This Women-led Startup Is Turning Neighborhood Women Into Micro-Entrepreneurs

sheetal

Töölö is an online children’s cloud library which offers curated books, recommendations and physical delivery of books as well as works towards enabling women micro-entrepreneurs

Back in the summer of 2019, while on a holiday in the USA, Sheetal Shah found herself spending an ample amount of time at local public libraries. The libraries captivated her so much that she wanted to intertwine the worlds of reading and community building among children in India too. Therefore, after coming back to Bengaluru, she started a library in her apartment complex and from there she invented the idea of starting a library and named her to venture Töölö, which means ‘Neighbourhoods’ in Finnish.

Töölö is an online children’s cloud library which offers curated books, recommendations and physical delivery of books to one’s doorstep. Since most children in India depend on their parents and school libraries for guidance on what to read, Töölö helps to nurture the joy of reading and provides a sense of community among children with accessible libraries across the country. 

Back in August 2020, Archana Nandakumar—one of the early Töölö members joined the firm as a Co-founder and CTO. Archana handles product and technology as well as a community building for users. 

These entrepreneurs buy pre-loved books by the kilo from vendors across India, curate them, and get them professionally laminated. At present, Töölö powers 21 libraries, among which 15 are run by Töölö ambassadors in Bengaluru and 6 in other cities, including Delhi-NCR, Pune, and so on. Each of these physical libraries has around 12-15 children as members and the digital library, which launched in 2021, has around 1,500 registered members at present. 

Apart from encouraging the practice of reading among children, Töölö also works toward enabling women micro-entrepreneurs. The Töölö ambassador programme is where women join the firm as a franchisee and can make use of the cloud library to run their mini library enterprise at home. 

Sheetal informs in an interview, “Töölö’s product for women micro-entrepreneurs enables them to set up, operate, and grow their cloud libraries. We provide them with a library platform, a curated set of 500 books, branding materials, growth marketing tools, storytelling sessions, and other value-added services to make it a holistic reading experience for their young members.” 

Moreover, the startup also provides ambassadors with weekly training, including driving subscribers’ numbers, marketing strategies, and growth marketing tools and technology. 

Today, on Töölö’s cloud library platform, children all over India have access to a large and varied selection of books, both in regional languages and in English, peer recommendations, storytelling sessions, and author interactions. And the best part is that members can also order books online and get them delivered at home and picked up once they are done reading them.

With the ambassador programme, Sheetal and her team have empowered several women across the country and they are working towards an ambitious vision to build 1,000 Töölö libraries in the next few years.

  • Staff Reporter

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