Book Delivery is bringing more than books to Vientiane, Laos; it is also igniting the startup culture in the city. I recently caught up with Kingsada Sengsavang, one of the founders, and asked about their journey in building Book Delivery.
Thank you for taking the time to share your story. I remember 2 years ago you had mentioned that you wanted to create a business. Can you start off by letting us know, what is Book Delivery and what are the services that Book Delivery provides?
Book Delivery, one of the most notable startups based in Vientiane, Laos, sells and delivers books, magazines and newspapers online. Having a hard time [finding] where to buy books (they are expensive), customers can order them on our platform and we deliver them right in front of their doorsteps.
What inspired you to create Book Delivery and how did you form your team?
Most of us met at a startup weekend. We didn’t know each other at that time, but it became clear that we have the same passion for books. We started Book Delivery at the Vientiane Startup Weekend. Even though we did not receive any prizes, we launched a company a week later with an ambitious aim to inspire Lao people to read more books and create local writers to produce knowledgeable books for society. Because we love books, we know that it’s hard to get books in the country. Many people have to cross the border to Thailand just to buy books.
In the U.S., books are so accessible that we take it for granted. It’s great that your team is making books more accessible to Lao people. How did you start Book Delivery?
We started the company from five co-founders and most of them are students. The first week we created a Facebook page and received about 25 orders. We did not have any capital at that time so we agreed that each person would contribute for 30 USD in order to get books from suppliers. The second week we got more than 80 orders, and of course we did not have enough money to get books. We have to ask customers to pay us first so we could pay suppliers. That is the story of Book Delivery. Over the past year of operation, we delivered more than 10,000 books across the country.
That is awesome! Aside from delivering thousands of books, what do you consider as your successes so far?
We have a long way to go! We want to dominate the Lao book market, and within a couple of months we are going to launch an e-book platform, which customers can [use to] read books on our application. Now everyone can read a book everywhere!
Entrepreneurs often talk about the crucial relationship between success and failure. What role do ‘failures’ play in your organization?
We see failures as a path to success. As a startup, we have to fail fast and learn a long way. Know how and when to pivot an idea. The most important thing is to take action!
Who are your mentors and what are some of the memorable advice that they gave you?
Our mentors are from the books we read every day. The Book Delivery team is required to attend the book club where we gather and read books about leadership, biography and so on. For example, we learned a lot by reading a book about Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs who want to start their own ventures?
Just do it now! Don’t wait until you think you are ready. Start small, but dream big. More importantly, understand your customers by knowing what they want, but not what you want.
If you could share one memorable moment during your time with Book Delivery, what would it be?
When we work together until midnight and work very hard in order to achieve our goal – we did not think much about money at that time. We just do what we love and care about.
What do you imagine Book Delivery would be like in 5 years?
We will dominate the book market in Laos, and we will publish our own books and put them online on our application. We will introduce new products made by local people and help them sell online.
I’ll definitely keep an eye out for what your team has in store. I look forward to seeing Book Delivery grow and contribute greatly to the literary and business landscape of Laos.