Although experts claim book reading is on its way out, enthusiasts are trying their best to revive this dying habit. Librarywala.com is the latest effort to make reading more accessible and convenient. Librarywala.com is the first online lending library, a fact that got promoters Hiten Dedhia, Hiten Turakhia, Dhairyasheel Pawar and Shibanarayan Rath into the Limca Book of Records in 2010.
“The belief that reading was not a dying habit and there still were a number of people with whom we shared the reading passion got us to float Librarywala” – Hiten Turakhia
Inspired by Netflix, the US-based online DVD rental service, Dedhia got together with his three partners and started Librarywala.com in 2007 to explore the possibility of a similar business. “The belief that reading was not a dying habit and there still were a number of people with whom we shared the reading passion got us to float Librarywala.com,” says Turakhia, managing director and co-founder of Librarywala.com. Today, it has over 5,000 registered users in Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune. A member merely has to select the book he wishes to read and within next 24 hours it will be delivered at his doorstep.
What sets Librarywala.com apart is its service offerings. In order to sustain members’ interests, the business brings together several unique service offerings like home delivery, no late fees and even a book request option, where members can request a new book to be added to the inventory. Librarywala.com has a user-friendly website and an economical payment structure. The firm maintains a comprehensive list of over 13,200 unique titles of every genre in their Mumbai setup and over 9,200 titles in Bangalore. The subject of books appeals to a diverse reader profile and includes topics on history, travel, health care, spirituality, children and adult fiction. In order to assure customers of low hire charges they source books directly from distributors and publishers, which in turn offers them better discounts and lower inventory cost. On average, Librarywala.com buys books worth Rs. 80,000 every month. “We did extensive research on the reasons for the fading popularity of the library syndrome and came up with interesting alternatives to sustain our business model,” recollects Turakhia. Librarywala.com also offers library solutions to its corporate clients and they maintain an inventory of 100 to 200 titles in the company’s existing library that are changed on a regular basis.
The concept was first tested with a Mumbai database and garnered more than 200 members within six months of the business. There were initial bottlenecks with formulating a feasible home delivery system of the books and they tried aligning with courier services initially, but, it was not without certain logistical issues. The courier services were unable to offer the service when it came to picking the books from the member’s address and courier charges themselves became a high component to the business with weight of the books posing a major problem. “We initially tried a system with half-a-dozen pick up boys and worked out a feasible delivery cost structure,” adds Turakhia. “Today we employ 30 delivery boys, who carry nearly 800 books each day across three cities,” he prides.
Once the business was established in Mumbai, the company started its operations in Bangalore in January 2008. Not only did it mean additional revenue, but, it also increased visibility. With seven months of operations in both the cities, a satellite centre was launched in Pune. Librarywala.com managed to break even within six months and recorded revenue of Rs. 17 lakhs in the very first year of operations. The year 2009 saw its growth rise by a whopping 180 per cent with its revenues touching Rs 46 lakhs. “We are looking at touching the Rs 1 crore mark by 2011 and extend our presence to Chennai and Hyderabad,” says an optimistic Turakhia.
While the founders and their relatives funded the initial operations of Librarywala.com, the entity is now looking for venture capitalists to promote its growth prospects. The team plans to further its services by adding a mobile platform where books can be ordered via SMS. The inventory itself will be strengthened with regional language titles. Members can look forward to online audio streaming of books very soon. Along with extending its presence to 10 other cities by 2012, Librarywala.com plans to team with local libraries as a complement to its online structure. “Tangency matters for every product, we are aligning with local libraries to assist readers with the look and feel element of books,” explains Turakhia.