Prior 2011, Chennaishopping.com was basically a site with few products and flowers with google ads in it. It did not accept anything. no backend operations were being carried out.
but after june 2011, I have refreshed chenniashopping.com into a online tamil book store that does do real selling. I have contacted various publishers for businesses. Slowly, one by one have been on-boarded into the site and the sales have started happening.
Myself and couple of my college friends started working on various UX elements in the site. we made it to a extent that it can be used to do business. Initially, we rarely get visits / orders. But today, we make good amount of orders, visits and sales per day. but not good enough to run the business with more no. of people.
Since the sales have happened, myself and dilli have been involved in procurement and shipment of items via courier / India post. we together have faced lots of struggles at various places. another friend muthu and dilli were running the site while i was out for my marriage and post-marriage holidays.
I was back and then we got few people working with us. Sankar, Kala both were working part time. Sankar, being a .net tech guy, learned php and helped in various tools building for our day-to-day operations. Kala was mainly responsible for customer care 12×7 even till today along with content maintenance. Because of her, we have got 5000+ books in our site. Dilli and myself too have worked in content. Oftimes, Kala used to do sales as well for both domestic and International customers. Muthu helped Kala learn things in her home.
From 4 digit revenue to 5 digit to 6 digit revenue we reached in jul 2012. we thought its a big achievement and it is. why? because, we have been trusted by people across the world who paid us for our service and collectively it reached 6 digit revenue. we wanted to grow more. we don’t know how. we don’t have resources and capital but we wanted to grow.
In Jan 2013, we received a bulk order say upto 6 digit sales figure from a Library firm outside India. With the motivation given by Muthu, we had taken up this order and delivered. Customer is Happy. By today, we have been receiving orders from them now and then. It feels so good to be trusted by our customers.
To add to our motivation, we have seen a customer who placed order of 12k in a single order. We still follow up with customer as fast as we can and as good as we can. we are here because of publishers and customers.
Our publishers give us books to sell and we sell it to our customers. Everything is going fine. But…. there are many things in my mind?.
Couple of questions I have in my mind are:
- How do we expand into a multi-crore business?
- Should we expand to other Indian / foreign languages books?
- Should we expand to ebooks?
- Should we expand to other categories of products such as apparels, electronics etc ?
All these are question mark and I am trying to find answers. we are hungry for growth and capital.
We started with 2L as working capital and now reached a revenue of around 15L selling tamil books alone. we have brought more sales additionally to our publishers. we would love to bring in more revenue for them. we would love to serve the customers who are hungry for reading in their mother tongue.
With so many distractions coming along the way, running a online store seems to be difficult day by day. Here are couple of reasons which i think..
1. Margins from Publishers (in tamil) is low. They should be upped for those who make good sales. Not sure whether this is done by publishers in tamil publishing industry.
2. Rarely, publishers give 90 or 180 days credits to those genuine sellers like us. we use internet and technology to do sales.
3. Creative writing is missing in Tamil Publishing. Majority of publishers tries to publish books that are in public domain for eg. Kalki’s, N.Parthasarathy, birbal stories
4. Original Fiction are rare to be released. Most of the Fiction books that are selling now are written in 80s , 90s i guess.
5. Historical novels that are written in 1970’s-2000 for e.g Ponniyin selvan, most historical tamil novels do good business. but not high.
6. Leaders & Current affairs – Lot of books being released related to Rajiv gandhi, LTTE, Tamil Eelam, world leaders, Indian politics, current affairs – they do sell but not high.
7. Not many creative books for childrens 😦
8. Major marketing push by publishers for each book being released is missing. probably due to budget. but book selling is directly proportion to how well it is being marketed.
9. Getting its place in bigger physical store like odyssey, landmark, crossword could be game changers. most of them sell Ponniyin selvan or learn hindi through tamil and sujatha’s books.
10. The book paper quality, cover paper quality should also be taken into consideration.
and there could be many more reasons. How i am going to handle all those will be seen in coming days…
The entire Tamil publishing ecosystem which comprises of Writers, Publishers, Distributors and Sellers should work together in taking the Tamil Publishing ecosystem to the next level.
I mean the next level in terms of Sales, Revenue sharing, better margins etc. English book store owners complain that selling tamil books yield them very low margin compared to English. but i can agree that it is hard to compete.
With a single tamil book being published in 1000s compared to a single english book published in 100,000 – best selling books
This has to be changed and till then, it will be a struggle for lots of online sellers who are arising new day by day….
You can watch out this space for more updates…..