Unlike overseas, there are few or no large bookstore chains, musty second-hand bookstores, or sprawling public libraries in India outside of the cities. In recent times however several book stores have cropped up here, but they are few and far-between. Perhaps, it is an indication of how little India reads, something that rankled and goaded Manish Kumar and Arti Jain into founding Friendsofbooks.com.
Friendsofbooks.com is a business initiative that came about to make India read! It now ensures cold wintry evenings, steaming cups of coffee, and lonely summer nights have suitable company. And that too, quite comfortably – picked off a virtual bookshop, and delivered to your doorstep!
Friendsofbooks.com uses a digital platform to communicate and connect with its members. Users log on to the website to browse through virtual bookshelves and select a registration plan. “Registration plans vary, keeping in mind different reading patterns among Indians. The entry plan has been kept at a nominal sum of Rs. 150/-,” explains Arti. Once registered, the user picks up a book to read which is then delivered to their doorstep. When the user finishes the book, he hits the 'Ready for Pick up' tab on the website to make way for his next read, again delivered to his doorstep!
Whilst the idea sparked in the US, where both Arti and Manish were working as an independent media professional and software professional respectively, it was later modified and adapted to suit Indian markets. The pre-launch period entailed an in depth study of the Indian publishing business and reading habits among Indians. While Arti busied herself in researching the market and building the virtual bookshelf including sourcing and collecting books, Manish put his skills to use in setting up the website.
The books came from book store chains, second-hand bookstores, well-wishers and members who generously parted with their books. The initial investment for setting up the website came in from Manish and Arti. Setting up the website included the creation of a payment gateway to ensure a safe and secure payment environment for membership registration. The registration begins at Rs. 150/- going on to Rs. 4,750/-. Says Manish, “I studied different payment websites and zeroed in on PC Avenue. Besides their promise of safety and security, it also helped that they were reputed and known for their efficiency.”
In the book-lending business, dynamics such as quantity, delivery and pick up are factors that affect demand for books, and as also do awards and accolades the books win. Finally maintenance and storage of books is also critical. Friendsofbooks.com realized the functional difficulties involving book pick-up and delivery. “So we decided to hire the services of a courier agency to aid with our book pick-up and delivery service. We decided to focus on what we're good at, and outsource what we're not!” explains Arti. Friendsofbooks.com stores books in cartons, and on bookshelves and takes a security deposit from its members to safeguard against books not returned, or returned in bad condition.
“But, that's rarely the case,” explains Manish, “after all, all our members are Friends of Books!” The initiative uses book reading events, social media and a blog to reach out to its readers and keep them updated with their thoughts and events. Informal newsletters are sent out each month to inform readers of their latest additions. “Building our library is one of our most important tasks,” reveals Arti. Additionally, they keep book dynamics in mind- ensuring they have optimum number of copies of a popular book to meet reader demand. Reviews too are posted up on the website, a habit that Friendsofbooks.com hopes to extend into an ongoing activity.
In the future, Friendsofbooks.com hopes to garner support, pick up business and spread their mission to other cities. Tie-ups with publishing houses may also be considered. But, most importantly, Friendsofbooks.com hopes to spread and increase the reading habit in India!
Entrepreneurial ambition around books is significant for the contribution it makes to the society for, it is books more than anything that help hold a culture together, enriching minds and affording experiences that stir imagination. A book is a leap of faith on the experience of another.
Arti and Manish converted their passion to an idea that worked for them. Do you have a passion you want to convert to a business reality?
If you do then maybe we can help you to realize it. Visit The Power Of Ideas to find out how.