MompreneurSwati - Bringing Back the Habit of ReadingApr 25, 2018
1. Congratulations for the roaring success of “The Bookmark”. Can you tell us a little bit about what prodded you to start this? How did the idea bloom?
Thank you for the opportunity you have given to me to talk about my journey with The Bookmark
“The Bookmark” is not merely a name but it is the story of a young parent like you whose journey into the world of books started with her six month old son. When I realised how important the parenting journey is and how important the physical and psychic development of a child is, I had decided to take a backseat in my career and started spending more time with my son. I strongly believe in early reading for kids and while searching for books for my son I couldn’t find the right choice for my kid. I realized that other parents must be facing the same difficulties too and I wanted to help them. It was this thought that invoked my passion to take up a business. My search also made me realize there is a strong deficit in books on Indian folktales and culture. One thing led to another and the rest is history.
A strong support in the form of my husband Mr Suriya Prakash, and overwhelming requests from our Facebook followers with more than 12k members (now most of them become my friends) resulted in a website cum online (and offline) store. This became a medium for me to spread the joy of reading and also brought out my love for the print medium – the smell of books and feeling those pages in my hand.
Our aim is to get the best books for kids at affordable prices without compromising on quality. I make sure I personally pick age appropriate books - a wide genre of Indian and foreign books – to provide the best experiences for the little ones.
2. What is the essence of “The Bookmark”?
The foundation for The Bookmark is:
- Best quality handpicked books keeping in mind the reading level of kids.
- Meeting the changing demands of the customers.
- Providing a curated collection of top Indian children books.
- Free shipping throughout India.
- On time delivery.
3. Tell us about how a typical work-day goes on for you.
A question which is really hard to answer! As a momprenuer I can’t predict my day. I start working before my little family wakes up. I take some “me” time for myself and plan the activities for the day. Most of my schedules are planned in such a way that it doesn’t affect my kid’s routine. I would dedicate most of my mornings to family, for my kid, husband and the chores of my home.
My love towards my work and books are making me run through this. At first, working from home with a 1 year old was one of the most challenging tasks for me. So, I started to make a to-do list each day. I used to segregate between the task to be completed immediately and the tasks that can be completed later, preplan and schedule my work according to that.
I would start working on the orders, dispatches, inwards and outward follow ups of The Bookmark only after that. Also, my son is unschooled and I plan for his daily things too. So, I plan accordingly and my work day goes as per that.
4. How do you manage the process of buying, stocking, delivering and managing returns of books? What are the major operational hurdles that you got past to make your venture a success?
During my initial days, it was really a tough task to manage everything as every aspect of my business from stocking to delivery was new to me. Buying includes importing books, making stock lists of the books available, uploading and so on and I had to manage this single-handedly with a toddler around. We now have tie up with different courier and delivery services who work for us for the delivery. Only when I think about it now am I realising that we haven’t faced any returns till now in all these years of my business! That’s one more secret of our business - providing good books at best rates that give 100% customer satisfaction where you don’t need to worry about returns.
The list of hurdles I face each day is too long. Some of them are:
- Making the customer to believe in you is the biggest challenge in an online business when you are a start up.
- Finding the right mode of delivering the books to reach my customers safely on time was one of the biggest challenges to me and it still remains a source of anxiety.
- Balancing between the family and business when u run a start up always requires more of your time and effort when compared to running a well established business.
- Travelling with a baby to find the right places to source books indeed is a challenge too.
- To answer the ever familiar question of parents, ”Why do they need to read more books when they are already burdened with loads of school syllabus books?” and to inculcate the habit of reading which seems to have vanished in the past decade or so.
5. Often, new mothers are bogged down by the additional responsibilities and the first thing that they usually give up is their career. Can this situation be changed?
I could really visualize this situation whenever someone asks me this question.
How many of us here know about the depression a woman faces after being mother. There is always the society which expects more and more from them and puts pressure on them. And they don’t understand that there is equal responsibility for the mother and the father and woman long for a successful career too. If the responsibilities are shared then women can definitely continue their careers after they become mothers too.
I always had a thrust to work after having a kid and I ended up searching for options which can help me in both career as well as lets me take care of my kid. The change is within us and our lives cannot be changed by anyone else. Creating the opportunities to drive ones passion is what we mommies have to do. There is enough guilt to go around for any mom. Make conscious efforts to not succumb to it and focus on positive vibes.
6. Can you tell us about your support system at home? How important is their role?
A support system in my case is my support persons. Having a person who can think of your dreams as their dreams is a blessing I would say. I am blessed with one such person in my life and that is my husband, Suriyaprakash, the one and only person who supported me right from the beginning of my journey, from being myself to a mom to an entrepreneur. I always hear him saying and reminding me to take care of my health as well as the business when I forget to follow it up. And one other person who has been a support in taking care of my home is our lovely maid Sathya. Without her, for sure, I would have gone mad hundred times in a day. The Bookmark wouldn’t have been here if they both did not support me every time without even me having to extend my hands for their help.
7. How would you describe your experience of being a wife, a mother as well as an entrepreneur?
Holding all these three positions is a challenging task for sure . There are times where I felt my focus is more on business than kid and family and vice versa. But, at the end of the day, the belief that everything is getting balanced gives me the confidence that I am crazy wife, a lovely mom and a good entrepreneur.
8. What is your favourite way to relax or to wind down?
My favourite ways to relax include heading off to holiday spots, going on a drive with hubby man, getting hooked on to my books, putting all my works aside and spending time with my 3 year old.
9. Why do you think that the habit of reading is important in this digital day and age?
The main advantage of reading books to kids is that it encourages a special bonding between a parent and the kid which a digital machine cannot create. It teaches the kids about the world around them and improves their imagination .It relaxes the body and mind whereas digital gadgets bombard our senses with flashy displays and unfiltered content. Books are something which can broaden your outlook of life.
A good book increases the thirst for learning in children and that will cultivate their minds to the utmost capacity and enrich their lives.
Benefits of reading aloud to your babies/kids:
- Stimulates cognitive skills
- Increases memory
- Promotes listening skills
- Helps in developing vocabulary
- Helps in promoting bonding between parents and baby
- Stimulates the sensory skills
- Helps in developing imagination
- Stimulates attention
10. Where do you want to take “The Bookmark”? What are your goals?
All I want get to a place where people associate The Bookmark as a synonym to a great bookstore for children.
I want to inculcate the habit of book reading in as many kids as I can. I am confident that I will achieve my goals for sure.
11. Is there anything that you would like to say to new mothers or soon-to-be mothers who are worried about pursuing their dreams along with motherhood?
Some tips that I would suggest are:
- Look for inspiration everywhere.
- Prioritize everything - It will make such a difference when it comes to making the right decision. Split big tasks into smaller ones which can be easily manageable.
- Teach people to treat you right – I happened to read this statement somewhere and I follow this in my business.
- Schedule the time of working hours and make sure that you stick to it. For example, If I have scheduled for family time and if I happen to get business calls at that time, I don’t take the calls unless it is very important and vice versa. Constant interruption reduces productivity in all sides
- Scheduling working time makes me have time for everything.
- Make a note of everything that frustrates you in your life and find creative ways to address those things. Avoid burdening yourself with unnecessary stuff that you can’t control.