New graduate, Riticka Srivastav is an inspiring example of a successful woman entrepreneur in India. Her online bookstore, Book Thela, offers both new and pre-owned books at throwaway prices all over India.
Book Thela has a huge collection of books of different categories ranging from fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, featured library editions, 49 clubs, bestsellers and will soon be adding entrance exam books as well.
Riticka always had a passion for entrepreneurship and has worked with many startups in the past for her internships. The main purpose behind starting the venture was to spread happiness by uniting bibliophiles with their favourite reads at affordable prices.
Naaree caught up with this young entrepreneur to find out what drives her to do what she does.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? Did you always love it or was it something you got into?
After doing a side entrepreneurship stint in college where I was selling packaged food products to hostel students (who had no access to food at night except the mess), my passion for entrepreneurship deepened and that’s when I realized that I wanted to start something on my own one day.
Also, coming from an entrepreneurial family, my parents always encouraged me to follow my dreams and passions and therefore I started my own company, Book Thela.
When do you know that it is no longer just an idea in your mind and that you can really turn it into a lucrative business?
Research plays a very important role to understand if the business will be profitable and sustainable or not. Before starting any business, proper research and analysis should be done to understand the target market, the profitability of the business model, the feasibility of the product/service and other major aspects of the business.
I did thorough research and analysis of the business before starting my venture. It helped me in making a lot of tough decisions like outsourcing shipping, the supply chain of the business etc.
What inspired you to start out on your own or with your partners? What learning lessons can you share from your startup experience?
I was in my last semester of college and was actively looking for internships for my training period when my father, Dr Niraj Srivastav, who is an International Award-winning author for the book “Daggers of Treason”, suggested the brilliant idea of selling used and second-hand books online.
He knew about my passion for books and entrepreneurship and encouraged me to follow my dreams. Whenever I was in doubt of whether I should go for a job instead of starting my own venture so soon, he always used to tell me that starting my own venture is not going to be easy but it will be worth it and he’s absolutely right about that.
I did a lot of research after that to ensure that Book Thela becomes a sustainable business and officially launched it on 22nd March 2017. The main aim of starting the venture was to unite broke bibliophiles like me with their favourite reads without the hassle of travelling to far off places to buy cheap books.
As a college student with a limited budget, I had to travel a lot to different places to buy cheap second-hand books. This is when I realized that I could mould my business idea around this problem and provide a solution for the same.
The learning lessons from my startup experience are:
- Always be prepared to face challenges
- Innovation is an integral part of running a business
- Age is just a number. All you need is determination and perseverance to run a start-up.
- Having the right team is really important
What are some challenges that you faced initially when you started out? Do you have some examples to share and advice to women entrepreneurs on overcoming them?
The major challenge which we faced was getting the shipping done on time to create a pleasant experience for the customer.
As logistics is the backbone for any e-commerce company, we decided to outsource our logistics to different courier partners like FedEx, Delhivery, Holisol etc. to ensure that shipping is carried out smoothly without any delays.
And now we are happy to say that Book Thela was able to achieve its break-even point within the first month itself.
My advice for women entrepreneurs:
- Have a support system in place whether it’s your family, your friends or even your colleagues.
- Always believe in yourself and your business and don’t get knocked down by criticism.
- Innovation is necessary to compete in the market.
What are all the things that an entrepreneur needs to keep in mind? I.e. apart from your great idea, what do you need to be armed with?
I would say apart from a great idea, you need to be armed with the following things:
- Determination and Perseverance
- Passion for entrepreneurship
- Support system with people who believe in you and your idea
Do women entrepreneurs find it tougher to get funding for businesses? If yes, why do you think that is?
I personally don’t think that gender has anything to do with getting funding. Investors mainly look at your idea and its profitability and also whether you have the skills to carry out the business while investing. Once you’re able to convince them about the idea, it doesn’t really matter if you’re a man or a woman.
Is it beneficial to have a mentor when you’re starting out on your own? What does a mentor bring to the table?
Absolutely. Having a mentor not just initially, but through all stages is very important as they help you in making important decisions that would impact the business.
I would say, for me my parents and my friend Akshay, have been my mentors as they’ve helped me in making a lot of tough decisions related to the venture.
Having a mentor brings a lot to the table, as they are able to provide a new perspective of looking at things.
How did you recruit your first team? How difficult was it to get people on board during the initial stages?
I haven’t recruited a team till now but will be expanding soon.
What are 3 key things that you have learned as an entrepreneur?
- I have learned that each day will have a new challenge and you will get to learn new things every day.
- Making mistakes is important as you get to learn from them.
- Understanding the market and its requirements is of the utmost importance for your business.
What would you describe as your biggest moments of success in your business?
The journey of a start-up is filled with moments of success as you are achieving something new each day whether it’s getting new customers on-board or even getting good reviews from the customer.
All of them add together to make the journey memorable. But one of the biggest moments of success for Book Thela was achieving the break-even point within the first month of starting the business.
You can connect with Book Thela at @book_thela