A tasty tie-up to whet your reading appetite

Kochi | Updated on August 06, 2020

Ordering a meal? You can get a book too via food delivery apps, courtesy Kerala’s DC Books

Hungry for books but unable to visit your favourite stores due to Covid-19 restrictions? If you live in Kerala, your reading urge can be met thanks to a unique partnership between leading publisher DC Books and food delivery apps such as Zomato and Swiggy.

The food delivery start-ups have now begun distributing books at the customers’ doorstep in select localities of the state. DC’s move was inspired by the spike in reading habits seen during the lockdowns, which has prompted publishers and booksellers to find out innovative ways for marketing and distribution.

“It is a fact that the lockdown has led to closing down of book shops and declining footfalls. But the emerging situation has facilitated us to think of a different supply model, forcing us to approach Zomato on the sales possibilities through its channel,” says Ravi Deecee, CEO, DC Books.

Of course, there are e-commerce stores that fulfil orders for physical books, but there is a time lag between ordering and delivery. Over the food apps, it is practically instantaneous. Also in Kerala, customers still prefer traditional channels to buy books.

Legal curbs

However, DC Books faced some legal tangles before the service could take off. This was due to government restrictions on deliveries, which were confined only for essential goods and services. Books were not on this list. “But we were successful in convincing the authorities to include books in this category, paving the entry of Zomato for the job,” Deecee told BusinessLine.

Historically, DC Books, which has played a major role in promotion of reading in Kerala, has been no stranger to the art of negotiating with governments. Its founder Dominic Chacko was instrumental in getting sales tax abolished on books in erstwhile Travancore state. Soon, the rest of India followed. “With the removal of restrictions on books from the categories of goods to be delivered, Zomato has started delivering books in a full-fledged manner across major towns in Kerala,” Ravi Deecee said. He added, “We have sought the assistance of a supermarket chain in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram using Zomato service in listing our books.”

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s announcement in April allowing the functioning of book shops twice a week has in a way helped the publishing industry to remain bullish during the sluggish times. The lockdown impact to the sector has been severe, as it affected the livelihood of many working in the industry as well as in other allied sectors such as publishing, printing, designing, distribution, freelancing, Deecee added.

Zomato is now carrying out the delivery of books along with its food service business. Swiggy, on the other hand, has included the sale of books in its book-shop category. The tie-up with food delivery apps has started gaining traction, which is evident from the sales growth of 30-35 per cent, said Deecee, adding that the footfalls in book shops were yet to pick up during Phase III of the Covid-19 unlock process.

Asked whether this new sales channel would continue post-Covid, he said it was here to stay. Other publishers especially in metro cities could borrow a leaf from the Kerala model, especially given the encouraging feedback from readers.

Published on August 06, 2020

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