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Bookyboo makes reading an adventure by putting your child in the story

Neha Jain
21st Jul 2017
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Bookyboo’s personalised children’s books replace night-time tears and tantrums with wide-eyed wonder and magical dreams. Set up in 2016, the bootstrapped startup has sold over a thousand books till now.

Favourite characters may change, but the bedtime story continues to be a ritual in homes with children. The heroes and heroines of the story – the princesses, princes, superheroes and other avatars – are huge influencers and inspirations.

But what if you could put your child in the story to get the message across?

Bookyboo helps you do just that with a personalised book.

Hetal Gandhi, 33, co-founder at Bookyboo, says, “What better way to make a child feel special than to make him or her the hero of their own storybook? Both the child and parent experience magic when they cozy up to read these incredible personalised storybooks.”

Once a parent enters the name of their child on the Bookyboo platform, an online e-book is created for free. The parent can look through the book and order online if the personalised adventure catches their fancy.

The Bookyboo story

Bookyboo was started by husband-wife duo Hetal and Neeraj Gulati in September 2016. The idea came to them when they were looking for a unique gift for their niece, but couldn't find one.

“In today’s time of excess, it was a perplexing situation. We wanted to gift Vaani something meaningful. Something she would cherish,” Hetal says.

They had also noticed that the child was addicted to screens and wanted to give her something she would love and be passionate about. Just any book wouldn’t do, which is when they considered a personalised book.

Hetal says, “We created a personalised book for her. We told a gripping story with Vaani as the hero; she loved it so much that it became her favourite book.”

And Bookyboo was in business. The startup is based in New Delhi and also has an office in Kuala Lumpur. The founders shuttle between the two cities.

Hetal leads the content creation department of the bootstrapped startup while Neeraj heads the business and technology department. They were joined by Tristha Kewlani, 37, a customer-turned-employee as designer and visualiser. They have six employees in total.

Bookyboo founders Hetal Gandhi and Neeraj Gulati.

Adventuring with Bookyboo

The Bookyboo books are ideal for children between the ages of 0-9 years. They are priced between Rs 550 and Rs 1,500, depending on the amount of customisation, and are shipped across the world.

Three options are available as of now. My Adventure Bookyboo is a treasure hunt set in India. Each child’s name creates an adventure with different characters based on the letters of the name. The Fun Family Bookyboo is a jungle adventure that can be personalised for a family with one or two children, twins or a single parent.

The startup's latest offering is the Birthday Party Bookyboo, a set of personalised interactive storybooks designed as birthday party favours. In each book, the child, along with a different friend, go on a fabulous adventure.

Dedicated messages and photographs can also be inserted, making turning the pages even more thrilling for a child. The illustrations and easy rhymes make the night-time story experience more fun.

All stories have inbuilt messages on team building, hard work, family values, determination, courage, friendship, kindness and more.

The team claims that 30 percent of their customers return to buy more books.

Hetal says, “We are thrilled when customers send us videos and pictures of their kids enjoying their personalised books. For many children, it becomes the favourite book.”

She adds: “It’s ironic that while we have much more access to books now, we have much lesser time and inclination to read. Most of us want to read a book but get swamped in social media.”

Read between the lines

India’s book market is currently worth Rs 261 billion, making it the sixth largest in the world and the second largest of the English language ones. It is expected to touch Rs 739 billion by 2020, according to the Nielsen India Book Market Report 2015: Understanding the India Book Market. The study estimates a CAGR of 19.3 percent for the industry in the next five years.

Personalised books have always been around but they came into their own with The Little Girl/Boy Who Lost Her/His Name, brought out by London-based digital startup Lost My Name. Designed for individual children, more than one million copies of this book have been sold worldwide. The books, in English, French, German and Spanish, are printed on demand and shipped to 136 countries.

There’s a lot happening in the market and plenty of it is in India. Bookyboo’s competitors include I and my story, The me story, Createabook, Put me in the story, The magic of my name, My name quest and Oh! My Name.

But the founders believe what sets them apart is that each Bookyboo book is built for the local market. The personalisation, story and characters are interwoven with culture and values that are a part of who we are.

Hetal explains, “Our first title, My Adventure Bookyboo, takes the child on a treasure hunt across India, exposing them to various characters and places that are intrinsically Indian. Like the River Ganga, Kanyakumari, Wagah Border or an astronaut at ISRO. The second book, Fun Family Bookyboo, is designed for children to learn family values – a family that sticks together is stronger together and happier together is the message.”

Children, they say, become readers on the laps of their parents. No wonder Bookyboo is in parents’ good books!

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