In this era of online shopping, strolling through Delhi’s Daryaganj, Kolkata’s College Street, Bengaluru’s Avenue Road, and Mumbai’s Fort area still hold a certain charm for book lovers, who hope to chance upon good secondhand books at affordable prices.
One fine day in the college canteen in Delhi, three friends — Bhavesh Sharma, Prateek Maheshwari, and Alok Sharma (23) — were discussing the challenges they faced while purchasing secondhand books. Spending hours in unorganised markets for a couple of books was not a convenient option for them.
Bhavesh discussed this problem with his brother-in-law Vidyut Sharma, who had faced the same problem 10 years previously, while pursuing his BTech.
When the four of them huddled together to find a way out of this problem, the first idea they came up with was an e-commerce platform which could offer secondhand books at affordable prices. This was the beginning of BookChor in October 2015.
Owned by BookChor Literary Solutions Pvt. Ltd, BookChor.com is available on Android, iOS, and web. This Delhi-based startup not only sells books online but also allows users the opportunity to list their books and directly sell them to interested buyers. For the benefit of underprivileged children in India, users can also donate books to Shubh Foundation, BookChor’s NGO partner.
“We started as a group of college students with a dream to make education and literature more accessible and are tirelessly working towards achieving the said goal,” says, Alok.
Bhavesh, Prateek, and Alok have done their BTech from Jaypee Institute of Information and Technology.
Look before you leap!
Multiple visits to Delhi’s secondhand markets further cemented their belief in the idea of BookChor. The field visits were followed by serious research on the market opportunities.
Being college students, conventional brand marketing was naturally out of the budget, a problem they countered by participating in national book fairs to spread awareness through word of mouth and also earn revenue.
Since inception, they have conducted seven book fairs in schools and participated in two national book fairs in Jaipur and Hyderabad and one world book fair in Delhi.
BookChor was bootstrapped with a seed capital of Rs 34 lakh infused by Bhavesh’s parents and by Vidyut, who moved back from Algeria to focus only on BookChor.
Ensuring a sustainable business model without compromising on their core values was what the founding team wanted to build their company on.
“Though we faced challenges in managing the inventory, eventually we learnt how to tackle the challenges only by making several mistakes. The secondhand books market is an unorganised one and therefore dealing with the vendors was not an easy task. But after failing a couple of times in procuring appropriate stock in earlier months, we started getting it right,” says Alok while narrating the instances of how the team overcame initial challenges.
Owing to the lack of marketing budget to spend on customer acquisition, the team started personalising every order with a handwritten note and bookmarks which, according to Alok, were instant hits among readers and gave them the positive response they were looking for.
It’s time for business
BookChor has a customer base of over 53,000 users from 27 states across the country. The number of users is tracked by their in-house CRM.
According to a survey, India’s book market is the sixth largest in the world and is expected to touch Rs 739 billion by 2020. The study estimates a compound annual growth rate CAGR of 19.3 percent for the industry in the next four years. Books, moreover, account for 15 percent of the overall e-commerce trade.
Last month, BookChor sold 4,500 books (with an average price of Rs 100 for each book) which they expect to go up to 6,000 books in this December. For the delivery of the books, it has tied up with FedEx and India Post to fulfil orders across the country. Readers can buy directly from the BookChor inventory, which consists of two lakh books, by paying online, through cash on delivery, or via cheque. The startup is eyeing revenues of Rs 15 crore and four lakh orders in the next fiscal year
“Including the salaries and capital expenses, BookChor is operationally profitable with a margin of 25 percent on each order,” says Alok.
BookChor has an employee base of 12 members working from Delhi and has a warehouse of 6,300 sqft in Kundli near the Delhi-Haryana border. A South India warehouse is in the pipeline.
With a primary focus on selling fiction and non-fiction books, BookChor is growing at a rate of 30 percent per month. The next year will see BookChor adding textbooks and regional language books to cater to a larger audience.