Match Them, Beat Them, Ignore Them – Interview with FlipGraph Team

Update: FlipGraph has renamed to Coinjoos

We recently covered the latest entrant into the online books market, FlipGraph. FlipGraph is trying to parallely develop a marketplace for second hand books which is almost independent of how they sell the first hand products.

flipgraph logoInterview with FlipGraph Team

1. Why create an additional term as “flips“? Why not deal in Rs. itself?

There are multiple reasons that we went ahead with the “Flip” (aka “Swap”) concept.
a) We wanted to enable users to be able to “recycle” their read/used items. A-book-for-a-book kind of thing. Having such “flips” or “swaps” occurring in the form of real currency would have restricted us to do that.
b) We also wanted to avoid getting into operational hassles of carrying out financial transactions back into individual user accounts or maintain a Rupee account per user on site. It is not easy to automate and so it hinders us to scale (we can employ this in future if Paypal-type-services become super-popular and supported in India).

2. How do you think you will take on established players like Flipkart, Infibeam etc.?

We believe we would in top-3 league pretty soon.
Match-them-in-New-Market + Beat-them-in-Used-Market + Ignore-them-in-innovation is our mantra.

New Books
a) Check our coverage across titles. There would be hardly anything you would not be able to find on FlipGraph. We have established channels with pretty much every major publisher/distributor
b) Compare our prices (we are covered at http://isbn.net.in which you can use as a price comparison engine). We are competitive in almost 80% of cases.
c) We are committed to excellent customer experience. We are sending books to 4 directions of India. We deliver within 2 days most of the cases. Every customer that we are getting, leaves us a comment on the excellence of our post-sale-service.

Used Books
a) We are bringing a new concept to market altogether, in used books. One of the players do not deal in it at all. The other player deals with it but through sellers (who are not competitive at all).
b) Check some of our used books. New copy costs Rs.700 (most of them are imported editions). We are selling them today at 50 bucks (promotional prices of course but still we do not lose money on any of them 🙂 ).

Innovative and Unique Facilities
a) Jeeto Flips – Launching this week – play games like Hangman and Quizzes and win Credits/Flips for your performance. You of course can use your Flips to make purchases.
b) Peek@Earth – Launching in August – see who is reading/listening/watching what in the world, real time. You might find a likeness there and wish to read/listen/watch as well
c) VIP Request – Launching next week – many a times you cannot get a title even in 30 days (out of stock, imported etc.) – we are creating a channel through which you would be able to get such rare items delivered in 10 days using our direct import channel we are working on. Of course user pays “import” price in this case and we are streamlining it for them
d) Rent a book – We are launching renting concept in August where you would be able to rent titles for 3/6/12 months at competitive rates.

3. What about the cost of sending used book to flipgraph, back and forth. Does this justify the price discount enough?

a) We are still experimenting with this concept in India really. We all know what a pain our postal system is, which is our biggest hindrance in scaling it up (compare it with US/UK and we are nowhere near). We are selling lot more new and used books as compared to receiving them from users. Real users feedback is “We are willing to spend on shipping it, but not willing to take the pain of doing it. Wish you can pick them up from us…”

b) We are constantly thinking about how do we solve this problem for user, while still making business sense. Cost is sending an item to FlipGraph is definitely justified as the number of Flips you get back, gets you titles which are worth hundreds of rupees if you buy a new copy. On an average, out of 4000+ used books (and 4000 more in pipeline to be added in inventory), 90% of them would cost more than 300 bucks.

4. Any plans for offline extension, for collection center etc. ?

Yes. Our scalability and coverage is going to be hugely dependent on that. We plan to tie up with major hang-outs in cities first (coffee shops, Malls) where we would try to work out a drop-box facility (do an exchange at site, get a transaction number, put it on book and drop it). We plan to start with Delhi-NCR first.

5. Any operational challenges in handling the books sent to you by user. Scalability?
a) Right now, not really as the volume is not as huge as compared to new and used purchases.
b) From future scalability perspective, we are quite ready attributing to the automation that we have in place. We had run sample-drills and estimated that we would be able to handle 1 such transaction in 1 minute end-to-end (get the book, update in inventory, credit/debit flips, make it available on site immediately for other users). 1000 such transactions in 1 day can be handled by 3 support staff easily as of today. Just an example of we are not ignoring scalability, when we are building technology.

6. On similarity of name and logo with FlipKart.

1) We registered domain name back in 2008, when our founder started his other company. He had the vision and idea to build this service for India and domain was registered back then!! Any other service was not even that popular. Is’nt it?

2) Why choose FlipGraph as the name? You might want to check out FAQ below. We allow “Flipping/Swapping” and we are promoted by “OnGraph Technologies (our parent company) and hence the name.

http://www.flipgraph.com/FAQ.html?topic=productSend#top

3) There is a very popular “Flipping” service in Germany as well (www.hitflip.de). We were inspired to do something similar but customized to India market (that was way back in 2008)

Every name has a reason and we knew our reason :-). When we launched full fledged in Feb, we were in a huge dilemma whether we should consider changing the name. 90% people in team voted to change. 10% voted for keeping it the same. We went ahead with the 10% lot 🙂 .

[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]