Savani brothers Baiju, Gopal and Kishen are challenging the conventional concept of the bookshop as cement and mortar premises.
The trio has formed Educate Yourself Ltd— headquartered in Nairobi’s upmarket Westlands — which is a hybrid of traditional bookshop, an educational materials resource centre, and a books-on-order delivery hub.
They are taking the bookshop to customers, the three are saying.
‘‘We dedicate ourselves to our core calling — inspiring education,’’ is the motto on their website.
“When we talk of educational resources it is not all about books; we also consider special needs, for instance in early learning. We offer toys and sports equipment for games which go towards learning activities,” says Mr Gopal.
“We provide anything that aids education, but our main focus is books,” adds Baiju, a Finance and Accounting master’s degree holder from the United States University, Africa. Educate Yourself helps companies to stock up libraries and provide training materials.
“They can select a particular book that they need to train employees. We give them the various options available in the market... [or] import if they are not available locally,” says Baiju.
The brothers ventured into the business after learning from their father who started the Savani’s Bookshop, a major conventional bookstore in Nairobi.
“Our main knowledge in the field comes from our father,” says Baiju, adding the father is their motivation.
Educate Yourself, which was founded in 2010, has all types of customers, including doctoral students, schools, institutions of higher learning, private and government institutions, NGOs, and individuals.
“We mostly import products from overseas, we represent a number of local and global publishers,” says Baiju, adding that they have 35 employees in four branches across Nairobi.
Has the firm ventured beyond Kenya? They have ties with a company in Tanzania which distributes their products.
They also supply markets in Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Zambia.
A Top 100 mid-sized company, Educate Yourself attributes its success to diligence and customer care.
Top 100 is a survey run by Nation Media Group’s Business Daily newspaper and financial services firm KPMG. The survey celebrated its tenth year in 2017 and is open to companies whose turnover is between Sh70 million and Sh1 billion.
Educate Yourself did not provide its financials for this story.
“For us, the customer means everything, the fact that we have been able to maintain our clients for the last seven years is our high point,” said Baiju.
“We go beyond customer satisfaction to customer delight,” adds Gopal, who has a master’s in Strategic Management, also from USIU.
Forex, which affects the cost of importing books and stability in pricing ranks among the group’s headaches.
“Unfair competition,” adds Baiju, also is a key challenge because “we employ locally and pay taxes but are faced with the challenge of foreign companies selling their products here and taking away all the profit.”
He says “nobody benefits, not the government, not the people of Kenya.”
Updated stocks across the year and prompt deliveries, says Baiju, are some of the customer experience focus areas that have placed them ahead of the pack.
They are alert to the new developments like the government’s decision to supply books and stationery directly to schools and the planned new syllabus.
“As much as people and schools are going digital, learning digital is a challenge because people still prefer learning the traditional way. We are ready to offer digital content as well,” says Baiju.
Sincerity and honesty are also their guiding principles as learned from the priest.
“My guru says that if a customer walks to your shop and asks for an item and you give it to him at the correct price and he walks out happy, that is as good as going to the temple to praise the Lord.”