Granthayan: A Mobile Bookstore
An electrical engineer by training, 45-year-old Kurulkar ran a networking and hardware solutions company for 15 years, before he put Rs3 crore of his own into Granthayan, a chain of mobile bookstores that travels the length and breadth of Maharashtra selling mostly Marathi books. Kurulkar says he plans to later replicate his business model in other states, focusing on books in their regional languages.
There could be several rough patches to negotiate. Only 59% of India’s rural population can read, according to the 2001 census, and reading material itself is limited outside the cities. Local languages have also had to face the growing popularity of English.
“Rural areas don’t see anything other than newspapers and textbooks. So good, affordable reading material, which is simple, is the need for the day,” says Rukmini Banerji, a programme director at non-government organization Pratham, which prepares an annual report on the status of education measuring student literacy. Pratham’s publishing arm, Pratham Books, which prints cheap children’s books, also has plans to enter the rural retail market next month, according to managing trustee Ashok Kamath.
Granthayan’s business was inaugurated in August, with 10 custom-designed Tata trucks functioning as mobile bookstores. The vehicles, 18ft long and 8ft wide, were fitted with shelves, tube lights, ceiling fans, scanners, cash machines and even their own generators, to resemble a typical mall storefront.
According to Kurulkar, Granthayan has sold around 100,000 titles in the first three months of operation, and stocks both Marathi and English titles, though, he says, 75% of the company’s stock and sales are in Marathi.
“People don’t go out of their way to buy books,” says Rane, “but if they see them right at their doorstep, there is a lot of scope to sell books, for good quality books.”
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