Lenro is making it easy for readers to exchange books. All because its founder Saurabh Hooda had too many books.
Govaradhan, a 62-year-old man, used to feel very lonely in his new apartment society in Delhi. But little did he know that the solution to his woes was right at his fingertips. A friend introduced this avid reader to Lenro – a platform that allows you to borrow and lend books in your neighbourhood.
“I felt so good when I received Govardhan’s email thanking me for coming up with this website. These experiences from users make Lenro what it is today,” says Saurabh Hooda, founder of Lenro.
Saurabh has been reading books since he was a child.
He loves fiction and sci-fi and can’t get enough of his favourite book Atlas Shrugged.
“Books have always been a part of my life. Even when I was working with Infosys, I always found time to read. One day it struck me that I had a huge pile of books and other readers I knew probably had equally big collections,” he says.
This is how the idea of a book exchange platform, as a solution to the problem of people hoarding books, was born. Saurabh conducted a survey among 100 people living in apartments in Dwarka in New Delhi. He interviewed people over the phone and also sent them online questionnaires. At the end of the survey, Saurabh figured that 75% of people didn’t mind lending books to others.
This is when Saurabh decided it was time to bid his IT career goodbye and start Lenro – a portmanteau of the words lend and borrow.
Lenro tries to address two issues. The first is: bridging the gap between the borrower and the lender.
Photo source: Facebook
For instance, if you want to read Gone With the Wind, you just need to log on to the website, find the person in your neighbourhood who has the book, and click on the ‘borrow’ option. Once the lender accepts your request, a window opens up between the two of you. You can then take the conversation forward.
In order to help people feel comfortable with strangers, Lenro verifies the social media pages of each of its users and displays the links to their profiles.
After verifying each other, the lender and borrower can then decide on a time and place to meet and exchange books. Once the borrower and the lender meet, they can discuss a deadline by which the borrower will return the book. On its part, Lenro sends emails every two weeks to the borrower, reminding him or her to return the book.
The second issue that Lenro tries to address is the distance between people.
“These days, especially in cities, people don’t know their neighbours. What if your neighbour has an interesting collection of books and wants to lend them too?” asks Saurabh.
According to Saurabh, books always break the ice between people. And Lenro has helped introduce many book lovers to each other in their localities.
Most of Lenro’s users are from Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. But there are also a couple of users from two-tier cities like Jaipur and Guwahati. As of February 2016, Lenro has more than 4,000 active users in India.
“Lenro is a hyper local site and that’s the beauty of it. Tomorrow, two people from a small town in India can get on it and start using it. And after more people join, the base grows and everyone gets access to a good variety of books,” he says.
During weekdays most exchanges happen in colleges and offices. Over the weekends, when people have more time, they exchange books in their neighbourhoods or in other parts of their cities.
The weekend sees 8-10 book exchanges in every city.
Photo source: Flickr/Kirrus
Lenro has some other exciting features as well. If you are a lender and have too many books to individually add to the catalogue, you just need to take a picture of your books and send it to Lenro. The team will make a list and add it to your catalogue the next day. If you have an account on Goodreads, the Lenro team can even export your entire collection to your account and you can choose how many books you want to lend on Lenro.
The website also has the option for users to review and rate books. Saurabh says he finally feels like he’s found his calling. “The chance to work with books is all I could have asked for,” he says.. Lenro’s five-member team operates out of a small office in Delhi. Saurabh has funded the venture with his own personal savings.
“We were just waiting to get our system set up and see the response. Now that we see a lot of traction online, I’m planning to approach investors to take Lenro to newer heights,” he says.
Visit the Lenro website to check it out. Saurabh can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org