This Delhi startup by NIT alumni is building a Netflix-style reading service for millennials
Netflix for reading? Does that intrigue you?
Well, it should because two architect-turned-storytellers from South Delhi are trying to make that a reality for Indian millennials.
After five years of designing townships, high-rises, and retail stores, NIT alumni Kumar Abhishek and Gaurav Gupta launched a visual storytelling startup, TaccoMacco, in 2016, with the vision of marrying India’s rich literary tales and new-age art and animation.
In 2018, TaccoMacco pivoted to a Netflix-style, subscription-driven service for novels, ebooks, and stories. The startup derives its name from two comic book characters, Tacco and Macco, the founders had developed three years ago.
Like Netflix, TaccoMacco serves as a platform to read and discover curated books, and also as a creator of original content. The founders are unabashed about being inspired by Netflix. Not only its service model, but even its design mirrors Netflix’s aesthetics right up to the last pixel.
Unlike the streaming giant, however, TaccoMacco offers per-day subscriptions starting at Re 1. There are monthly (Rs 99) and half-yearly (Rs 499) plans as well. There is even a chapter-wise reading option that has emerged as the app’s most popular feature so far. TaccoMacco says it has kept the entry barrier low in order to make reading “cool and trendy” again.
Founder & CEO Kumar tells YourStory,
“Millennials love subscription apps, whether it is for streaming or gymming. But books are always presented as something serious and uncool. There is a notion that nobody reads these days. And, reading is still trapped in some legacy of having to buy individual books. That is what we wanted to change and make reading a daily activity in the life of a millennial.”
Mobile-first reading ecosystem
Despite the presence of services like Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (which is dubbed ‘expensive’ in India) and Juggernaut (which recently crossed 5,000 subscribers), Kumar asserts that millennial readers are starved of quality content for two reasons: a) prices are prohibitive, and b) the reading experience is not tailored for mobile devices on which people spend most of their hours.
TaccoMacco set out to fix both by making stories available at incredibly low costs, and delivering them in a visually engaging, mobile-friendly format.
“Our mobile-focused design is the most important thing,” says Kumar, adding, “We do the cover art and graphics for all stories ourselves. They have to be eye-catching because millennials have very limited attention spans.”
The startup claims that its strategy is already working, with users logging in 30 minutes on an average per day. “That is impressive,” says the founder. Short, 10-minute stories are the most consumed format so far. On the day of novel-reading, users tend to clock 4-5 sessions of 30 minutes each.
Operations so far
In a year, TaccoMacco has developed 20 originals, and aggregated over 450 novels and stories. Unlike other reading apps, which may have a subscription component, it makes its entire content library available to users.
“Take Kindle Unlimited, for instance. It is not only expensive, but also disappointing. The good stories are never a part of the subscription. You have to buy them individually and each title costs upwards of Rs 300. So, there is a clear demand-supply gap, which we are addressing by making every title available to the reader.”
Essentially, the Netflix model. No free content. Subscribe and get full access. Also, earn a 30-day free trial.
Without revealing its current user base, TaccoMacco says it aims to reach 10,000 paying subscribers by the end of 2019.
The bootstrapped startup is also looking at a fund infusion of Rs 2 crore from early-stage VCs. It also requires capital to drive its ‘Story Incubation Programme’, a thing TaccoMacco believes will set it apart from the rest.
Driving the ‘Story Incubation Programme’
TaccoMacco incubates content from a “mega list” of lost Indian stories that are available in the public domain and have lost their copyright, but nobody has cared to organise and make them accessible to readers.
“We have researched and explored thousands of such stories. And now, we are mentoring aspiring writers through collaborative writing programmes, where we convert these lost stories into new, graphics-rich stories for millennials. As a startup, we are bringing in curation, extensive quality control, and research for the next generation of authors.”
The four-member startup has invested close to Rs 30 lakh so far. With new capital, it will add a few team members and lots of fresh stories. It wants to reach a stage where readers can be offered one new original every day.
“You have to innovate in content. People want originals. If you don’t give them that, they will move to another service. Millennials have no brand loyalty even for streaming services.”
At present, TaccoMacco incubates content in English and Hindi, across genres including fiction, young adult, self-help books, and more. More regional languages will be added going ahead. Eventually, TaccoMacco aims to build a “collaborative story-writing incubator” for scores of millennials who struggle to publish their work on well-established platforms.
Riding the e-reading wave
TaccoMacco operates in an industry that is estimated to fetch $214 million in revenues by 2022, according to Statista. Over 70 percent of book publishers today release ebook or digital versions of their titles.
Add to that, thousands of “lost stories” that it is reviving, and TaccoMacco could well be creating an enviable proposition for Indian millennials, who have already warmed up to subscription-driven content services.
The startup is also busting the myth that Indians don’t read. Kumar alludes to the Google-KPMG report which says that one in three users on the Indian internet spend considerable time reading non-news content on their mobile. “This will only grow if you give them a smooth reading experience,” he says.
And, TaccoMacco, which calls itself “a startup by the millennials, for the millennials” is out to do just that.