With immense happiness I would like to introduce you to Amrut Deshmukh aka the Booklet Guy is the brain behind the initiative — Make India Read — wherein he picks up the bestsellers and converts them into audio and text summaries that are just 20 minute long.
In an interview with Monideepa Mrinal Roy (The Keen Writer) The Booklet Guy shares several interesting facts about his journey.
You are a reader and an entrepreneur.who do you think you are, like what defines you?
I see myself as a guy on a mission. A national mission to make the people of India read.
How did you feel after having 3 failed start ups?
After having three failed start-ups, I went into severe depression for 1 and half month. I was living only on morning breakfast. Lunch and dinner was no more part of the routine. I have reduced to skeleton. One night when I was all alone at home and could not think of a reason to wake up next morning my mind cross upon the thought of suicide.
After 3 failed start ups how did you motivate yourself to get up and get going and work on creating another start up which his a huge success now?
When the thought of suicide crossed my mind, I got the materials needed to commit suicide. I stood up from the couch and walk three steps 1..2..3.. and boom! the lights went off. There was a power cut. Slowly and cautiously I walked back 3 steps and sat on the same couch. The thought of suicide stayed in my mind for one full minute. I had no clue what to do next. Then suddenly I remembered the words of my elder brother “Amrut,whenever you are stuck up with the question ‘what next?’ read random.” I somehow grabbed a random book lying nearby put my phone’s flashlight on and started reading the book. After reading the book I decided to face what I must face- the monster of my life the fail entrepreneur within me. The ugly thought of suicide never came back in my mind again.
How did you think of starting this start up and your mission “MAKE INDIA READ?
I had gone to watch Bahubali with a friend and we happened to reach the theatre about 15 minutes early. Since we had the time to kill, I started talking to my friend about the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey that I had just finished reading. My friend was so gripped by my narration that he casually suggested the idea of writing book summaries. The idea was so fascinating that it stayed with me. After I went home, I put the summary in text form and shared it with a couple of my friends for feedback. They all liked the idea and shared it with their circle of friends. That’s how it all started. Within a week, some 1,000 odd people joined me on WhatsApp.
How do you get the books? Do you buy them?
No, I cannot afford to buy all the books. I believe in beg, borrow, steal.
Fortunately, I have tied up with librarywala.com, so I rent some of the books. Besides, they deliver at your doorstep, so the logistics is taken care of. The best part is they have given me a lifetime membership.I have a personal collection of a few thousand books at my home.
How did people join you?
The idea was simple — I’d review one book a week. I’d prepare the summary in simple English and keep it short, so you can finish reading it in under 20 minutes. If it was a big book, I’d summarise it in two or three parts and share it every Wednesday. Since there was nothing like this available, word got around quickly and people starting reaching out to me — adding me on Facebook and WhatsApp. I wasn’t prepared for it. So, the inevitable happened — my WhatsApp crashed.
What kind of feedback have you been getting?
Oh, it’s been great. Kids, students, working professionals and homemakers are reading my summaries. Once I received a call from Vishal Kumar Jain, the president of the Blind Graduates’ Forum of India. He called up to congratulate me for starting something like this. He said he liked the idea of ‘hearing books’ — a boon for the visually impaired. He’s even invited me to speak at one of their events later this year. I felt really motivated.
What is the one thing or habit that is game-changer in your life?
Reading books is what changed my life altogether as I mentioned earlier.
You were operating out of WhatsApp. Then how did the app come into existence?
At a point I was sending WhatsApp messages to 1 lakh friends. One day, I got an Email from WhatsApp saying that I was banned from using WhatsApp. They thought that I am I was spamming and doing some chief marketing. I then thought of what next. Next I asked all my community friends to email WhatsApp saying that we are on a noble intention to make India read. We are not spamming. On the very next day the ban was lifted. This experience made me think that in the long run I want to make millions of Indians read and WhatsApp may not be an appropriate platform so with the help of few of my friends we develop a free mobile app called booklet. Thus, booklet app was launched and world book day 23rd April.
How does the Booklet App work?
The booklet app is completely free with no irritating ads or subscription fees. I have summarized almost 200 books till now. But I don’t simply dump all these 200 booklets in your phone when install the app. The app works on the idea called “READ 1 GET 1.” You can download a new booklet of your choice only if you read or listen to the existing booklet. You can get as many booklet as you want provided you keep reading or listening and not just accumulating.
What are your future plans?
I plan to introduce a Hindi Booklet and another one for the kids that would be called Grandma’s Booklet. I am looking to infuse a game mechanism in the App. Something like, the more you read, the more points you get. This will inspire more people to read books. I want Booklet to be as big as Facebook or Twitter.
I know that you came this far, now you must be thinking how to get your hand on these book summaries?
Just type ‘Booklet’ and drop this message via WhatsApp to Deshmukh (on +91 8652553355) and he will start sending you summaries, as and when he finishes a book. Besides, one can also download the official app — Booklet – Make India Read. The link for the app is given below. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.booklet.app