• Taking Indian culture global through books: Gauri Manglik of Kitaabworld

    Gauri Manglik’s quest for entrepreneurship found a calling at home. Having moved from India to the US, she wanted to have access to Indian culture complete with its history, books, kahaanis and chat masala. And Gauri wanted that not just for herself but also for her growing children who she didn’t want to become removed from their roots back in India. With Kitaabworld.com Gauri figured out how to get a daily dose of South Asian culture in her kids’ lives.

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    She struggled with many questions: How could we share and pass on the richness of diverse languages, cultures and traditions that made us who we are? How do we teach our native languages to our children? How do we share our culture with our new friends and teachers? How do our children learn to celebrate the diversity in this beautiful world?

    Gauri has found many of these answers through this platform along with co-founder Sadaf Siddique. The rest are work in progress. Here’s a glimpse into the lawyer-turned entrepreneur and her effort with Kitaabworld.

    My Idea, My Inspiration

    I’m one of the founders of KitaabWorld. I grew up and went to school in northern India (Dehradun and Delhi), and went to law school at NLSIU, Bangalore and UCLA School of Law in Los Angeles. I practiced corporate law for over 10 years at large law firms in India and the US before I co-founded KitaabWorld.

    What is the inspiration behind Kitaab World – I grew up in India, and moved to the US when my son was just 6 months old. I moved into the same apartment complex as Sadaf (co-founder of KW) since she was one of the few people I knew in the area. One of our regular outings was to attend story time at the local library. We connected with a bigger group of local South Asian moms there and formed a close connection (in fact, we are all still close friends to this day). We soon realized that we faced the same problem, that it was hard raising our kids with a connection to South Asian culture. I founded KitaabWorld to solve our problem, and I figured others would also benefit from it as well.

    Global Presence With An Indian Heart

    At KitaabWorld, our goal is to provide parents with the tools and resources that they need to make South Asian culture fun, engaging and accessible to all. KitaabWorld is the one stop shop for books, toys and games that help parents connect kids to their heritage.

    What prompted you to start this in the US? We wanted to provide a unified platform for the South Asian voice in the US and connect parents seeking high quality content to the creators of that content. During our market research we realized that there a few missing pieces to make this connection happen. On the supply side of things, many South Asian publishers face challenges marketing and selling their books in the US and we think we can help bring these books to an audience that would not otherwise have seen this content. There are also many independent South Asian authors who have written a few books on topics they care about but are unable to drive distribution, or find it very time consuming. And without distribution, many of these books end up going out of print, setting in motion a vicious cycle that we think we can fix by providing a distribution platform for these authors.

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    On the demand side, we also noticed that South Asian parents face challenges finding high quality South Asian books, toys and games for their children. Most local libraries and bookstores typically don’t stock these titles.

    The Digital Leap

    Our site brings all these different pieces together. We promote South Asian authors and publishers and provide them a voice and a distribution channel. And we provide parents access to all these carefully curated books, toys and games in one place. We hope that this also makes it easier for libraries, schools and bookstores to discover and stock South Asian books.

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    What’s the market like for Indian origin writings? We believe there is a very strong market and just needed a clear way to connect supply with demand. South Asia is a large, diverse and important market, with a large diaspora in the US. There is a lot of interest in South Asia from people here trying to reconnect with their heritage, or just to provide a more global outlook to their children. South Asia has a rich literary tradition going back thousands of years, so there are some great stories to be told!

    Three mantras I live by

    First, daring greatly – This is a book by Brene Brown, where she encourages you to go out there in the arena and show up. She explores how people have to get comfortable with being vulnerable to do great things. Quitting my job and starting KitaabWorld was my way to showing up.

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    Second, I believe in iterating quickly and learning from the market. I am constantly growing personally and in everything I do and also as an entrepreneur. At KitaabWorld, we are always evaluating what works and how we can improve things. Change is constant.

    Third, working hard – I think there are no shortcuts. Ideas might be a dime a dozen, but ultimately it’s about executing and bringing that idea to life.

    Power Of Language And Reading

    I grew up with an intense love for reading and it’s something I have with me to this day. Children learn and understand so much about the world around them and about the power of ideas and imagination through reading. Among many other things, books helped my kids learn how to share, to prepare for preschool, to understand the reasons behind Diwali and Durga Puja, and to even realize it’s ok to make mistakes. That’s why we chose to focus on books as we connect people to South Asia.

    Also, once I had children, I noticed the deep connections between culture and language. This is why at KitaabWorld, we have a special focus on bilingual tools and resources. We want to make it fun, easy and engaging for parents to teach children their mother tongues.

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