How a small-town boy from Bihar penned a million-dollar success story
Syed Arshad grew up in the small town of Bhagalpur in Bihar. His father was a co-operative inspection officer for the state government. There were no entrepreneurs in his family; no one had ever run any business. It was a typical Indian small-town, middle-class family. Arshad did not have any plans to pursue entrepreneurship either. But destiny had other plans.
The Bihar boy moved to Delhi in 2002 to finish his schooling at Jamia Senior Secondary School (a wing of Jamia Millia Islamia). After school, Arshad joined the Indian Institute of Aeronautics to study aircraft maintenance engineering. “But it proved to be difficult at that time to get a job in the aviation industry. So, I joined IBM as a collection expert (agent),” he explains. He worked in the sector for a few years and during this phase something happened that would change his life.
Arshad always wanted to write. So, he penned a romantic fiction, called If It’s Not Love, during his days as a collection agent. He struggled to find a publisher and finally decided to self-publish through an agency in Kolkata. After this, a number of people reached out to him wanting to know how he managed to self-publish. He started to help people get their books published and soon realised there is a market for it as a business.
“After the book was published many people contacted me to understand the process. Seeing the interest, I thought why not start a company. I analysed the market and figured there is definitely a need,” says Arshad.
In 2015, Arshad registered BlueRose Publishers as a proprietary firm in Delhi. He invested Rs 5 lakh into the business, which came from personal savings and a bank loan. In the first year he had two people working with him and the company made only Rs 20,000. But things turned around after a year and the revenue shot up to Rs 10 lakh. Since then the Delhi company’s topline has seen consistent growth - in 2017, it clocked a revenue of Rs 1 crore. In 2018 it touched Rs 3 crore, and in 2019 it’s set to go over Rs 7 crore, or $1 million. Today the company is a private limited company with 50 people working for it. In 2018, it also branched into traditional publishing.
So, what is the secret sauce that took the company from earning a few thousand rupees to crores, from having three authors a year to 1,500 in 2019? “Honestly, it is all about strategising things in business; there is really no secret sauce,” says Arshad.
What is self-publishing?
Self-publishing, as the term suggests, is the process of getting one’s book published by themselves. As a writer, one can design, edit, print, and distribute their work on your own, or one can hire a platform that takes care of all the needs of the manuscript and brings it out in the market for a fee. Companies like BlueRose offer end-to-end services ranging from filing copyright application, editing, designing, and formatting to listing on online portals such as Amazon. Other companies that operate in the self-publishing space include Chennai-based Notion Press, Partridge India (an imprint of Penguin Books), and The Write Place (a Crossword Bookstore initiative).
What sets BlueRose apart from its competition, according to Arshad, is the fact that they charge “much less” than the others. “If Notion’s starting fee is, say, Rs 30,000, ours would be Rs 15,000. That’s the kind of price difference that we have,” he says.
Author Rashmi Trivedi’s book Woman, Everything Will Be Fine! published by the company in 2016 went on to become an Amazon No.1 bestseller. Her second book, Ashes To Dreams, which was published in 2018 through the company’s traditional publishing platform also went on to do well and was among the 10 Amazon bestsellers.
“We have writers from almost every sector and with works in most genres, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, academic, and self-help. We are quite optimised on Google search and are very active on social media. Our audience find us through one of these platforms and a lot of them come to us through references from previously published writers from BlueRose,” says Arshad.
BlueRose plans to launch a reading lounge in Delhi by early next year. The company wants to test the market starting with the capital city and will look at other cities depending on how the pilot project performs.
It is looking to raise half a million dollars for expanding its business as it looks to go global. The company has already collaborated with a publishing company in Germany, called Omni Spectrum.
“We will be part of the London Book Fair in March 2020 and are hoping to collaborate with some companies and bring in some business,” says Arshad. BlueRose is currently in talks with investors who have shown interest. “It is a matter of choosing the right fit as far as investors are concerned,” he adds.
The publishing industry in India is currently worth around $8 billion and is set to touch $10 billion by 2020.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)