Abhaya Agarwal and Jaya Jha, Founders, Pothi.com

24th May 2009
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Everyone has a favorite story that they like to tell. Some are funny, some not, a few are worth repeating to new audiences, and some might make a difference to someone’s life. Stories are like that, bursting from front to back cover with the experiences of another human being seeking to enrich us.

 Sadly enough not all stories get published, and not all great ideas reach their audience.

In this context however dynamic duo Abhaya Agarwal and Jaya Jha would beg to differ, because they just might be the ones to take your story to its reader. The duo explains “Pothi.com is a print on demand backed publishing platform for printed books (hard copy). It provides tools and services to help prepare the book and an e-commerce store to sell them. The publishing process is completely online. There is no upfront cost for publishing and selling. Pothi.com shares profits with the author as the book sells. Paid services are available if the author needs professional help in preparing the book.”


“The various purposes for which users have used the platform are

  • Publishing their books (the most obvious one)
  • Publishing a book of a loved one for family/friends
  • Publishing a book as a gift (Can be personalized)
  • Testing a book by sending few copies to reviewers, friends etc. before mass production and hitting the market
  • Offering a print magazine to the readers of their online portal
  • Taking our services to create a professional book before pitching it to traditional publishers”

“We have done over 120 books, most of which are available from our online store. Some others have been done for private circulation or for sell through publisher’s direct channel. We are adding 15+ books per month.”


The money making aspect of their business comes from mutual success. Here no one is piggy backing their way to the bank. The model is one that works for both parties and is as simple as it gets. The duo elaborates “The revenue comes from profit sharing with the authors and services. The aim of the business is to make it easy, technically and financially, for the users to create and publish a professional quality book. We are differentiating by using technology to create the tools for writers, which will help them publish smoothly and efficiently.”


They are also keen to expand their reach and by 2010 plan to make publishing - accessible to all. They said “We have identified a few specific segments where there is a high latent demand for this kind of offering. We are planning to reach out to those segments specifically.”


Yourstory enquired how the duo came to be entrepreneurs, and we got two very different answers. Jaya says “Did not want to regret later in life that I did not try something I would have liked to do and could have doneJ”


Whereas Abhaya declares “I have always wanted to be at the intersection of academics and industry. Startups provide the freedom and independence of academics and also the satisfaction of seeing things in use by real people!”


The business of spreading ideas has not been easy for them, and for no other rationale but ignorance. The duo is fighting this, and is hopeful that Pothi.com as a concept will be better understood in the coming future. They said “User Education has been the biggest challenge for us so far. The concept we are executing is pretty new in India and is a bit involved. A user who has not previously been exposed to the working of a similar publishing method needs to spend some time to understand the idea. Ensuring that is not easy and most of them start thinking of a self publishing company as just another publisher in the league of traditional publishers. This means that the idea that the author has to take control and responsibility of the book does not get conveyed.”


“We have tried to overcome this with educational articles on our site. We also handle queries from the customers who need to be educated about the concept directly. We are planning to come up with some more initiatives simply to educate the user.”


The twosome had a bit of a misstep too. They told us a bit more about the initial learning phase that they had to go through. They said “We did not put systems in place which would help us know and understand our customers better. That is a valuable piece of information that we could use in planning our scaling up operations. Now, we are going back and trying to dig out as much information as possible. But done earlier, it’d have been very useful.”


As with any entrepreneurial the ideas can make or break the business, but a certain amount of it is also about the way we perceive things. Yourstory asked them if they had ever contemplated a retreat; they answered saying “We do keep thinking about where it is going, how to grow it, whether it will work etc. but the point of giving it up has not come yet. But the road of entrepreneurship is never easy and we’d probably feel it sometime or the other. We hope to be strong in those crucial periods.”


They have enormous motivation to keep doing what they do. Forsaking their chosen path is never an option, and they revealed their motives saying “First thing is that we enjoy our independence despite the enormous responsibility it brings. Secondly, we are really passionate about the idea we are working on and want to do everything possible to make it work.”

”Finally, every once in a while, when we get disheartened, we get a mail from a satisfied customer. Since, we are an early mover in this space, what we do for them might not have gotten done otherwise. This inspires us to keep moving.”


Each of them has different ideas about what their personal achievements have been, even though both have been gained in the field of academics.


Abhaya says “Award that meant the most was when I topped my school in 10th standard and was placed on the state merit list; the school honored my parents by weighing my mother with fruits and felicitating them on stage. Seeing them recognized for all the effort they put in my education meant a lot.”


Jaya similarly says “Most Prestigious Award: Chairman’s Gold Medal at IIM Lucknow for graduating at the top of the class

Award that meant the most: Every single prize I won for debate and creative writing in school days. They added up to the confidence to take on the world.”

They also wish to pass on their business acumen and experience to others of their ilk saying “Think of the business/idea before thinking of the funding. Institutional capital may not be required or be the best thing for all kinds of businesses. Don’t think of entrepreneurship as something superior to a regular 9-5 job. Become an entrepreneur only if it makes you happy, not because it seems cool. Happiness from entrepreneurship will come if you are either inherently passionate about entrepreneurship or strongly believe in your business idea. Hire a good CA before registering a company!”


We wish them all the success and hope to see Pothi become a household name.

Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.

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