Booxwoox is one of the recent startups emerging from IIT Patna. Booxwoox is a platform where people can buy, lend, borrow and sell their books. It is India's first online peer to peer book lending and borrowing platform. So with Khanjan and Rohit from the team and one of the co-founders of Booxwoox Mourya, let's be in conversation with Booxwoox
Khanjan: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Booxwoox? And how exactly did you end up building Booxwoox?
Maurya: So right now, I am in Civil engineering, final year. Somewhere around 3rd year, I and some of my friends - Tanmay, Pranav, and Utsav, sort of had a plan that we wanted to do something that could give us some real exposure out there. One day, Tanmay told me about his idea - that was something around books, and well, it wasn't well developed. Then, 4 of us got together, Utsav being the tech guy, and the 3 of us handling the management part and the finances as well. We decided to figure out how to build this into something because the model was very young, making it profitable was a big deal again, and in every business, you have to build it around profitability and customer experience. We took 2-3 months to build the fundamentals properly how we will rent books etc. After that, Utsav started building the prototype. Our first mistake with Booxwoox was we should have done surveys first, followed by developing things so we could have an idea of what we were building. We still did some market service later on, and luckily for us, they were quite aligned with what we were building and so the product was good to go. Even Sajal came up to us and developed the designs and the UI. Initially, he did all the design work himself and later we got more people on board, and 4 months later we had the prototype, which we launched. The first 8 months were the most crucial ones and we had to put in a lot of effort. The basic idea of Booxwoox is that it makes books easy to read while also economical for the users. You can rent it for 50 instead of buying it for 500. We are bringing the cost down as well as generating money out of it. It is good for the borrower and the lender and at the same time it is profitable for us, so it's a win-win situation for everyone.
Khanjan: Do you think the idea has evolved in any way since you first started?
Maurya: Initially, we did not account that somebody might not return the rented book, so we had to make a system in which we made sure that the book was returned. And the best way to ensure that is to put some money against it as a security. So what we did was we created a per-book deposit system. Once you borrow a book you pay the deposit, and when you return the book that's when you get it back. Now, there were multiple views on this, but the users who were okay with this whole system and who believed that the book was secure, used this platform, so we are happy with the way in which we moved on. So, the product evolved in a lot of ways, we added a deposit system, we added a sort of different search-based model and we had to work on a lot of manual-basis initially when the system was not so properly built but sooner or later, we got the things aligned and it became easier to manage.
Khanjan: How did you finance the start-up early on? When did you decide to raise external capital and can you describe what that process was like?
Maurya: We are majorly running on bootstrap right now because with funds there are a lot of factors that people who give money take into consideration. Initially, when you are just starting off you have to show that you have some credibility, that you are profitable, that you can make more money out of what you get. So we tried to cut out costs as much as possible which obviously led to an offset in time management because we had to give in a lot of time because of that. We felt that if we took this up quite quickly, the rate we wanted to go at, we needed some funds, that's when we decided to look out for funds. We went for various people, we could not make it honestly, but it's okay, we got a lot of responses from a lot of investors and I guess that's the best part. If you can get feedback from people who are already in the start-up system, who look at a lot of start-ups can tell you what is perfect and what needs to change in your mode of work. We got a lot of customers, investors, and even a team perspective. All of that together gave us a good idea about what stage we are at. Is it a good one per se for the investors and if not what could be done better?
Khanjan: What would you say has been the biggest challenge with Booxwoox?
Maurya: Biggest challenge with Booxwoox was that we knew nothing. When we started, we knew nothing about running a business, about getting the first customer, about how to develop, test, and then launch a product, how to get the first order. It's just that when a problem like this comes at hand, you tackle them one at a time, you go for it one at a time and you keep solving them. In a start-up, you don't have that benefit of the doubt, because you have to handle multiple things, all of them have would have strict timelines, and if you delay any one of them, your whole model could be impacted. And also, the bigger challenge was handling Acads with this. Even though it was an online Sem, we were quite packed in our 3rd year and developing the product in that duration, in the 6th Sem, that was a lot to handle. One thing that many founders say is that “Opportunity cost always keeps bugging you” like you will be giving up on a lot of great opportunities because you are trying to build something of your own. And to face and tackle that takes some effort out of you.
Rohit: If someone has an idea and wants to start building a startup in our college right now, how should they go about it?
Maurya: Definitely, if someone is willing to go for a startup idea, first of all, there is this whole misconception that you have to find a co-founder. Like I would say, it is good to have someone you can rely on but if you don't have someone right now, still go with the idea. And if you think you can handle it for a while, then while you're doing it try to find someone who is as interested as you are in the idea.And also if you have something in mind, I would say, better give it a shot, and at the end of the day, if you even fail, at least you have something to show, you would have learnt something, you can say that I was out there in the real world, not just packed inside the shield, as we call it, of college. So, definitely, go for it. You would have a lot of freedom at hand to experiment with things and a lot of time as well. The college has a lot of time, we just need to manage it well. But it's doable and it's rewarding. It even helps for those who are looking at placements and things like that, it helps if you have an experience of that kind.
Rohit: How has college contributed to everything you are able to do today?
Maurya: Okay, I would say the network. Because that's why you entered IITs, right? For the people. Because I wouldn't have been in touch with my co-founders Pranav, Utsav and Tanmay if I hadn't been on my 2nd floor of the old boys' hostel. So, that definitely added a lot because we four were able to discuss something, have a similar mindset, develop something of our own, and work on it even across all the challenges. And that was the one way college contributed majorly. It still needs a lot of support, and there is a lot of development to be done towards the supporting part because it is still a young phase for the college, and we're still figuring out a lot of things. But I'm sure if the students are motivated and they keep experimenting and keep bringing out such new ideas, someday or the other, IIT Patna will be a startup hub, for sure.
Rohit: How are you balancing your studies and startup, both?
Maurya: Okay, I would say the online sem contributed a lot to that. Because I had the liberty to physically not go to the class and work while attending the classes. Online classes did help me out. But I'm pretty sure that even after you are back at college and you are doing something and if you are really contributing to the real world, there are ways, you will figure out, to do it. Even when classes are going on, you would have time in hand to do stuff other than studies. You will just have to be a lot more sincere, a lot more focused and you will have to handle your time really well.
Rohit: What's your favourite book on specifically startups/entrepreneurship?
Maurya: I would definitely say one book named Traction, personally because it contributed a lot. And secondly, overall my favourite book, not towards startups/entrepreneurship, would be the book of Elon Musk, somewhere it is still about entrepreneurship because the guy is crazy about it. The level of motivation you get from that and the level of innovation, I'd say there is nothing compared to that. There are a lot more books that you can read. There is one named, Cut the Crap and Jargon authored by the founder of Your Story. They are some amazing books and people can definitely read them.
Rohit: If you want to give any message to students who will be reading your interview, what would that be?
Maurya: I would definitely tell them to experiment a lot because right now when you are in your college, you have the freedom to do a lot of things, explore a lot of fields. No one is compelling you to handle your expenses back at home and you still have a lot of time to figure out where you want to go and where you want to build yourself and sure, that could change somewhere in future but right now when you have a perspective of your own, you could at least say that you tried. You did something that you not only thought of, but you also gave it a shot, you got through it, you reached somewhere and maybe since after that things didn't work out, you moved on to something else. But the thing is that the effort matters a lot. And there would be a lot of distractions for sure in college, but I'd say try to avoid them all as much as possible if you're really focused on your career and even enjoy a bit of that too, because that's life, right? You can't really miss out on all the fun.