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We got pluggd today. We have been getting several useful feedback about the website (trust me, all the benefits of getting pluggd deserves a post of its own). However one of the most asked questions is why will I use your site since I buy from xyz store only. I was answering the post in the comments but then realized that the topic needs to answered in a lot more detail.

The relevance of mysmartprice will depend upon evolution of the market structure of the online books industry in India. How many serious players are going to be there. If the market gets dominated by a single player then obviously there is no place for sites like mysmartprice. So the question that we shall be asking ourselves is that will the online books market get monopolized? My conviction is that the answer to that question will change in the immediate (next 12 months), medium term (1-5 years) and long term (beyond 5 years).

I agree, reluctantly, with most of the commentator that there are a couple of dominant players in the market and hence a simple price comparison engine does not make a lot of sense.  May be the situation will continue for the next 1 year or so. However I strongly believe that it will change dramatically beyond that and we shall see a much higher level of competition. That belief is based on the following facts/logic/beliefs.

  1. The online books market in India at Rs. 100.0 crore a year is only 1% of the total books market. If you agree with me that the share is set to increase, then you will also agree that it will attract new startups.
  2. We are set to see a much improved focus on the online business by the physical stores as the market share from the division increases. That is how business priorities get set in all big companies and we are counting on the fact that books market will be no different.
  3. Sites like mysmartprice will also help in increasing the competition. Go through the last few reviews of online books stores by pluggd.in. Here is what Ashish wrote “Having said that, competition can’t be played only on pricing – SimplyBooks doesn’t host some of the latest books (like Cyrus Broacha’s ‘The World according to..’, or even ‘Simply Fly’). Very valid point but what if there 10s of sites like that, each with fewer number of books but at a lower price and better service. I hear you say “but it is inconvenient”. Do you think presence of a single starting point will change that response of yours?

To conclude, we are bullish on this product because we believe that competition in the e commerce space in general and online book retailing in particular is only beginning.

Finally if you are wondering if we will continue to be only a book price comparison engine, then trust me picture abhi baaki hai dost….In the meanwhile two posts that will help you realize the method behind my seeming madness 1. Ten rules of web startups by Evan Williams of Twitter and 2. Feature, product, business or company, what are you building by pluggd.in.

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  1. Get rid of multiple entries for different editions of the same book.
  2. Improve algo to identify popularity of any particular book
  3. Expand the data structure to accomodate 1 million books without compromising speed

I will keep deleting points from here as they get completed and add more tasks as I can think of any. Suku, is working on the UI front so I do not have to worry about that aspect.

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Since I intend to record the journey of MySmartPrice on this blog, logically the first post has to be about how I hit upon this idea about starting a price search engine for books. There are four things that conspired to set me up with this side project of me that has grown up to be a really big one.

  • I have been buying books for ages now. Ever since I got a job, as a principle I have stopped buying pirated books. That does not mean I am happy about the excessive price charged by the book stores.
  • I was working on a separate website for recording the mobile phone prices in India. Keeping up with the ever changing project has rendered that process useless. I continue to maintain it for a SEO project which is a different story.
  • I  chanced upon a book price search engine by Swaroop through a post on Flipkart. I will always remain thankful for that since I have gained a lot of insight by going through his blog. If you intend to ever start your startup then do subscribe to his blog.
  • A lot of users of Swaroop’s project liked the product. However many of them were asking for a way to start with the title of the book instead of the isbn number. I guess Swaroop has not made the changes since it was not his idea to start with and he might be busy with his new job at Infibeam. Coincidentally I am on the exit mode from my job to get into the startup phase.

One of the biggest inspirations for working on this project has been my own desire to prove to myself that I continue to be a geek even 5 years after I stopped coding to go to IIM Bangalore. There are many improvements that are required even now and I will talk about them in future posts. However I am already proud of the product that I have.

I will close this post by wishing myself and MySmartPrice luck and by thanking Tapas for introducing me to the wonderful blog of Swaroop and Swaroop for providing me such a nice homework to bring out the coder in me 🙂