Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Future of Book Retailing in India

P04+ ExteriorImage by j.reed via Flickr

Via pluggd.in, "Abhaya Agarwal, co-founder of Pothi shares his perspective on future of book retailing in India.."
Let’s talk specifically about books. Today we have several large format book store chains around - Landmark, Crossword, Depot, Timeout and others. And the customer experience is just so much better in them as compared to normal book shops - you no longer need to know the name of the book/author you are looking for, you can go and browse the books, read them, discover new authors right there in the book store - none of which is possible in an old format store. The choices available are much wider. The point is - the new format retail is a much bigger deal for books as compared to let’s say grocery. Most of the time you don’t have to explore and discovers new groceries. But in books - that is the name of the game. There is a value add besides simply the price.

On the other hand, this is also a fact that books are one of the best selling online items in India after ticket bookings (Air and train). In a especially price sensitive market like India, they have a clear advantage (although combined with the expensive shipping, that gets diluted). The large number of languages in India present a totally new challenge for distribution and creates many types of long tails (inherently smaller languages like Tulu, the groups of people living away from the main language area - Tamils in North) which are again ideally suited to digital solutions but none of the current players seem too keen on them. Increasing petrol prices are kind of ambivalent - they probably encourage users to avoid driving to retail stores but they also jack up the logistics costs in form of fuel surcharges.

The question I wonder about is - in this situation where these two models are seeing simultaneous evolution, how will they interact?

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