On the 29th of March, 2010, Mira Koreth’s bookpad at Banerghatta Road, Bangalore registered its first sales. For us at fivex5, it was a vindication of our belief that fivex5 was a concept whose time had come.
First some background. fivex5 was conceptualized as an alternate channel for selling books not because the other channels had dried up but because they were proving to be inefficient and expensive. Those familiar with the brick-and-mortar supply chain will tell you why it is expensive. Publishers get only a small pie of book sales and the money is realized after many days. More importantly the supply chain is hardly efficient. Only a tiny fraction of books make it to the large bookstore chains. The situation gets even worse as one moves away from the cities and towns.
The online store was supposed to change all that. Online stores do provide a much larger catalogue to choose from and offer large discounts that benefit the buyer. But publishers still gain little and the low Internet penetration in India is not helping matters. Websites can support Indian languages to a very limited extent so displaying titles in languages other than English remains a challenge. Besides, customers are still, albeit to a lesser degree, reluctant to pay for the books using their credit cards. Finally, many customers would still rather hold and feel a book before buying it.
If there was ever a possibility of marrying the catalogue-rich feature of online bookstores with the personal attention and rural reach that only brick-and-mortar stores can provide, fivex5 can make that happen. While there is a large online catalogue to choose from (and at the rate publishers are joining in, it can only get better), customers still get a chance to hold a book and view it before buying it.
With fivex5, we hope to develop many small bookstores instead of a few large ones. These will be scattered across villages and towns thus providing publishers with channels to the remotest of areas. What we have also observed is that people in many cities have also expressed a desire to own a bookpad. This can only mean that the presence of bookstores in large cities still leave an unsatisfied need for books.