We live in an era where our attention spans are the size of a needle eye, and that has reflected in our reading habits. Gaurav Gupta, an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad was quick to spot an opportunity in this social problem and pivoted his hobby of reading into a business.
"The future is tl;dr. If you were born before 1990, you can be excused for not knowing what tl;dr stands for," he writes on his LinkedIn profile.
Taking inspiration from 'tl;dr'â€“ which is Internet slang for 'Too long, didn't read' â€“ Gupta launched bookbhhok in October 2016, after a successful 15-year stint in India Inc in marketing at firms such as Coca-Cola, Gillette, Nokia and Tata Teleservices.
Currently bootstrapped, Gurgaon-based Marcus Aurelius Learning Solutions Pvt. Ltd., which runs bookbhook, is a website and app-based platform that offers summaries of selected non-fiction books authored by Indian and international writers. The summaries span subjects such as self-help, business, entrepreneurship, personality development and spirituality. "Every summary is handwritten by high quality talent. There is no algorithm involved. These handwritten summaries then go through editors before they are published," Gupta explained.
Gupta selects the books that need summarising and outsources it to freelance writers from Sheroes, the career platform for women. The summaries are written based on a set of guidelines outlined by Gupta, who pays the writers a nominal fee for each write up. "Using Sheroes as the right sourcing platform, I have been able to get a lot of traction in terms of content generation," he explained.
Gupta was inspired to turn his habit of reading, recommending and sharing notes with colleagues, into a full-time entrepreneurial venture when he came across Germany-based Blinkist and US-based getAbstract, both of which offer text and audio summaries of non-fiction books on an app.
To test the waters, Gupta started by making his own website and an e-mail service through which he would share the book summaries with his friends.
Since its launch, the app has around 28,000 downloads on Android and around 2,000 on iOS. The app has seen traction not only from India but also the USA, Pakistan and Russia. The iOS app has audio summaries.
Currently, there are 44 book summaries available on the app, and 24 of these have been translated into Hindi. He plans to translate the summaries into several other Indian languages as well. The summaries can be accessed for free on the app, whereas the website has only a limited number as of now.
bookbhook is also available on Instagram and on YouTube as video summaries.
Gupta aims to bring close to 200 books on the platform in the next two to three months.
Users do not have to pay to read the summaries; however, over a period of time, the company plans to introduce a premium model.
The startup expects to earn revenue through advertising and a pay-per-view model where users will have to pay a fee for each summary.
While the bookbhook app is a business-to-consumer (B2C) offering, the startup also has a business-to-business (B2B) channel. "The B2B module is essentially a corporate learning and development service delivered through book workshops and micro learning apps,"
The service will involve two-hour workshops, which will be run as a training module, for corporate clients.
"The employees of the company participate in the workshop and will reinforce their learning through the micro-learning app which essentially will send them relevant questions every morning," Gupta explained.
By answering those questions, they can earn points which will be converted into vouchers from e-commerce firms, he added.
The first workshop is expected to be rolled out in April this year.
Gupta believes that there is no direct competition in India yet, as existing players such as US-based Goodreads, which is owned by Amazon, and online blogs, produce only book reviews and opinions.
Startups such as bookbhook are investment worthy as they have come at the right time, feels Anil Joshi, managing partner at Unicorn India Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund. He said that similar companies were formed earlier also but the major challenge was never the content itself but accessing it. He is optimistic accessing content is much easier now thanks to the availability of smartphones at reasonable price points and better Internet connectivity.