Priyanka Gontla on her venture EveningHour, a Click and Mortar Store intent on making our free times better
Tell us about EveningHour.
Imagine a gathering of people – men and women, young and old, adults and children – engrossed in various activities. Some people reading books, some playing board games while the others around are engaged in a lively discussion on the intricacies of a common hobby or pastime like gardening or aquariums or pets. All this while, there are yet others too – learning the basics or trying out their hand at something new and thrilling like painting, calligraphy and so on! All this is happening under a single roof, in a serene setting, silently watched by a multitude of books in an ambiance that is peaceful, motivational, and full of positive energy! That is EveningHour!
What are the services that you specifically offer?
We are a click and mortar store. Our online presence is at eveninghour.com and offline presence is at Kukatpally, Hyderabad. One can buy and rent books online as well as at our physical store. We also rent movies. We offer various edutainment services at our store.
What are the various edutainment services that your offer at your store?
We have ‘meet the author’ sessions, elocution competitions, we have a book club that meets up once every month, we have a club that works towards improvement of communication skills, we regularly organize hand-writing improvement sessions and reading-speed improvement sessions, and etc. for kids.
Tell me a little bit about your background.
I am basically from Andhra Pradesh. After completing my B.Tech here, I went to the US to pursue MS at University of California, Irvine. After working in the US for almost 10 years, I came back to India and started EveningHour.
How did you come up with the idea? And why did you start?
I love books and used to go to libraries regularly in the US. The drive to starting a library came, after coming back to India, when I felt the dearth of libraries in Hyderabad. The rest just followed.
Since how long have you been operational? What is the size of your team?
We have been operational since 14 months. We are a 5 member team.
What were the biggest challenges you faced while starting up? And how did you overcome them?
Hailing from a family of engineers and ‘job’ holders, I knew nothing about starting or running a business. I had to learn everything from scratch - from books, and a lot from friends at Hyderabad Startups group.
What is your competitive advantage?
We do whatever it takes to ensure that our customers get the required books in time.
How did you fund raise?
Do you have any plans to fundraise?
What is your outreach strategy?
While we have tried traditional approaches like paper inserts, what really helped is social media marketing, various programs at schools and offices and lots of word of mouth!
How do you plan to scale?
We are trying to reach out to residential complexes, so that we can have a library on campus or provide them with a mobile library. That’s what we are looking at right now.
What do you think about the book reading culture in Hyderabad? And how do you think EveningHour can be instrumental in changing that?
The book reading culture in Hyderabad is changing for the better. In the case of children, while there is still a good percentage talking about academics and busy schedules, young parents and many schools are taking extra efforts to imbibe book reading habit into their children. The parents themselves are trying their best to fit in reading into their schedules.
EveningHour helps this by delivering books to their hand, making available variety of books to spark an interest. EveningHour has a mobile wing where the mobile van would visit interested residential complexes at a scheduled time making it easier for the readers to select books. Additionally, we organize book clubs at our venue and as well as at other locations.
What are your biggest success/impact stories so far?
EveningHour is very glad to share with you that, with our various programs, done individually and in collaboration with schools; we have already created a love for books in more than 1000 kids in Hyderabad.
Quite many people have adopted book reading habit; while earlier they used to spend time watching TV.
What excites you about the job that you do?
Everything about it! The fact that I do what I love to do, the various people I meet, and the happiness our team gets when someone tells us about how EveningHour has made a difference to the way they spend their free hours.
What are your most important learnings as an entrepreneur?
It is important to believe in your idea. Be confident and push ahead!
Was it difficult being a woman entrepreneur?
Not at all. In fact, everyone I met gave me extra guidance because it’s a women entrepreneur trying out something new. It has not been very common in Hyderabad. Of course, the fact that I have a great team and a supporting family helps incredibly.
Anything else you want to tell our readers?
India needs entrepreneurs! If you have a great idea and you have validated the idea, just start it off. Stop worrying about what might happen if it does not work out. If it does not work out, you could just go back and do whatever you were doing before. So, brush that idea and get to work.
We will keep a track of how EveningHour scales and keep you posted, you check out eveninghour.com and give us your feedback. If you are in Hyderabad, then do check out their edutainment center in Kukatpally without fail!
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