Rallying Bibliophiles: BookFount
With the start-up culture at NITR is certainly at par with the rest of the country, as students are no longer afraid to start something from scratch and take it to its final form. Just like last year, we had Hostel Cart creating a rage on campus, this year we have CSE Brothers Dipesh Baral and Dilip Raj Baral, currently final year students, giving students another life-hack: BookFount. Team MM caught up with the founders on a rainy evening to find about everything that BookFount has covered since the idea was pitched and nurtured into its present form.
Basic Ideology and Working etiquettes:
The primary target audience is the populace of NITR who often prefer the online system for purchasing and exchanging books as it gives them a variety of choices and has fewer hassles associated with it.It basically serves the same purpose as any other online shopping websites i.e. to bridge the gap between the seller and buyer but in this case, the commodity is just restricted to books. The most salient feature of the website is its ‘One-day Delivery Policy’.
Talking about how this idea was conceived they said:
Nobody would consider it an entirely new idea but it isn’t here yet so we realized it had ample scope in NIT Rourkela. In NITR we seldom use books for more than one semester. What we wanted was to help the students in purchasing books at a subsidized price without going anywhere. It also saves the wastage of unutilised books and the seller can choose their own price. The prices are negotiable in many cases for especially, in case there is a bulk order.
Earlier it was planned that only the NITRians can create an ID over the Bookfount portal that with their roll numbers but as of now, anyone can create an account.
An issue currently faced by the students is regarding the purchase of second-hand books. If a book is purchased, the receipt is needed to be stamped by the library in order to avail the book balance of Rs. 1000 which is paid by a student during registration. The reimbursement process is hindered for second-hand books in the institute. However, the founders said that they were willing to initiate dialogue with the authorities in order to make it possible to do so in the forthcoming days, especially since they’re only dealing with NITR students, right now.
Funding and Registration:
Both of the founders were singlehandedly responsible for arranging for funding, investments and finding the appropriate sponsors – each of which was a mammoth task, in itself. Regarding the registration of their startup and the consequent launch of their website, they said,
Even though we have been trying for quite some time now, we are obviously not particularly new to this field since we have been actively involved in website development and enjoyed doing so. Although the job is not easy, we are passionate about it since this lies directly in our area of interest and that made it easier for us to face and overcome all the problems that we encountered while setting up BookFount.
Publicity and Response:
Even though the publicity for BookFount is mainly done via online paid advertisements, sharing is instrumental since it is essentially an online startup. However, posters and flyers have been put up all around the institute and organizers are also relying on them for attracting the attention of the NITR populace.
Despite not being able to publicize their start-up in a full-fledged manner, the founders are satisfied with the kind of response that they have received so far. They said, “Being final year students from Computer Science, it becomes difficult to juggle both things at the same time. We are going slowly and currently, we have around 2200 registered users on our website from within the institute and some 50 users outside the institute. We have processed some 200 orders very recently.”
When quizzed about how the operation and distribution are being handled they said that they are currently functioning from their hostel rooms, because of which they are facing multiple problems like lack of space and ease in carrying out tasks. They also have hired an external helping hand, who carries out the door-to-door delivery service for them. They have also been working closely with the TIIR (Technology Innovation and Industry Relations) Program for the last one year, which helps budding entrepreneurs by funding them and allocating them offices within the institute for a workspace. Their requests are yet to see a fruitful result, but they are still hopeful that this session will be more productive than the previous one.
Currently, there isn’t any policy for replacement, returning or outsourcing of books; which means that if a person sells a book and in case there is no one at NITR who is interested then it won't be extended to external parties. When they are fully functional, however, they have every intention of extending their services to other Engineering Colleges and local schools in Rourkela. Thus textbooks for school children are also part of the future vision which will slowly be incorporated into the website, in the future. Moreover, they have planned to add a wish list that helps a person to add a list of books he/she has been planning to buy. An exchange option for the users is also on the cards, wherein people can exchange different books in the same price bracket. If everything goes as planned, then franchises in other states will also start forming. Another long-term plan also involves allowing people to sell their books for free, which would mean that the proceeds from that particular sale would directly be donated to a charitable organization.
If the growth of the company continues as anticipated, then they will also be looking to hire interns. Moreover, since they are both in their final year of college and will be graduating soon, they have found suitable juniors to pass the baton on to, in order to carry forward their legacy and keep the company running.
On a concluding note, they told Team MM,
We feel NITR having a total strength of 5000+ students is a great place to test and run a start-up because most people are perceptive to it. The process is cyclic as the same books are used by students year, after year, suggesting that one batch passes on its books to its succeeding batches and that is exactly where BookFount fits into the whole picture. We want to facilitate these proceedings on a convenient and user-friendly portal, online.