Pratilipi, getting Indians back to the reading habit

Netflix’s entry in India, has met with mixed reaction, and whether it makes a mark remains to be seen. However, one point that everyone is unanimous about is the need for Netflix to develop content that will appeal to local Indian audience. Where newspapers across the world are on its way out, the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) still puts regional Indian language dailies in the green, as they continue to add subscribers and grow.

It is this opportunity that startup Pratilipi spotted and tapped into. Of an estimated 750 million literate population in India, 650 million can read and write only in their native language. However the choice of good quality content in local languages is very limited. An estimated 400,000 Indian language books are published each year by Indian authors, who rarely even get royalty for their printed work. As high as 95% regional language authors are deprived of royalty due to lack of publishers who are willing to print their books.

The Pratilipi platform solves both reader and publisher problem in one shot. Readers have the choice to read in their own mother tongue, on any device, anytime. On offer are stories, poems, articles and ebooks. Pratilipi’s interface also allows readers to connect with their favourite authors, and engage with them on a deeper level. Authors on Pratilipi can self-publish their writing using the web-based publishing platform for free. Authors can also distribute their work, set a price for their work, see their own analytics and measure their own performance. International platforms like Qidian (Chinese), Wattpad (English) and Amazon Kindle have demonstrated the effectiveness of self-publishing platforms.

A close look at the readers on the platform shows that 23% live outside India and a majority (59%) are under 30 years of age. Delhi, Mumbai and Pune are the top 3 Indian cities from where readers access the platform. And repeat readers on Pratilipi far outnumber new readers – over 60% of their monthly readership comes from repeat readers. Consumption on the platform is mostly driven by young Indians from metros and Tier 1 cities who consume content mostly on their mobile devices.

Pratilip’s digital approach to the business brings down two major costs involved in physical printing and distribution – two major ailments affecting the offline publishing world. The possibility to engage and interact with readers makes self-publishing an attractive avenue for the writer, who would otherwise have no idea about his readership. Pratilipi is also strongly focused on building communities that helps the writer engage more and more with his/her reader’s, thereby helping them build brand loyalty among their reader base. Technology gives rise to a number of possibilities for these small time authors who would otherwise be lost in oblivion, and Pratilipi is enabling all of this, by being at the right place, at the right time.

The cumulative experience of the founders — Prashant, Rahul, Shally, Sankar and Ranjeet – who’ve worked at Amazon, TCS, Vodafone and Citibank, gives them enough experience to be able to make the platform a success. Even as the buzz for 4G and Digital India grows louder, Pratilipi is offering the new generation an option to adopt the age-old habit of reading through the latest technological innovations. Perhaps this is just what the doctor ordered?

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