Storer Engineering Student Entrepreneurial Start-up Award.

The winning company’s founders and officers are Ramachandran and Serghei Dacin, both seniors majoring in chemical engineering.

Their company is designed to offer a better way to buy and sell books by paying students higher prices than competing book stores for used books and reselling the books at a 10- to 15 percent discount below competitors’ pricing.

“When performing competitive analysis, few companies are able to provide the depth of service that BookBox will," Ramachandran says. "Also, BookBox will primarily target undergraduate students, yet the possibilities for expanding the service to graduate students will also be explored more.”

Dacin says the BookBox business plan is a win-win situation for both college students and the company because the latter avoids labor costs by using vending machines, passing the savings along to students.

“A website platform will be used conveniently for reserving in advance the books that students need for renting, buying, or selling. Upon easy check out online, they could pick up or drop off a textbook at a BookBox nearby,” says Dacin.

Dacin and Ramachandran say that BookBox, by offering low prices and merchandise that customers can see in seconds, has the potential to outsell its competitors because brick-and-mortar bookstores sell mostly new books and overprice their used inventory. Also, online stores carry limited information about the condition and edition of their books, including popular sites like Amazon that carry few brand-name books and often refer customers to third-party vendors.

The annual award, established in 2002 and funded by an endowed gift from College of Engineering alumnus Hubert E. Storer, provides $5,000 of initial financial support for a College of Engineering student technological business plan.