Rashi Panjabi started a library called Reader's Paradise in Sharjah in 2005. When she moved to Dubai two and a half years ago, Ms Panjabi, 29, had a big problem: what to do with more than 10,000 books?
The solution turned out to be an online library service that delivers the books. It operates out of an office in Jumeirah Lake Towers in Dubai. The service offers three monthly membership packages of Dh95 (US$25), Dh150 and Dh200. The Dubai library was launched in March. Here Ms Panjabi talks about why she thinks such a library concept works.
What are the opportunities of online library service?
The convenience of free delivery is a big plus point and members really appreciate the service for the whole family. We cover all areas across Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman and for each area we deliver twice a week from 9am until 9pm. If an area is not listed, we [can] add it. Readers can browse books at our office but they can check out all books online, too. We replenish our stock every three to four weeks and add new releases within a week. We have around five suppliers in India, five in the United States and two in the United Kingdom.
What are the challenges of running a private library?
Public libraries are always free but people need to understand they get new releases here and they do not have to wait too long for a book.
How many clients do you have and what's your profit like?
In the last three months, we added over 250 members, and our old database has over 500 members. We are getting demand from Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and even Bahrain to rent out books there. We do not disclose profits. But it's a good margin and we are profitable. It took us around three months to break even for the online service.
What were your major expenses?
The website was quite expensive. A company in the United States designed it and connected it with our database. The other investments were in the books, rent and employing 10 people.
What are the strategies you want to take to further the business?
We have to open in a different location to create awareness. We are still not actively marketing ourselves, apart from participating in exhibitions and through word of mouth. Around 20 per cent of the new members came through Facebook. We are also in the process of categorising the books and adding more non-fiction releases. Self-help and business management books and autobiographies are among the most popular.
Who are your competitors?
Book stores and other public libraries. But competition is healthy and I am not concerned about it. Kindle is a big competitor but it has not affected us so far.
* Sananda Sahoo
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