There’s curated boxes for food & fashion, why not books, ask this enterprising duoIndrojit D. Chaudhuri
Delhi-based Big Book Box offers book lovers an interesting way to discover new reads and also get a hold of some fun merchandise.
It isn’t often that one comes across youngsters who have a passion for doing something meaningful and deliver in equal measure. Twenty-two-year-olds Surabhi Sanjana Rai and Desh Deepak Singh are two such youngsters.
The duo has launched The Big Book Box, a curated monthly subscription box of books that comes along with interesting goodies like packs of coffee, bookmarks, trinkets, and useful printables in sync with the theme of the month.
The two met while preparing for their JEE at Kota, but destiny had other plans. While Surabhi started pursuing a BA (Hons.) in English from the University of Delhi, Desh Deepak enrolled in an engineering college but thought of himself as a misfit. "I dropped out of college to do something more meaningful. We remained in touch, and I was interning as a photographer with National Geographic when Surabhi, an avid reader, came up with the idea of The Big Book Box," shares Desh Deepak.
Surabhi adds, "The idea of sending monthly books along with collectibles and other goodies to people who love to read was something I’d myself happily sign up for. As a concept, this is quite popular in the West, and we thought of introducing it to India, and began fleshing out our plan.”
The two aspire to promote a healthy reading culture in India. “We think that once we have a notable market penetration through our platform, we would be in a position to talk to the publishers directly to make books available in the Indian market simultaneously with their global launch," she shares. Adding to this, Desh Deepak says, “In the market, we see curated boxes for the food, fashion, and lifestyle segments, but none for books. So we launched The Big Book Box in January 2017 through our website and an Instagram handle in the age of the Kindle and ebooks."
Since their launch, the New Delhi-based startup has shipped 250 boxes across the country, including some as far as the Northeast and southern India. "Going with our original plan, we introduced customised boxes along with an added fun element. For example, the month of March was celebrated as Mythology March, and we gave out the current favourite Norse Mythology by Neil Gammon along with a Thor magnetic bookmark. We have a planned calendar for each month of the year, so for May we are celebrating Mother’s Day with books by women writers only and for June we are celebrating boys with the theme ‘About a boy’ with the latest book by authors Ruskin Bond and Patrick Ness," they say.
"The subscription plan names are in accordance with Surabhi's love for coffee. "Our subscription plans begin at Rs 1,599 onwards, and each subscription plan comes along with a copy of the in-house literary magazine ‘Barefoot Sunshine’," elaborates Surabhi.
Currently bootstrapped, the team has found encouragement from Prakash Book House and IBD for the procurement of books. The enterprising duo started with a modest investment of Rs 1 lakh from their savings and are slowly making inroads into the book scene by directly partnering with the premium publishing houses in India.
"We have our monthly meetings with distributors and identify popular books, after which we start curating items around the book to make the subscription interesting for our customers. We also spend time focusing on acquiring more customers through marketing experiments over social media and offline events as well. We have planned book readings, storytelling sessions, and workshops at various cafes and bookshops in Delhi NCR," says Desh Deepak.
They are learning as they evolve. One of the problems that they faced was in addressing the issue of returns. “A reader once received a book in his monthly box that he had already read. Instead of applying a no-return policy, we took a decision that if a subscriber gets a book they have already read, all they need to do is inform us within 12 hours of the delivery, and we offer two choices – the subscriber can either ask for a replacement or get a 40 percent refund on the price of the book as listed on Amazon," explains Surabhi.
From tying up with Indian publishers to making note of the smallest of concerns of their subscribers, the four-member team at Big Book Box is immersed in nurturing the reading habits of their subscribers, kids and adults alike.