It was while on a train journey that Engineer turned Journalist, Kuruvila Chacko, came hitting upon the idea of starting a digital publishing startup to help first time writers. During his short stint as a reporter in an English daily, Kuruvila had the chance to meet several of the talented young writers who are being mercilessly spurned by their publishers. Many of these youngsters who are covered with ant hills of rejection, neglect, reluctance or lack of means, quit writing after their dream of getting published fails relentlessly.
Thought the idea was born in his mind two and a half years ago, Kuruvila too, found it hard to materialize it initially. It is after meeting with three IT students -Vishnu Unnithan, Vishnu G P and Suhair Zain – from the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), while attending a field project organized by an NGO working for the welfare of children, in Kochi, that the idea of ‘Valmeeki’ (www.valmeeki.com) took its wings.
Stories, poems, novellas, movie scripts, graphic novels, student’s theses, anything can be published online in a digital book format, free of cost, within hours. Valmeeki also offers a royalty of 50-60% for the books sold online. At the outset, their focus is on Malayalam and English eBooks, especially the jovial and raw writings of the rural folks.
“The writers from the rural towns of the state find it difficult to pitch their books before a publisher. Moreover, these folks lack the expertise or sophistication to market their books to the public. With ‘Valmeeki’, we aim to reinvent the parallel world of publishing” says Kuruvila Chacko, who heads the team at Valmeeki.com.
Writers can upload their works in MS Word or PageMaker for text and in jpeg for illustration content, and those who lack typing skills can send in their manuscripts as well. Valmeeki vouches for the book to be ready for sale online, after the necessary editing, in just 72 hours.
The e-books published can be bought by the readers world over through internet banking or the balance amount available on their mobile phones, says Kuruvilla. Writers can track the progress of the sales of their uploaded books through unique author dashboards. Valmeeki solely encourages books with 20-70 pages. The pages are restricted, as large volumes will not be popular with mobile phone readers. In the case of large books, Valmeeki offers to publish it in installments. All files will be converted to Valmeeki’s patent-pending reader format which compresses the books to as low as 50-100kb (enabling easy download and e-reading), before being published.
When traditional publishing takes months to bring out a book, Valmeeki promises to do it instantly. The published books are made available online as well as on smart phone/tablet-based applications, from where readers can download, read and save the purchased e-books. The payment can be made online through Fortumo, a secured payment gateway or mobile balance transfers.
Presently, 44 books are available on the Valmeeki site, including that of Toms, the renowned cartoonist. ‘Swargam Naanikkumbol’ and ‘Ente Thoolika Chalikkumbol’, two of his books are now on sale on Valmeeki – being the first writing attempts of the famed cartoonist. Philip Chakkalamattam’s ‘Kodum Vanathile Apoorva Kazhchakal’ is another book in two volumes that is on sale that narrates his travel experience to Agasthyakoodam on a Java bike, around 30 years ago. There are scores of other books available on their sites which can be purchased by spending Rs 5 to Rs 20.
Valmeeki was redeemed from the ant hills of the initial tribulations by the ‘My Enterprise’ project of KITCO, the premier Engineering, Management & Project consultancy firm, based in Kerala. Valmeeki is one of the first projects being realized through the ‘My Enterprise’ project, by KITCO, for the start-ups, said Mr. Cyriac Davies, Managing Director, KITCO. “Eight projects similar to this are being hatched in the incubator of KITCO. One by one, they will come out of the shell soon. Our aim is to hold the hands of the new entrepreneurs and initiate them into the market. An entrepreneurship culture has to be nurtured. Small industrial projects like this are welcome to the Technology Business Incubator at KITCO,” he added.
The project gained shape under the mentorship of K.C. Chandrasekharan Nair, Assistant Principal Consultant and Sajith Kumar E. V., Project Manager, KITCO. KITCO holds a minor stake of 10% in the project. Yakub Purayil, a businessman from Kozhikode, has made 25% investment and the four youth together have a stake of 65%. KITCO aims to support 50 such projects per year, said K.C. Chandrasekharan Nair. “KITCO will give the necessary technological, financial and marketing support for such innovative projects,” he said.
Valmeeki.com which targets to publish 500 books in 45 days and 1500 books within the next 9 months presently provides services in Malayalam and English languages. Very soon they are to start digital publishing in Tamil and Hindi as well.