Amrut Deshmukh needs little introduction. He is the founder of the Make India Read mission. He comes up with audio and text summaries of books on a weekly basis. He does this via Whats app and his own app, the Booklet App. Readers come to know about new books through alerts.
I had the opportunity of interacting with Amrut recently. He and I exchanged some thoughts. I have captured the excerpts of this conversation below.
Pleasant Reading to our readers!
Pleasantreads: Hi Amrut, tell our readers about “Amrut Deshmukh”. What’s his story?
A Chartered Accountant only by education not by heart. After completing CA studies, I got into Stock Market to know how they make EASY money. Never found the answer. No job satisfaction. All gamblers around me. Money became less exciting. So thought of getting into some noble profession like teaching.
Taught CA students. Subjects like Financial Management & Accountancy for free.Was always fascinated of using latest technology in whatever I do. Started my own CA firm to suffice my kitchen. Never enjoyed. Tried 3 innovative ideas as start-ups. Failed.
Now on a mission “Make India Read” through “Booklet App” which freely available on Play store and Apple Store.
Pleasantreads :Amrut, you are a professionally qualified Chartered Accountant, how did “Make India Read” Happen?
One day my CA friend invited me to a movie ‘Bahubali’. We reached the movie theatre 15 mins before the showtime. Just to kill time, I narrated him the key takeaways of the book I recently read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. My friend was so impressed. He said, “Amrut, I don’t get enough time to read. You are an avid reader. If you can share short summary of whichever book you read, your reading habit can benefit me.” He said it casually and was engrossed into the movie but I could not. I saw a huge opportunity in this idea. During interval, under the pretext of attending nature’s call, I escaped from the cinema hall. Spent sleepless night and decided to execute the idea within a week. Being a non IT guy, I had no knowledge of developing a website or an app. Words of TT Rangarajan from his book “Unposted Letter” poked me – It’s not important what you have. It’s important what you DO with what you have. I have WhatsApp! I started sharing a book summary every week with 15 of my close friends on WhatsApp and asked them to share with their friends. Within 2 weeks I got 1000 requests on WhatsApp. I was thrilled by the massive response. I named it as Mission “Make India Read”. Through a survey I realized, to my disappointment, only 10% were actually reading my summaries! All were just boasting about joining the mission. I was dejected. The whole idea was to help you read a fat book in just 20 mins! But that was not happening. Ok.. Don’t wanna read the summary too? Cool! I will read it for you! So I bought a nice microphone and started recording the summaries in my own voice. Shared the summaries on WhatsApp in text and audio form. And that was an instant hit! People started listening to my summaries while commuting in bus/train, while cooking, jogging. The way we listen to music. On reaching the number of 1 lakh readers, my WhatsApp started crashing very often. It was unable to handle the huge traffic. I asked my IT friends to help me develop an App. Finally on World Book Day i.e. 23rd April 2016, we launched a free mobile called “Booklet” App Links:
Pleasantreads: What is your process behind picking a particular book for review? Do your readers request you, or you make that choice? Walk us through the process.
I mostly pick bestsellers — typically books that have sold at least a million copies.For me, the books have to have some action value — after reading the book, one has to be inspired to implement it. That means, the books cannot be fictional.I prefer self-help books, autobiographies, books on management principles etc.Once I decide the book, I e-mail the author or publisher and request their permission.
Pleasantreads:What is the booklet app all about? Tell us about it..
We are book lovers, on a social mission to cultivate the habit of reading amongst the youth. Every week we read a bestselling book and make a Booklet (a book summary), way more than a book review. Ok..Don’t like to read? We have audio book summaries too! You can now read or listen to a fat book in just 20 mins! Booklet is a free app for book lovers! We give detailed book summary and not just book review. We cover all genres. Be it business & management, fiction, biography, self help. Detailed book summary for voracious readers and audio books in short for non-readers!
Pleasantreads:So, any plans to monetize this effort?
Not yet. I hadn’t seen this as a revenue generating idea.In fact, I don’t appreciate the using words like product, subscribers, club, profits.But if I have to take this to the next level, I need to come up with a plan.One of the ideas I am considering is to tie up with retailers like Flipkart, Amazon.If someone buys the book after reading my summary, I will get a commission.
Pleasantreads: Of all the books that you have read so far, which is your favourite book and why?
Ignited Minds by A P J Abdul Kalam: Kalam Sir used to always appeal to the youth to use their skills to build a better future. In the book, he has pointed out specific deficiencies that the youth needs to work on and how he visions India at 2020.
Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Spencer Johnson: The book uses cheese as a metaphor for changes in career, relationships, etc and talks about how we can effectively deal with change.
Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray: The book is a must read for everyone; it will change your perspective about the other gender and help you think empathetically about the way they see and understand life.
Pleasantreads:Any advice which you would like to give to our readers @Pleasantreads – both young and old?
Elderly people say that the youth of India is not reading anymore. I disagree. They are reading, but the wrong stuff. They are reading Santa banta jokes, Alia Bhatt PJs and non-veg jokes which are being floated on WhatsApp. I fought with my friends to stop forwarding ugly jokes. But all in vain. Hence I decided to spread some productive stuff by sharing book summaries on WhatsApp. If you have time for FaceBook, you have time for a book.
Pleasantreads: So, any plans for the Future?
With not a single penny spent on marketing, 3 lakh enthusiasts have joined the mission through Booklet App. If bad habits are addictive, good habits are contagious. Given the current pace of growth, we should be spreading the good habit of reading amongst 10 crore Indians by Dec 2017. To reach out to rural India, we have started book summaries in Hindi as well. “Gamification of reading” and “Digital to Physical” are the next 2 revolutionary innovations coming up in Booklet. Through these innovations, I believe, reading will be as addictive as CandyCrush. To make the kids of India read we are coming up with another app called “Grandma’s Booklet.” Mission “Make India Read” is a social project with no commercial aspiration. I promise to give you one book summary in text and audio form every week for the rest of your life. People in Booklet community help me selflessly by lending their voice, translating summaries from Eng into Hindi, spreading word of mouth etc. Readers of Pleasantreads who wish to help me in this mission can get in touch with me through Booklet App. Let’s Make India Read!
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