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abhishek-barari-qpekaThey are a team of new-gen entrepreneurs who are “obsessed with creating the most rewarding reading and publishing platform.”  They call it Qpeka: A YouTube for Reading, only more rewarding for readers, writers and publishers.

In the last 3 months since Qpeka went live, they’ve had over 10000 readers, 50000 page views and over 1000 registered users including 200 authors and close to 200 works published. And in this short journey so far, they also got selected in the Nasscom Accelerator, The IBM Catalyst Program and TiE Bootcamp.

We caught up with the Abhishek Barari, Co-Founder at Qpeka.com to get an insight into what this unique venture is all about.

What Is Qpeka?

Few years back, the concept of Qpeka started with the aim of creating the YouTube for Reading. YouTube had created a big role in democratizing media content. Even though in the beginning content publishers were hesitant, over time they realized that YouTube was in fact an opportunity for them to reach out to newer audiences. One of the great features of YouTube was that it was easy to upload and Free! They believed in wide variety of content instead of focusing on a particular kind of content and depending on ads. Eventually it has grown to such a level that people depended on it virtually for everything audio-visual.

We aim to do something similar for written content. We wanted to make a platform for publishers of any kind of written content be it books, stories, poems, articles, personal blogs, comics, magazines, research papers, to be able to easily upload their content and make it available to readers for free. This would help them gain visibility and traction to become popular. Like Youtube, once they would become popular we provide them a substantial cut from the ad-revenue that we generate.

So with this objective, we started developing Qpeka.

Qpeka – The Name

A lot of people ask us the story behind the name Qpeka. Well, Q is one of the rarest alphabets used for names. There are a handful of popular websites which start from Q (except Quora of course). qpeka-logoThis meant that with the recentbrowser technology which auto-completed names, chances that Qpeka would come in the auto-fill options once someone would type Q were very high. We can confirm that Qpeka now is the fourth option if you type Q!

The sound aspect revolved around creating a name which had at the most 3 sounds and in a rising tone. The visual aspect involved using alphabets which were mirror images and would aid recurrence. “qp” fit the bill.

So with little experimentation Qpeka was formed and instantly clicked with all those who heard it or saw it!

The First Roadblock

We discovered that for Qpeka to make sense for larger content, we had to work out a payment structure which would credit the publishers in proportion to the revenue we generated instead of a one-time flat royalty structure. This was because there was no guarantee that the entire work would be read once started.

Hence we came up with the concept of earn-per-page-read for the publishers. This meant that we track the pages a reader reads and pay the publishers accordingly.

The Innovative Solution

Once we started working on the concept, we realized that defining a page was near about impossible given the wide variety of screens. To solve this we came up with a novel solution of a Peka Unit. A Peka Unit is our definition of a page which is 200 words. This makes the payment modules display independent. So publishers earn every time a reader reads 200 words. The Peka Unit is now patented.

The Peka Unit made an interesting solution for a lot of problems we discovered later, such as:

#1 Educational Books: Often students end up photocopying parts of books. If we could simplify the payment systems, they could now access parts of the content digitally while paying only for those. So suppose a student has an exam the following day, and he needs to refer to something urgently, he cannot buy that book nor ask his friends given the constraint of time, but he can look for it on Qpeka and save it for reading.

#2 E-Magazines/ Newspapers find it hard to convince their readers to subscribe to them. Also some of the content requires great research and does not command great traffic to provide for free. They can now use the pay as you read facility on their platforms by using our technology and mark content which they want their readers to pay for.

Exclusivity Through Unparalleled Features

With all these things in mind, we kept on rolling out features which seemed impossible to many. Some of these include

  1. Support for over 300 Languages: Because English is not the native language of 70% of the world population.
  2. Reading Points: We actually give credit points for discovering the newer authors. This provides the required visibility to newer works from authors. (You will soon be able to claim various discounts using these points)
  3. Seamless publishing: To get your poems, articles and stories published with minimum fuss.
  4. Publish under Pen-Name: To protect your true identity, if you wish to!
  5. Plagiarism protection: The content on Qpeka is now impossible to copy directly. So now your works are secured while they reach thousands of readers and fans all over the world.
  6. In-content images: To make your works appear more engaging and interesting by adding images.
  7. Highlights: Allows readers to mark the parts they like or need for reference. This is auto-saved on the cloud.

So when combined with Free Reading and Content Monetization you get a complete publishing platform like none other.

The Qpeka Team

The team comprises of 2 full time Co-Founders in Abhishek Barari and Rahul Shelke, and a senior developer in Shashank Mestry. By qualification, Abhishek is a Chartered Accountant and a Lawyer. He was in in KPMG in International Taxation for 4 years prior to starting Qpeka in 2012.

Team Qpeka

Rahul is an M.Tech from the prestigious VJTI in Mumbai and has 3 years of experience working with various startups. Shashank has done his B.Tech and worked with Rolta prior to joining Qpeka. There he handled a collaboration project involving NASA.

We also have Dhaval Sukhia on board as Co-Founder and Investor. Our team has been together for the last 9 months and what sets us apart is that we are more friends than colleagues.

The USP: How Qpeka Is Different From Other Online Publishing Platforms

Qpeka unlike any other platform provides a unique combination of ease of publishing, democratization of reading, security from plagiarism and unique monetization. This puts us in a better position than both blogs as well as E-book selling platforms.

To ensure that a reader gets to read the quality content they like, we are developing an advanced recommendation engine. Separately, we are also creating an incentive system for crowd-sourcing editorial and critiquing to new content.

Qpeka’s Point System Is Better Than A Paid Subscription Because..

It encourages discoverability and democratizes reading – a reader who has points can now read a premium work on pay per page basis which would otherwise cost a lot more. If they like it, they can buy more points to read it, or move on to another read. They can also earn more points by discovering new works. This gives publishers access to readers who would not have explored their works otherwise without giving access to free chapters.

Learning So Far

Our key learning as a startup has been to Build small, build frequently. Focus on what the users want rather than what features you want to develop. Many a times users don’t care for complex “cool” features, instead they like small uncomplicated features which serve a need for them.

Just focus on talking to people in your industry as much as you can. Don’t worry about your idea getting copied. Ideas are worth nothing. It’s execution which is really difficult, and not everyone can do it!

Qpeka was a big challenge since I did not have a technical background, nor a full-time technical team. We had Manoj, a brilliant guy, who was helping us along with his daytime job. But the workload got too much for him. As a result our first launch in December 2012, was a complete failure. We had to take out the site in an hour. It also happened to be my birthday and was the worst birthday of my life.

But I mustered the courage to continue and laboured along. Then in March Qpeka suffered another setback when Manoj informed he had to go to the US for his Masters. Qpeka became a one-man-show for the next 4 months with no real progress happening. Then Rahul came on board. We also had 3 interns but the project was so challenging that we failed to get anything substantial out of the interns in the next 5 months.

On 20 December 2013 we got shortlisted by Nasscom to present at the Techstock event in Mumbai. But we didn’t have a demo at hand and it was our first public presentation. That’s when we had the second biggest failure of our startup life. The strangest coincidence was that it was also my birthday. It was like an outside force had taken it upon itself to get me to shut shop.

But that was not to be. We then got Shashank on board and from there have been able to recover strongly to get shortlisted by IBM for their Catalyst Program and by TiE for their Bootcamp.

My Learning as an Enterpreneur:

1. Focus on building a good team. If you are not a Techie and are working on a Tech product then get a Tech Co-Founder and give him equity. Don’t get interns who don’t have experience. They can prove to be more expensive in terms of both time and money. Instead get someone with experience.

2. Always have some cash ready and calculate the burn rate and the runway you have. Have your first version out at least 3 months before you are about to run out of runway.

3. Either focus on revenue oriented self-sustaining model for bootstrapping OR focus on traction and growth for getting investors. Very rarely will you be able to do both. If you fail at one only then try the other. Choosing correctly will save you a lot of time. And if both fail, close it down!

Growth And Funding

We plan to reach 1000 authors in the next 2-3 months and 10,000 authors in the next 6 months achieving a week on week growth of 25%.

So far we have been self-funded and plan to raise around INR 10 Million in the next 2-3 months. We are currently being mentored by Sampad Swain from InstaMojo and Ankit Utreja and Avlesh Singh from WebEngage. A couple of friends are helping us by investing in us. We also plan to bring out premium content in the next 6-12 months to support bestsellers and also give possibility to our amateur authors to grow beyond.

With respect to the features, we plan to come out with plugins, allowing publishers to host the content they published on Qpeka from their own domains as well and an eco-system for self-publishing services for authors such as editing, cover-designing, printing, editorial and marketing in the next 12 months.

Click here to visit Qpeka.