Edited excerpts from the interview:
When did you foray into entrepreneurship?
We started our business operations in 2010, from the World Book Fair that happened in February. The first year was a trial run, with limited memberships. The online bookstore and full-fledged multi-city library memberships started in 2011. The experience so far has been really motivating.
How did you conceive the idea of introducing an online book library in India?
During my career with the Planning Commission, I travelled extensively across the country, and noticed the lack of access to books beyond metros. That is where the idea was born.
Subsequently, I interacted with many booklover friends, who lived in metros, and found that they rarely had the time to visit libraries and bookstores. The idea of a laptop library that could be accessed at any time appealed to all of them. That is how the concept of INDIAreads took shape.
How has your entrepreneurial experience been so far?
As I said earlier, it has been a motivating experience.
It has been a challenging three years. I come from a social sciences background, so many things were new to me and, quite frankly, shocking. However, it has also been a great learning experience. The initial years were a trial, but now, I can look back at them with a smile and say it was well worth the while.
What are the areas of strategic focus for your business in the next 12 months?
In July 2012, we launched Literathon, a platform which brought authors and students together through campus-based interactions. Earlier in 2012, we also started a special LibraryMate service for educational institutes and corporates. These will be our focus areas for the next 12 months as well.
We will, of course, also be looking at creating more multi-city and regional centres. Expansion will also be our key mandate for the year ahead.
What are the major challenges that you foresee in the market?
The main challenge for us had been logistics and providing the last-mile connectivity. That is something we have finally resolved.
The other challenge that we faced is that of providing Cash on Delivery (CoD) services on a pan-India basis.
As a business entity relying mainly on the online platform, these are some common pain points. Luckily, we have dealt with them successfully.