Sunday, May 24, 2009

Conversations - Founder, MyLib lending library

I am starting a section in my blog inspired by Coffee with Sundar. I intend to post in this section, snippets of interesting conversations with people I am inspired by. First in this series is a conversation I had today with the founder of Mylib, Bhavna Desai. Mylib is a lending library that has come up in Jayanagar 9th block opposite Ragiguda. To know more about the library and what it has to offer, read this post below. The below conversation is of course not reproduced verbatim.

Siva: Hello! I want to blog about MyLib. I have begun to like this place a lot. Before blogging, I just thought, I should talk to you for a while...

Bhavna: Sure.

Siva: How did this idea of setting up a library at this place come about?

Bhavna: I don't come from a background that would have made this a natural choice. I have a masters degree in Statistics. I worked for banks and then realized that it was not where I wanted to be. I saw that there was a need for a good library in this area.

Siva: So it was passion that made you take this up?

Bhavna: Not exactly. I am not as passionate about books as you might think I am. I do read once in a while. It is a matter of demand and supply that I was able to see here.

Siva: What drives your collection here? I see that you have a very good variety.

Bhavna: When I started, it was the internet and sites like Amazon and ratings there. I didn't want to stock too much. Now if you ask me, it is my customers' feedback. I talk to them and try to know what they look for. I try my best to make them available here.

Siva: So, it is more of networking...

Bhavna: Yes and the distributors also help you.

Siva: How has it been since you started?

Bhavna: It is just two months, so it is hard to say anything. I don't buy the argument that the Internet has killed reading. I see a lot of young people in cities like Bangalore in book shops like Landmark and Crossword. Reading is still developing. I think that people in India still find reading a serious activity; they don't view it as pleasurable and one that can be pursued in one's leisure. I would like to go online and into home delivery though when I ask my customers, most of them say that they don't have internet at home while a few prefer online. My intention is also to provide a good atmosphere; to give my customers a good atmosphere to browse books and read.

Recession has also helped me. It has brought down rents and book prices. Parents who have second thoughts about buying books for their children find a place like this very convenient.

Siva: I think you are right. I had a target of one book every month, but down the line, even that became a little prohibitive.

Bhavna: Yes. One of my challenges is in marketing. I have not done a great deal of marketing for this. It is just my customers telling their relatives and friends and they in turn doing the same.

Siva: It is pretty word-of-mouth then...

Bhavna: Yes, the best part is a customer recommending to another potential customer.

Siva: Would you consider yourself an entrepreneur?

Bhavna: Yes, I would, though the idea is not original as you can see a lot of young people in this area.

Siva: Would you deem any qualification necessary now that you are a librarian?

Bhavna: I won't call myself that. If you see, the books are categorized from a layman perspective. When you visit any popular book store and see this categorization at MyLib, it is similar to what they have. A librarian might do a better job at this.

Siva: So, are you planning at recruiting more people and expanding?

Bhavna: Yes.

Siva: Thanks for your time!

Bhavna: Thanks!

I feel that to be earnest, sincere and to demonstrate the resolve of an entrepreneur in a field like this demands conviction and courage. This initiative is impressive and looks all set to reap good dividends and feedback for the founder. I wish her the very best!

MyLib - The Lending library for book lovers and enthusiasts' alike

Once in a while, you just happen to pass by places you like...when you begin to like them, it is as if a relationship is set in motion...

It was one such day, when a friend of mine remarked that we should go inside Mylib and have a look. We had just alighted at the Ragiguda BMTC stop, where the office shuttle drops me every day. Seeing that it was a library surprised me, for I had passed by that place many a time and had never noticed it until then.

We found that the place had a sincere look about it...some thing that was waiting to be discovered; some thing that welcomes a visitor with open arms and makes him comfortable. The library had a good collection, meticulously arranged. We decided to join and chose the annual membership.

As I write this, it is just more than a month since I joined. Though I don't read as voraciously as I used to, back in college, this place serves my purpose very well. I can easily tell if a library fits my taste quick enough, for it is a matter of finding some authors and books as I browse the collection.

Ernest Hemingway, Rohinton Mistry and Fyodor Dostoevsky - authors to name a few. 'Roots', 'A clockwork Orange' and 'The curious incident of the dog in the night time' - books to name a few. These are authors and books normally not stocked by libraries who would like to cater to only a minuscule section of people. I find them here and it pleases me no end.

Spacious, clean and situated in a residential locality where there is no clamor and noise, the ambiance is perfect. At leisure, I cam able to browse through the collection in a quiet atmosphere. Non- fiction, biographies, history, spirituality, Indian writing, business and management, romance and children s' section - everybody has something to look forward to and appreciate. It is a neighborhood library in its true sense. A lacunae in this locality has been filled and quite remarkably too! People of Jayanagar and its adjoining places have a library to cater to their needs in their midst!

I was extremely happy when Bhavna Desai, founder of the library, noted down a book I suggested. It is indicative of a person who is intent upon improving and welcome to feedback and suggestions. A conversation with her in my next post...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

PVR Cinemas, Bangalore - Is Customer Service just a pretense?

On Friday, May 17th, We reached Forum mall hoping to watch 'What just happened' - a movie that had released on that very day. But as it turned out, destiny had different plans for us.
When we were about to brandish our tickets in style, we were told to wait and out of nowhere came an employee of PVR Cinemas telling us that the show in question is canceled. The reason given, much to our incomprehension and disbelief, was that the print of the movie was not good and it had arrived very late the previous night.

From a very popular chain, the least one expects, is a responsible and adequately apologetic reply. Instead we were asked to either watch any movie running then or take a refund. When pressed, all we got was that they did not get adequate time to check the print. I don't think this would enhance their reputation in the least. We wasted money on petrol and parking only to be turned away ultimately with the money.

If only customer service is just about refund, PVR would have passed the test, but as customers we know it is not. The moral of the story is not hard to figure out. Draw your own conclusions!

Elections 2009 - As the dust settles down...

It is a well known fact that when the losing party accepts defeat gracefully and with humility, respect from all quarters pours in. For 5 years, the BJP was unable to do it and finally it seems that the party is left with little option.

As opposed to the 2004 verdict which was a little muddled thanks to the looming presence of the charismatic AB Vajpayee, this time, the mandate is squarely in favor of the congress party. If one looks at the reasons, they are not difficult to find. They would help the losers introspect and the victor to be responsible and thankful to the electorate.

  • The BJP leadership was not appealing to the masses with LK Advani's image far from being clean. The vacuum was hard to fill. Internal squabbles due to strong personalities in Jaswant Singh, Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley resulted in a less than cohesive unit. Darjeeling and Telengana proved that the party was power hungry.
  • A motley group of regional parties - DMDK in TN, Praja Rajyam in AP and MNS in Maharashtra - helped split the anti congress vote. In some cases, people were suspicious as was the case with SP and BSP in UP. Mayawati was ready to join any combine while Kalyan Singh was welcomed to the folds of SP. As a result, the congress gamble paid off handsomely.
  • The Left overestimated its prowess and is left badly bruised and shattered. It failed to read the voter; the increasing awareness among the electorate led to its downfall. It might be a while before there can be a resurgence for Karat and Co if at all there is one.
  • The image of Manmohan Singh as a sincere and honest person won the congress, the votes of the middle class and the youth. The BJP lost a considerable chunk of middle class vote due to its negative campaign and its failure to offer a credible alternative policy framework in the absence of any single over arching issue.
  • The saturation of BJP in Karnataka, Gujarat and MP and its ally in Bihar meant it was always going to reap handsome rewards in these states and little elsewhere.
  • The singular failure of BJP to give its party a youthful look and the fortunate irony of Rahul Gandhi garnering the media support again led to first time voters rejecting the NDA in favor of the UPA.
  • Good monsoons and reasonable success of NREGA and populist policies ensured that though the coffers were getting drained, sizeable chunk of rural votes were a given.
This election also offered some insights. While the kind of identity politics presented by the MNS and celebrity power in the south were rejected, some incidents that were given obsessive attention by the media like the pub attack in Mangalore fell on the back burner for the electorate.

Looking forward to the next 5 years, the average Indian is happy that there is no commotion and mad scrambles. At the same time, several issues cry out for attention from security to Economy to Climate Change. We wait in anticipation and have high expectations from a team, that I am sure, has some able Men and Women ready to shoulder huge responsibilities.

I salute our democratic system and end this post!