How Padhega India was born from the rejection of a young graduateVarsha Roysam
Sushant Jha became an entrepreneur when the corporate world turned its back on him. He started Padhega India Initiative to ensure that readers and students have access to knowledge by bringing them second-hand books that are otherwise difficult to find.
“After my graduation, I was rejected by almost 40 companies because they saw me unfit for their organisation,” recalls Sushant Jha, the co-founder of Bodhi Tree Knowledge services, who was born with a cleft lip and palate that left him speech impaired. With a degree in Engineering and Business Management, Sushant is now an entrepreneur who is striving to make knowledge accessible to all.
In 2014, Sushant, with his brother Prashant, initiated Padhega India Initiative (PII) as a pilot project in south Delhi to circulate second-hand books to people who otherwise had no access to high-priced academic books or rare novels. This was at a time when the potential of this market had not yet been fully realised as it is now.
Padhega India, however, has a goal bigger than that of being a portal of secondhand books. Once the duo realised that India consumes 10kg of paper per person per year, they knew that encouraging the sale of second-hand books and increasing their availability would significantly reduce this demand for paper in the country, which in turn would reduce the burden on trees. Keeping this in mind, they ensure that every customer that knocks on their door will leave with a new-found value of paper.
Challenges of starting up
Having faced discrimination through school and college, Sushant, now 31, decided to create his own path after the disappointing response he received from the corporate world. When he started the Padhega India initiative, Sushant recalls doing so without much knowledge of the industry, as it was only still picking up, and as “my family didn’t have a business background” – a tale of most aspiring entrepreneurs.
The two brothers started in a two-BHK apartment and only recently shifted to an office. The challenges, as he recalls were huge as everything from operations and procurement of books to distribution were managed by just the two of them. "We did receive immense support for the initial capital, content writing and expansion. Because of that we have now managed a partnership with all 40-50 second-hand book sellers in Delhi NCR,” he says.
What the initiative is all about
Padhega India is now an online portal where people can buy, sell, rent and donate second-hand books of all kinds; be it for studies or pleasure. It functions on an enquiry basis, meaning that once an enquiry for a book in made, the duo reaches into its network of publishers, book sellers, and distributers to ensure that the book reaches the customer.
But considering that sometimes second-hand versions of all books are not available, PII recently opened its doors to the procurement of new copies of such books. “Whosoever comes to our portal, we will make sure that they will not go back without benefiting from us,” says Sushant.
Wouldn’t new books, however, make futile their efforts to save paper? “Of the 10,000-12,000 enquiries we’ve received till date, most have been for second-hand books,” he says, explaining that people tend to prefer them over new books, as they are more economical; especially academic books. “We make sure that the condition of the book is as good as new for half the price. So more people are encouraged to go for second hand instead of buying new books,” he adds.
Renting books is especially helpful for students appearing for competitive exams as a student often wades through multiple books for the same, adding to the already financial burden of formal education. Having passed through four years of engineering himself, Sushant knew that many books are used only once, and hence lay waste after, when many other students could be benefiting from the same. PII also accepts book donations, which are in turn donated to government primary schools.
The Green Count on their portal serves as a constant reminder to customers of the good their choice is doing to the environment. 1 green count is credited every time 40gm of paper is made reusable either from the sale of second hand books, renting of books, or the elimination of the packaging process. And 250 counts earned by PII will amount to the reduction of paper demand by 10kg, which is that of an average person in India per year. Currently, their count stands at 11,725.
Future of Padhega India
Sushant has been deliberate in his business strides since the inception of PII to first understand the market and gain experience before expanding his services. “I wasn’t in a hurry to look for investment without knowing how to effectively use the money,” he says.
Now with a sound understanding of the market he has a firm plan laid out that could be extremely fruitful with financial support. He elaborates,
We are currently serving south Delhi but we get enquiries from all over India. So in the next month we’re planning to serve the entire national capital region - Greater Noida is a huge market because of its numerous colleges – and by the end of the year, we’re planning to go pan India.
Sushant is planning to release a PII app soon and will be adding e-books, audio books, a corporate library, and an online college library to his repository. He is also planning to hire online tutorial services and create a section in the portal where people can review and recommend colleges across India.
“The road to prove myself seemed long, made me feel isolated and hampered my confidence a lot,” he says, looking back on the journey that led to Padhega India. But Sushant looks ahead to the time when Padhega India will indeed reach the whole of India.