Subscription boxes evoke a sense of nostalgia and surprise. In recent times the idea of activity based boxes has become very popular. However, for the very first time the magic of reading finds itself packaged in a monthly box. Enchantico is a subscription box comprising books and activities – designed to bring back the love of reading for children.
Founders Ravi Subramanian, Sangram Surve and Shalini Bajaj hit upon this idea a little over a year back. Just one year on they already have about 200 subscribers, with new additions day by day.
So, what’s in the box? Each month, Enchantico delivers a box comprising of at least two carefully curated age-appropriate books and one activity designed around one of the books to subscribers. Their website, www.enchantico.in, gives details about the age classifications and costing.
Bookedforlife takes a peek into the idea and the box…in conversation with Co-founder Shalini Bajaj.
Can you talk about the process of selection of books?
We have a tie up with about eleven publishing houses. Every month we get an intimation of books that are new, written by both Indian and foreign writers. We take the entire set of books into consideration. Our curator panel headed by Lubaina Bandukwala, parents, and Ravi and myself, we go through the entire list and shortlist titles. We have discussions about the topic and relevance to age group. We shortlist three books per age group and get in touch with publishers. We go through the pre-read copies. At this stage we may reject some books. By the time the release date comes, we are ready. At any given time, our boxes have at least two books.
Curation is something that sets you apart…
Curation happens through a panel from the latest books that the publisher sends us. If the book is not the latest, then its distribution in the country has been limited. Many retail stores are not able to stock some of these fantastic titles for a number of reasons, such as preference to fast selling popular fiction. Given that, we have access to a whole new set of books that even stores don’t have. Curation starts from what is it that we have access to and what it is that’s new. We also include interesting nonfiction books and special editions of classics as well.
There is also one activity included in each box. Can you tell us about it?
Parallel to the selection process the design team works on the activity: we take into consideration learning, motor skills, sensorial skills and engagement to take forward the concept of the book. The concept needs to be different. Some of our subscribers are hard-core readers and for them the activity is secondary, albeit a beautiful add on. But then there is a group of reluctant readers who need an incentive to get engaged with the book. The activity is a great way to increase engagement and make the reading more fun. For example, we had a book about an elephant who was invited for a pajama party, but had no pajamas. Our activity was a paint-it-yourself pillow! This brought in the concept of sleepovers. Another book had a lighthouse playing a key role in the story. Hence, the activity involved making a working lighthouse, which could be used as a table lamp!
What if there is a repeat and a child has read the book included in the box?
Technically the possibility of a repeat does exist. But, let me share this example. One of our subscribers, an 11-year-old girl is a voracious reader. Her mother was worried about the possibility of a repeat. She’s been subscribing for six months now and there has not been a single instance of repeat! There are many beautiful books which people have not heard of.
What is your assessment of the business model of a subscription box?
Initially people go into trial mode. If the box appeals and is looked forward to it works. Right now, this is a metro phenomenon but moving to two-tier cities. As long as there is need, it will always have traction. In the long term there has to be newness and scope for engaging further, or else it will lose hold. This engagement is for us to explore. We have maintained the element of surprise so far. A kid loves the concept of a surprise. Currently the concept is doing very well but it will have to have a lot of legs to be able to survive in the long term. We need to create an ecosystem around it and it has to have value in the long term.
You have your own digital currency- litpoints?
Yes, but this will be in the second phase. We intend to have a digital platform. There needs to be interaction with kids, parents and recommendations need to start coming from them as well. This platform will encourage a community of readers to come together. We want to reward this community. So litpoints would be our currency that is a reward for participation and can be redeemed for book related rewards.
E-books have now become an integral part of people’s lives. How does this factor play in books for children?
It’s not something that you can stop. I have nothing against e-books, but at a fundamental level a tablet or device could be detrimental. A book takes an X amount of time to read. The physical feel of paper, the joy of buying and placing a bookmark is something different. We hope parents realise, especially for young children, that they should be allowed to explore joys of a physical book. As a child I remember I used to get excited about getting a big book, or accessing beautiful illustrations without having to zoom in. An e-book cannot give that visual joy. The joy of your own book where you have your secrets embedded is different.
What are your future plans for this concept?
The idea was always to give a product that people did not have, with a quality that they would only expect an international brand to provide. The product brings kids back to an environment where they can have active exchanges. We want to make kids fall in love with reading again. Reading ultimately has the power to impact the social fabric of the country. We are looking at a full 360 degree eco system with festivals, interactions, school tie-ups and ultimately mentoring readers through a program which engages them through interactions with leading writers.
In the age of the click of a button or swipe of the screen, it is heartening to know that the good old magic of books has been rekindled, and that too with an element of surprise, month after month!