In a world that is increasingly seeing a push towards digitalisation, are kids’ interest in reading dwindling?
After all, it’s a common sight for kids today to be on YouTube Kids or playing with Snapchat filters, and we can only imagine that it grows increasingly difficult to draw their attention to the stationary, unmoving characters in a book.
In a bid to fight for young kids’ limited attention, Hetal Gandhi of Bookyboo decided to create books starring those kids as main characters in a story.
“It’s ironic that while our access to books is now higher than ever, we have less time and inclination to read. Most of us want to read a book but get swamped in social media. Bookyboo is our initiative to help children develop a love for reading at an early age.”
– Hetal Ghandi
Currently Bookyboo has a few offerings on the table for someone with a kid in their lives:
- My Name Bookyboo: A child goes on an adventure based on the letters in their name.
- Fun Family Bookyboo: Where siblings can go on an adventure to save their family, with options for twins and single parents to cater to the different circumstances kids might grow up in.
- Birthday Party Bookyboo set: A story/activity book seemingly meant for party favours, goody-bags and return gifts for a parties. This one is sold much cheaper compared to the other two options and serves to celebrate the main child and a friend’s friendship.
The prices of the personalised books range from RM34.99 to RM99 for now.
Each book is designed to teach different values to a kid, depending on the theme. For example, the My Name Bookyboo was constructed in a way that might inculcate confidence in a child, as well as teach kindness, courage, love and an adventurous zeal.
With more varieties of books planned for the future, we can foresee Bookyboo’s team trying to cover a wide range of lessons for increasingly specific situations to double down on the idea of personalisation.
For an interested buyers, the process of generating a personalised book can be done in less than a minute by filling in a kid’s name, and other small details into the website.
Hetal and husband Neeraj Gulati first got the idea for Bookyboo when the search for a niece’s gift stumped them.
“Like other children of this generation, she had more than enough toys and we would always struggle to get something meaningful that can stay with her forever. What began as a quest for a meaningful gift for our niece has become a passion for us,” recalled Hetal.
The pair realised that parents would often tell their children little stories that starred the same kids as the main characters. “Magical, but they are often forgotten”.
To Hetal, the stories that stay with the kids are grand old-fashioned turn-the-page books which they can read again and again. That’s when Bookyboo was born—to make it incredibly simple for parents to bring magic to their kids.
They never imagined the scale of which Bookyboo would expand at the time, now shipped out worldwide.
In fact, this young startup has already seen profit 8 months into the business, despite the obvious difficulties in recouping costs for a printing industry that favours mass production.
According to Hetal, “It’s not an easy task to print one book at a time, bind it, cut it and package it.”
They ensure that every page of the book is personalised, which does make this quite a task for them. Nevertheless, Hetal attributes their robust backend technology as a helping hand in creating personalisation at scale and breaking the volume cycle.
But with both coming from business-orientated families, they’re very conscious about the cost of operations and how they use their resources.
“We experimented with multiple channels and strategies to ensure we are able to reach a stage where every dollar spent brings in a much higher ROI back to the business. For every startup, a conscious trial and error strategy coupled with an iterative mindset is the key to keeping the business healthy.”
Writing has always been a hobby for Hetal, so she now authors the stories on Bookyboo. She also heads up the content team for Bookyboo, inclusive of everything from designers, illustrators—and an army of mommies and kids for quality control.
Meanwhile, most of the tech development of the business is headed up in India under her husband’s wing, with distribution teams on both sides of the world.
In fact, technology design and integration has helped the team automate many of the more menial tasks, such as reporting and accounting. They attribute this as what helped them scale their operations.
When asked if it was difficult to run a startup as a husband and wife team, Hetal stated that, “We both have very complementing skills and it really helps us have our own space while working together. I’ve always been a voracious reader and love to write, while he loves the software and technology space.”
Well, they do say that opposites attract.
Hetal does admit that things are not always smooth sailing.
“We are a rapidly growing technology company that is trying to bring an exclusive concept to people at large. Every story we write competes with thousands of authors around the world for the tiny library space in a child’s room and every book we print competes with the colossal printing presses all over the world.”
Sobering words, but the team believes that they can do it.
Hetal thinks that their main challenge lies in content, where the stories and characters have to be designed in a way that kids can imprint onto the child in the books.
“Kids are brutally honest and we are now looking at ways to scale the creative thinking part of our business.”
“We are thrilled when our customers send us videos and pictures of their kids enjoying their personalised books—for many kids it’s become their favourite book.”
And since the team fully embraces technology in turning books into a personable gift, and even manages to equip it to empower the business side, they have no qualms about scaling the business even further.
“The possibilities are endless. We are constantly innovating. Our latest launch is a set of story and activity books for birthday party return favours—they feature both the birthday kid and a different friend in each book.”