Nivetha is an avid reader of books since a young age. After she moved to Bangalore in 2001, she realized that there weren’t any libraries with a good collection of Tamil books. Some of the libraries had the usual popular works but several other works were not showcased. So, she decided to venture on her own and started an online lending library.
People would order the books they wanted to borrow, and she would have the books delivered to them free of cost. Soon, people started asking if she had collections of Kannada and Telugu books. She realized that there is a lacuna wherein people who do not have an easy access to library may be devoid of reading books.
As an IT employee, she often travelled overseas, and during such travels also she realized that there was a pitiful lack of e-books in vernacular languages. Most of the e-books available were in English and for someone interested in reading books written in their own language, there was a dearth of availability.
This finally prompted her to seriously consider opening a portal that exclusively provided e-books in regional languages, not only for sale, but also for lending.
Bangalore based company Pustaka Digital Media was launched in October, 2014, aims to be a one-stop shop for readers of any language of India. It intends to digitize some of the rare literary works so that those priceless collections can be preserved for the future generations.
Nivetha Padmanaban, the founder and CEO of Pustaka Digital Media, hails from Madurai and in a career spanning more than a decade in leading IT companies till she found her calling in the land of books.
Padmanaban Rajagopalan, Co-founder and COO, worked as HR & Admin Manager in various software companies. He finally joined his wife to support her dreams.
Dr. Rajesh Devadas, Ph.D, CTO & Director, did his doctorate in Computer Science and has more than 20 years IT experience. Impressed by the idea of Pustaka, he joined hands with the founders.
Indumathi Prasanna, Director, hails from Cumbum and holds the degree in Tourism. She is passionate about books and reading, hence joined Pustaka team.
Nivetha firmly believes that Pustaka portal should reach every Indian living in India and other countries. The primary aim is to reach Indians & NRI’s who want to read regional Indian language books.
One of the distinguishing factors of Pustaka is that, the authors are given royalty not only for the sales of the books, but also for the lends. In order to be completely legal, venture has legally obtained the consent and permission for selling and lending the books that are currently available on the portal and are in the process of obtaining more titles.
Pustaka portal offers a very secure medium for reading the books. The subscribers cannot download the books and hence it checks the instances of piracy. Each author has access to the details pertaining to the number of subscribers who have either purchased or borrowed their respective books.
The biggest challenge faced by the noble startup was digitization of books, where company had to hire a huge team of workers to do the DTP work for each language at an affordable cost.
Getting copyrights from renowned authors is another challenge team face frequently. As few renowned old age authors do not have enough knowledge on e-books, and it is difficult to convince them to get copyrights.
Marketing/Brand creation is another bigger challenge for the company. The startup is investing more on marketing now when compared to starting days.
Sharing the story of Pustaka in detail with PlanBmatters, Nivetha said that the firm was started with Rs. 20 lakh bootstrapped. During her research, she found that the ebook collection in Indian languages is very less when compared to English. Started as a small lending library for Tamil, Pustaka expanded into selling and lending ebooks focused on Indian languages and to start with – Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam.
“We were approached by The Hindu for an interview within 30 days of launch of our portal was one of the most exciting moments,” exclaims Nivetha.
A bigger project to digitize Indian language books by 2020 is being planned by the company. By 2020, it aims to have a few lakh books in digital format.
Advising early stage start-ups from her experience, Nivetha says that it is crucial to find the MVP (Minimal Viable Product) for startup and stick to it. Launch early to the market and be adaptive.