Aashish, Dhairya and Nitin may not seem to fit your image of Entrepreneurs, but these Third Year Engineering students of the Mumbai University have founded a start-up The Bookwheelz (www.bookwheelz.com) that enables you not just to sell your old books, or buy them online, the start-up also has a tie-up with NGO Love Foundation, where your donated books are sent to under privileged students. In conversation about their new venture:
VP: What made you come up with “Bookwheelz”?
Ashish : Well basically 2 things – NEED and DREAMS. Need because we needed to get books and that too, cheap so that we could save the money from books to spend on other things. Then we figured out that this problem is being faced by practically every student. So we pondered and brainstormed over it and that’s when we came up with www.bookwheelz.com
VP: How would you explain Bookwheelz to the layman?
Nitin : Bookwheelz is a website wherein students, in fact, any book lover can get books to quench his thirst for knowledge at the comfort of his home. Simpler still, our tagline says it all… Click. Select. Delivered.
VP: When did you launch “Bookwheelz”? What has been the response since then?
Nitin : Bookwheelz.com was launched on 31st of Jan 2009 and the response has been great. We have an active network of users trading books and the network is expanding.
Dhairya : We’ve got a lot of good feedback and suggestions from the users and hoping to make a few more additions in terms of features shortly.
VP: Does your venture have a social dimension?
Aahish : Yes it does. When we started this we wanted to give back something to society. We have a page on our website completely dedicated to Donation of books. Users can donate whatever books they want to charity. We have tied up with an NGO called Love Foundation which helps our underprivileged children by educating them and the books donated by our users would benefit them in tat way.
VP: What exactly comprised your capital for this venture?
Dhairya : The main expenditure was for building the website. Apart from that we had to spend some amount of money for publicity to create awareness which we did by putting up banners and posters across 15 colleges in Mumbai. Apart from this there were other little expenses for office supplies and other such requirements.
VP: What were the difficulties faced by you in the process? Was it difficult to convince your parents, partners and sponsors (if any) about Bookwheelz?
Aashish : When we came up with the idea we realized we needed capital investment. Now no one is going to do that unless you have a very strong base and good plan. So we worked on it for 2 months before revealing the plan to our parents. Then we made them understand the entire working of the idea and the website. Looking at our hard work and enthusiasm, our parents were highly supportive throughout this entire journey and today they are very proud of us.
Dhairya: Coming to sponsors, we got mixed responses. On one hand our main sponsor, Suvidya Institute of Technology, based in Andheri, liked our idea tremendously and were ready to support us within a matter of minutes. On the other hand the corporate sector didn’t take us seriously because they thought we are a mere bunch of students who have no concrete plans and are just talking big in the air. But on the whole it was fun ride and a massive reality check. We realized that in college or school we had an identity, but when you are out in the whole wide world, you are just another person so you got to really fight it out.
VP: Three of you worked together in this venture. How did you handle the discordance in opinions?
Nitin : Well the thing I’d like to point out here is before we became partners in this venture, the three of us were best of friends. Hence it was a lot easier to work with each other as there were no ego issues and other such personal problems. Yes, obviously we had our opinions on certain issues but then we always made sure we discussed it and ended up with whatever was best for Bookwheelz.com
VP: How did you garner the technical assistance for the creation of bookwheelz.com?
Aahish : The main problem we faced during this venture was that all three of us are from Instrumentation branch hence we didn’t know a single thing about coding. So we had to hire a web-designer to do the coding of the website for us. Luckily for us he was equally passionate about the entire thing and that is clearly visible from the look of our website.
VP: What kind of media did you use to publicize Bookwheelz? How do intend to promote Bookwheelz in future?
Dhairya : To create awareness among the students we had put up banners and posters across 15 colleges in Mumbai before the launch of our website. Also media coverage in the Hindustan Times helped us a lot in terms of publicity. And the best and most fool-proof method of publicity was “Word of Mouth” publicity. We also publicized our venture through magazines of Technical Societies in our college.
Aashish : We also entered in the Power of Ideas contest conducted by Economic Times. It is a nationwide contest wherein people from any age group can put in their ideas and if the ideas are really good then they would receive the extensive exposure and funding. We made cleared the first round of the contest and made it to the Top 1000 ideas in the country from among 12000 entries. The second round results are awaited now.
VP: To an average individual, how would you explain a Start-up?
Nitin : A lot of people have ideas but the for a successful Start-up, your idea has to be unique and you have to be highly passionate about your idea. Because it is simple… If you don’t believe in it no one else ever will..!! Also you have to have a vision and you have to work towards it consistently against all odds.
Did you conduct any seminars in other colleges? Share your experiences if any.
Aashish: We conducted a seminar on Start ups in the E-cell of VJTI. It really felt good to be on the other end of the seminar because throughout our life we have only been listening to them. To be giving a seminar at such a young age felt really nice.
Also various other seminars and presentations in various other colleges are in the pipeline.
Priya Ganesh Amrute