Hiten Turakhia spent his college days in bookshops, devouring books. He did not let his passion wither even as he got himself a post graduate degree in foreign trade. Instead he translated it into an online book rental venture and his friends Hiten Dedhia, Dhairyasheel Pawar and Shibanaryan Rath, who were equally mad about books, joined him in launching www.librarywala.com.
Inspired by US-based online DVD sites, Turakhia figured that online video rental sites like Madhouse and Seventymm had successfully replicated the model in the domestic markets. "So the next best thing was to take books online," he says, matter-of-factly.
Before starting out, Turakhia along with his friends did a thorough research on the viability of an online book lending service. The friends stood outside libraries, book-shops and even nursery schools to get feedback from people on their business idea.
"People wondered if the books (ordered online) could be delivered at home. A few even said that they didn't trust the online portals with their money," recalls Turakhia.
Librarywala.com was launched in August 2007 in Mumbai with an inventory of about 8,000 books. After two years, the company has spread its wings to cities like Bangalore and Pune too.
The library size has now swelled up to 12,700 books in Mumbai and almost 9000 book titles in Bangalore. The young entrepreneurs have also forged tie-ups with publishers and distributors, which helps them in enhancing their literary stocks.
Soon after launching, Turakhia came face-to-face with his first challenge. He elaborates, "We started with tie-ups with courier companies to deliver the books. But it did not go as planned since each book is different in size and weight resulting in variable pricing."
Librarywala.com now has an in-house delivery system. "In Mumbai, we have hired 14 people to build the delivery network and Bangalore operations will be built on similar lines too," he adds.
Users can choose between the various subscription models offered by librarywala.com after paying a refundable deposit of Rs 499 and a minimum Rs 139 per month and rent up to three books.
Turakhia, who has seen the subscriptions for his site touch 5,700 and has roped in 15 corporates as clients too, is making sure that they don't end up with books that don't get rented out.
"We have started to involve our users and check their reading preferences. For instance, in the kids section we approached nursery schools and asked mothers what kind of books they would like," he lists.
The portal was able to recover its costs within the first month of setting up in each city of operation, claims the young co-founder. Turakhia also lets in, "The revenue in the first year was Rs 25 lakh (Rs 2.5 million) and during the second financial year we touched Rs 56 lakh (Rs 5.6 million)," said Turakhia.
The company now plans to add a few more categories like regional books, audio books for senior citizens who cannot read any more as well as for the visually impaired, as well as tying up with non-government organisations.
An ambitious target to enter 20 cities in the next two years is also on the cards. But the best part, according to Turakhia, is that they still get to read all the books.