This Gurugram-based startup lets you discuss and publish books in real-time
Imagine this. You are reading an exciting book and want to share your thoughts on the plot, the characters or how exciting the wordplay is. You can either wait until you finish the book to discuss this with other book-lovers or with a platform like Qwerty Thoughts, you can interact as you read.
Yes, you heard it right. You can now discuss your favourite book in real-time! A novel concept introduced by Gurugram-based Qwerty Thoughts that wants to bring back the joy of reading in an age where streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are gaining ground and screen-time is eating into book-time, hugely.
Launched early this year, Qwerty Thoughts, founded by husband-wife duo Jasleen Khurana and Prateek Gupta is a multilingual social book reading, discovery, and self-publishing platform, where readers can discuss inside books while reading them with people having similar reading interests.
“We call them live books,” says Jasleen.
Qwerty Thoughts Co-Founders Jasleen Khurana and Prateek Gupta
So, how does reading work in real-time? Jasleen explains that at Qwerty Thoughts, every book works like a reading room, where readers can read a book with others as well as connect, discuss, and share their experiences in real-time, on every paragraph of the book.
“It is similar to reading a book offline in a group and discussing it with others, but with the added ability to multiply the audience and read it together with people across geographies. It is similar to interactions on Facebook’s live video.”
The process is simple. Find and choose a book you want to read or look for a book that you’ve already read. While reading the book, you can find people who have read that book in the past or are currently reading the same book. You can interact and discuss or simply leave your point of view and thoughts about what’s written.
The platform has a range of free books, as well as books that can be purchased. Users can either pay for the complete book in one go or pay as you read. If reading together is not your cup of tea, you can also switch on “anonymous” mode and read without getting disturbed or noticed by others. You would still have access to what others are discussing or have discussed in the past, says Jasleen.
The idea was conceived four years back when Jasleen started offline groups in Delhi-NCR related to storytelling, book readings, creative writing and discussions. While doing this, she realised that geography was a challenge and only Delhi-NCR based reading enthusiasts could participate in these meetups.
Being a problem solver, Jasleen decided to bring the community online and roped in husband Prateek Gupta as Co-founder and CTO to start Qwerty Thoughts early this year.
One of the Jasleen's offline groups in Delhi-NCR related to storytelling, book readings, creative writing and discussions
The duo incorporated Qwerty Thoughts Media Pvt. Ltd. in September 2018, and in early 2019 officially launched the social reading platform, and onboarded its offline community online and attracted 1,000 registered authors from the US, UK, Germany and India.
The startup is catering to a potential 500 million vernacular language internet users in India, and book lovers across the globe.
Jasleen comes with seven years of experience in HR while Prateek is a techie who is also a history buff. They worked together in a multinational company in Gurugram and bonded over a love for books. Jasleen invited him to her meetups and their friendship culminated in marriage in April 2017.
While competition exists in the form of Goodreads, Wattpad, and other platforms, Qwerty Thoughts has an all-round approach since the startup has developed a complete ecosystem around books.
Qwerty Thoughts caters to not only readers but also aspiring writers, authors, readers, and publishers. A writer can start writing a book on Qwerty Thoughts in English or in any of the 16 major Indian languages such as Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Bengali, etc.
Feedback is an essential part of the entire experience. “Not only do you get feedback on your books, but you can also post daily updates and interact with your audience. You can also share your writing journey and work-in-progress right from the day you start writing. You can keep on updating your progress by changing the writing stages as you move ahead. This helps your followers keep up with what you are up to, so that they can look forward to reading the book when it’s finally published,” says Jasleen.
Authors can also connect to publishers on the platform.
The startup has international publishers like Hally Park Publishers, B.T Books, Tinker books, Jaymar Publishing, etc., onboard and are in talks with a lot of Indian publishers as well and would be adding them to the wagon in the next couple of months.
Big bucks with books
Qwerty Thoughts is currently bootstrapped with the savings of its founders. “We have invested Rs 8 lakh till date in R&D, technology, product development, content, events, and legal requirements,” says Jasleen.
In terms of revenue, the startup earns when readers pay for the book, and also from authors who use promotional tools and services provided by Qwerty Thoughts, a major source of revenue for the company.
“We have more plans to help authors in monetising their work, which will materialise in the next six months,” adds Jasleen.
The startup has clocked about Rs 50,000 in revenue in the past couple of months and is expecting to grow three times by the end of this quarter by expanding its reach. In terms of profitability, Jasleen says that since the company is just looking at the scale, profitability is on the map after 12 to 18 months.
Qwerty Thoughts has already surpassed 6,000 registered users and has more than 1,500 books available for reading uploaded across categories such as romance, thriller, fiction, non-fiction amongst others by more than 1,000 registered authors and overall traffic of around 40,000 per month. It is expecting to cross the one million registered users mark by the end of 2020.
To scale it further, the founders are actively looking for seed funding by the end of October and have been speaking with potential investors.
“We will use the funds for building the next version of the product, strengthening our marketing team for growth and expansion in India as well as in international markets.”
The platform is currently available on the web and has a responsive interface for all devices and browsers. “The app should be launched soon,” adds Jasleen.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)