The foray into business has been a natural progression for me. And boy, am I glad to have chosen what I chose!
I had worked with various companies before the startup bug bit me. I had a great idea and I was convinced I could turn it into reality.
Pustak came into existence in November 2007, with a vision to be the largest online bookstore in India.
It's been a year since then. We have come far, with eight employees spread across two offices - in San Jose and Bangalore.
But it hasn't been an all-smooth journey.
The biggest problem initially was with the banks. There was a complete lack of knowledge of integrating e-commerce with traditional banking. I spent many, many months to get things functional for Pustak.
To be more specific, we bank with ICICI Bank, using their payment gateway, their corporate banking and their credit card. All three are separate entities and one doesn't know the working of the other. Integrating this took away a lot of my time and effort.
The turning point was the launching of the website itself. We suddenly opened up our business to millions and made it easier for everyone to buy books.
I now want to build an e-commerce company the right way. No one in India seems to have gotten the right business model for e-commerce, but I believe I am on track.
There are two clear differentiators in Pustak that I know will attract customers. First, we offer the largest database of books in India, with over 12 million titles. Second, we have these books delivered to the doorstep of the customer without charging the huge international shipping and handling fees. Normally, a book that is purchased from an American website (because it's not available in India) attracts about $10 to $15 in shipping costs to be shipped from the US to India. We don't charge this. We have tie-ups with thousands of distributors and publishers in the US. This allows us to get low costs on books that we pass on to our customers.
Growth drivers for Pustak includes better brand visibility, besides the rising PC sales and internet usage in our country.
My vision is to make Pustak the biggest online bookseller in India within 2-3 years, with a clear lead.
I believe we have a very compelling, practical business model based on solid fundamentals. Hence, the coming few months will see us growing at a very fast pace. We're looking forward to the ride.
Trust me when I say that I have never felt like giving up and getting back to a regular job. Not once.
A few people have inspired me a lot: in tennis, Boris Becker and in business, Dhirubhai Ambani.
My advice to budding entrepreneurs would be: Have a vision and stick to it. Spend money wisely. Hire talented people who have entrepreneurial streaks in them. Research your industry well before taking the plunge. Put in a lot of thought and get advice from qualified people before starting up.
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