It has been rightly said, “ The aim of an idea is propagation.” While working with the planning commission, Gunjan Veda was stuck by the gap that existed in wide spread availability of books. So to make reading affordable, she started IndiaReads in 2009 as a central rental platform for books in an affordable format. Launched with a philanthropic vision, IndiaReads aimed to provide education in an affordable format.
However, when Gunjan decided to focus on her writing career, it was then Pranil Bafna and Shreyans Mehta came on board in 2013 to make IndiaReads a one of its kind ecommerce platform in India, and propagate the idea of renting a book on flexible terms rather than buying. Today, it is one of India’s largest rental platform for books and other knowledge sharing resources, a fine example of technology being used for mass affordable dissemination of knowledge.
With Pranil as the CEO and Shreyans as the CMO of the company, the 30 member team of , IndiaReads is now expanding itself to become one of India’s end to end skill development platform. The company with its mantra of “Why buy, if you can read & return?” is trying to leverage the growing acceptance of the shared economy concept in India.
How It works
The platform, currently, offers over 1.8 lakh titles on rent, across 50+ genres of reading which includes academic textbooks, competitive exams, fiction, technology, non-fiction, management, self-help, etc. Users who register on IndiaReads pay an initial base price for the book when they place an order online. When the user returns books, rent is deducted from the initial paid amount and the remainder is refunded.
The portal offers a IndiaReads.com offers a flexible rental structure ranging from one month to one year, depending on the user’s requirement. For example, one may want to rent a fiction book for maybe less than a month, or an engineering textbook for three months. The normal renting duration can vary from one month to a year. The rent deducted will depend on the MRP of the book, the duration for which it has been rented, and on the factor that how many times has the book been circulated before. More circulated the book, lesser the rent the user has to shell out. The company provides at your door- delivery and picks-ups of books and this cost is included in the rental charges.
Besides books, IndiaReads is also building a shared resource platform that offers digital content like e-books, e-magazines, audio-books & video courses. The resource can be accessed on platforms like web, android, iOS by individual users & organizations like corporates, schools, colleges alike.
Needless to say, IndiaReads is bullish on the student segment, especially those undertaking competitive exams. The clear USP of the rental platform is savings for students who would require to rent books only for a specific time till the exams. A working young professional might not be that interested in savings on books by renting, but a student would definitely be. Similarly, the platform targets voracious readers as well, who polish of 3-4 books in a month. Instead of buying so many books, this set of readers would also like to rent and save the expenditure on buying books frequently, given their prolific reading habit
In addition these, IndiaReads.com offers white label corporate library platform, where companies can provide access to a uniform knowledge resource to its employees pan India. The platform can be easily employed to provide access to knowledge resources to employees sitting at multiple locations with zero investments. A local library in the office can only be accessed by local employees but with an online resource reserve, companies can provide access to multiple employees at multiple locations. Consequently, the company’s corporate library platform has gained traction with clients like HDFC Bank, Mahindra & Mahindra, Axis bank, Genpact and Whirlpool to name a few
Monetization, Traction And Funding
The company’s mode of revenue is the rental collections though Pranil admits it’s not a straight forward model per se as the rental amount is deducted based on the price of the book and the time for which it is issued. The initial payment deposit for the book is a variable amount, differing from book to book, depending on how many circulations has the book done. If the book has been circulated for more number of times, and the cost of the book has been recovered, the benefit is passed on to the user in the form of lower initial deposits. Usually, for a three month period, the rent would work around to about 30-35% of the book’s MRP.
Currently, the platform boasts of about 300,000 registered users. On a monthly basis, it witnesses around 17k-18k transactions. In the past one year, it has processed more than 1 lac book-rentals in past 1 year.
IndiaReads has raised about two rounds of funding so far, with the latest angel round of commencing in June this year. Two Silicon Valley based angel investors, Namit Raisurana, Product Manager at Facebook and Prashanth Nerella, Head of Business Intelligence at Facebook participated in the round, investing an undisclosed amount. Prior to this round, the portal had raised another angel round of funding in 2013 which saw participation from Dr. Mahendra Mehta, MD, Neuraltechsoft and Shrawan Chhajer, MD, CNS Machines.
The company plans to expand the depth of content in the near future. From just being an online library, IndiaReads is looking to become an end to end learning platform by diversifying into e-books, research papers, journalism content, e-magazines, audio-books & video courses. The portal is building a shared resource platform that offers digital content like e-books, e-magazines, audio-books & video courses. The resource can be accessed on platforms like web, android, iOS by individual users & organizations like corporates, schools, colleges alike.
Pranil points out that even in the physical books category, the market is huge. Every year, about 15 lakh students sit for competitive exams in India for some 35,000 colleges, which points out to the huge market opportunity in this space. To cash on this, the platform is not only building traction organically, but also entering into tie-ups with colleges, coaching institutes and corporates alike. For instance, the company has opened up a warehouse in Kota-which is a mecca for coaching institutes and is running operations from there.
Given the huge network of banking clients, it has been able to penetrate many Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities as well, as it rapidly expands its presence to more than 550+ cities.
Online libraries have been around for a while, with many metro cities having their own chapter. Kopykitab, DoorstepBooks, Librarywala, and are some of the online players IndiaReads competes with. However, Pranil points out that these are mainly targeting the general reading audience while IndiaReads target space is different. On the corporate side, Kwench is a formidable player which has been in the market for quite some time.
Just to speak specifically about the academic content space, there are newer players entering the space with newer ideas. For instance, EduRev, which is a crowd sourced platform and wants to be a one stop for all notes/documents/books needed by students or teachers. It plans to create an exhaustive online library for every educational field/ institution. Similarly, there is Delhi based Notegen, which is building a global marketplace for study notes and educational content created by students. The platform will serve as a network to help students quickly find and purchase notes prepared by other students.
IndiaReads has wide appeal for the target audience it is intending to reach. The convenience of pick and drop is another factor which works in its favour. Though renting as an option might not find many takers with working professionals even if they are voracious readers, with students and corporate libraries, the firm still has a large opportunity to tap. Indians are slowly opening up to the concept of shared economy more and more now that startups offering rentals of cars, bikes, furniture, apparel and accessories, have popularised the concept. Much will however depend on the efficacy of the revenue model as the company scales up.