Rokomari is the first and the leading online bookselling platform in Bangladesh. Since its launch, the company has been delivering books nationwide as per customer orders. Rokomari was also the pioneer of the cash-on-delivery system in Bangladesh. Besides delivering books nationwide, Rokmari is also delivering books to 30 other countries around the world. The platform currently has more than 200,000 books by more than 80,000 authors and 14,000 publishers worldwide.
History of Rokomari
Rokomari.com is a subsidiary of the Onnorokom Group. Mahmudul Hasan Sohag and Abul Hasan Liton are the two key persons among the five founders of the Onnorokom Group. Mahmudul Hasan Sohag was born on June 7, 1983 in Sarishabari upazila of Jamalpur district. He completed SSC from Riazuddin Talukdar High School and HSC from Dhaka College. Later in 2000, admitted to EEE by securing the 141st position in the BUET admission test. On the other hand, the Co-founder Mohammad Abul Hasan Liton was born in the Faridpur district. In his HSC examination in 2000, he became 12th on the combined merit list of the Dhaka Board. In the same year, he was admitted to CSE at the prestigious engineering university BUET. After graduation, he completed his MBA in Finance from the University of Dhaka.
Other 3 founders of Rokomari are Ehteshamul Shams Rakib, Jubayer Bin Amin, and Md. Khairul Anam. While studying at BUET’s CSE department in 2011, with the idea of setting up a new e-commerce platform, Rokmari started its journey, where Md. Khairul Anam was appointed as CEO of the new venture. Although various names were suggested for the newly formed venture, the name “Rokmari” appealed to everyone. Since each of the founders were students of BUET, and quite skilled in the IT sector, Rokmari’s website was ready within a month. On January 19, 2012, Rokmari was officially launched as an online bookshop/bookstore.
During the first phase of operation, Rokomari’s major obstacle was collaborating with the publishers. Because most publishers were convinced that the company was only targeting the upcoming book fair. That is why the Rokomari team tried to convince the publishers in Bangla Bazaar to sell books online through Rokomari. While most publishers at the time did not understand the importance of the online bookselling concept, some publishers got involved in foreseeing the future possibilities. At first, it was supposed to start with 10,000 books, but Rokmari had to start with only a few thousand books. The first book listed on the Rokomari website was ‘Shushashoner Shondhane’, a book written by Atiur Rahman, and the first ordered book was “Ekattor” by the renowned novelist Imdadul Haque Milon. After starting their operations, getting featured in the daily Prothom Alo gained the company a lot of popularity and helped them to receive several orders. Initially, Rokmari’s office was in Karwan Bazar, but as the team grew, they shifted to a classroom in the Motijheel branch of Udvash.
Rokomari was very passionate about branding and promotion from the beginning. To aware the authors, publishers, and book readers, the company’s staff used to put up their banners, posters, and stickers in front of various publication houses. In addition, during the book fair, the company’s staff used to walk around the fairgrounds wearing Rokomari’s logo inserted T-shirts to increase awareness among the readers. For advertising billboards, festoons, etc. were also used. As a result, by the end of 2012, Rokomari was able to add more than 500 publications and 2,500 authors’ books to its platform.
At the initial stage, Rokomari had to deal with several difficulties like book delivery and payment. First of all, online shopping was not very popular in Bangladesh back then. At the time, Rokmari received 30 to 50 orders daily or between 1 to 2 thousand orders per month. As a new platform, achieving the trust of customers was a daunting task for Rokmari. To solve this problem, Rokomari decided to use the cash-on-delivery method instead of online payment. However, delivery service providers’ support was required to follow this system. But, at that time none of the delivery services in the country had the cash-on-delivery option. Rokomari tried to convince Sundarban courier service to integrate a cash-on-delivery system. On the recommendation of Rokomari, Sundarban courier service agreed to integrate cash on delivery into their system.
In 2014, Rokmari began working on data analysis. According to Mahmudul Hasan Sohag, the chairman of the company, this was the turning point for their business. As e-commerce is a data-driven business, the teams of Rokomari have started using Google Analytics for data analysis. Since then, as a result of using the data-dependent decision-making process, the growth of Rokmari is constantly increasing.
All of the funding and investments for the operation and management of Rokomari are controlled by their parent company “Onnorokom Group”. In addition, the company does not have any type of bank loan or equity investment. In fact, Rokmari has not raised any funds so far. Their revenue model depends entirely on product sales. Although Rokomari started selling books as their primary product, besides books, Rokomari also sells other items. Various packaged foods, calculators, as well as hygiene products such as hand sanitizers, masks, hand washes, and hand gels, are also available on Rokomari’s website.
All the operations of Rokmari are conducted from its Motijheel office, where the total space of the office including the warehouse is 12 thousand square feet. Besides, they have one hub each in Katabon and Banglabazar, from where their products are sourced. Then the products are sent to the Motijheel warehouse for inventory. Almost all of Rokmari’s inventory management is maintained digitally. After coming to the Motijheel Warehouse, QR Code is assigned to the books, and it is updated in the software as well. The books are automatically categorized according to the QR Code in a certain place on the shelves of the warehouse, where the books are stored.
When an order is received, Rokmari’s integrated software automatically notifies the operator of which book is on which shelf. If a book is not available in the inventory, a list of the publishers from where the books are to be collected is auto-generated in the software, which goes to Rokomaris’ various hubs. Then the books are purchased from there and sent to the warehouse. After sourcing, all books ordered are sent for packaging, after that it is automatically assigned to the delivery team. The books reach the customer’s doorstep by a certain time. Delivery within Dhaka usually takes 2 to 3 days and outside Dhaka 3 to 5 days. Rokomari charges the same for delivery inside and outside Dhaka. Rokomari charges BDT 50 for online orders and BDT 70 for phone orders. In addition to the courier service, Rokmari now uses the postal service for its product delivery. Moreover, for the past three years, the company has been using its own delivery services for delivering within Dhaka. However, Rokomari is also trying to start its own delivery service outside Dhaka.
In 2019, Rokomari started working on an e-book application for Bengali-speaking readers living abroad, called ‘Muthoboi’, the beta version of which was released in February 2020. Later on, based on user feedback a full version of the app was launched in 2021. Rokomaris’ 15-member dedicated tech team has developed almost all the internal software including its platform. In 2021, it was also announced that awards would be given to the best books, best authors, and best buyers at the Ekushey book fair. Publishers now offer pre-orders for customers through Rokomari before publishing new books. In addition, the publishers can also conduct paid promotions to Rokomaris users through SMS and digital marketing.
Besides delivering books across the country, Rokmari is delivering books to 30 other countries around the world. The company has a separate team for international book import and international book delivery. On the other hand, Rokmari’s corporate team handles orders from B2B, such as schools-colleges and other organizations. The employee size of the company is currently about 200. According to The Business Standard, Rokmari sells 90,000 books every month.