Ready for a journey, but don’t want the usual anthology of guidebooks to help you plan your itinerary? Yellowleg.com, a four-month-old online book store named after a migratory bird, might just be the place you need to visit if you are a “discerning traveller”.
“The idea of setting up a travel-books-only store came from my own experience. When I moved back to India in 2006, and wanted books on travel, I found stores here had little variety. I could order what I wanted online from sites, such as Amazon, but the shipping charges are so heavy. I decided to set up a facility in India where you can buy not just guidebooks, but also literature about unusual destinations across the world,” says Aashish Gupta, the founder of the site. Gupta, 32, a software developer, worked with Microsoft in Seattle, US, and Amazon, Seattle, US, and Hyderabad, before he decided to give up his job and start this venture. “I have tie-ups with publishers in various countries and since I import books in bulk, the prices stay under control, unlike when you order a single book online,” he says.
Travel solutions: Yellowleg.com founder Aashish Gupta at work. Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
The site is hierarchically organized, and lets you search for books about specific places. For example, if you’re travelling to Indonesia, you’ll navigate through the section on Asia, then the South-East Asia region, then Indonesia, and finally choose a book listed under the three cities—Bali, Jakarta or Borneo. Under Bali, you get the usual Lonely Planet Indonesian Phrasebook and also find the Phaic Tan: Sunstroke on a Shoestring (Jetlag Travel Guide), and My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with an Indonesian Islamist by Sadanand Dhume.
As this online book store expands, Gupta has announced a trade-a-book service, which allows you to sell a book back to the website after you’re done with it and earn store credit.
Another value-added service that the site offers is personalized travel consulting. “No, this is not a place where you can get discounts on air tickets or hotel deals. We help you plan a trip or answer any questions that you may have,” explains Gupta. Yellowleg offers various packages for personalized consulting: If you purchase books worth Rs599, you can ask five questions; for Rs999, you can ask up to 10 questions. “We archive many articles from various sources, besides which we have access to many travel books from where we pull out this information.”
A sample of questions Gupta has answered in the last few months: “What can you do in London with young children if you don’t want to go to an amusement park?”; “Where can I hire a babysitter?”; “Which hotels are the most child-friendly?” Yellowleg usually answers queries in less than 24 hours, but sometimes Gupta does get stumped. “Recently, someone was travelling to Kenya with their parents and wanted to know if there were any safaris that were elderly friendly. There was hardly any information available about this and we had to contact lots of hotels and travel agents to figure this one out.”
Most of the queries and book requests Gupta has received are about travel in Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka or Myanmar. “Perhaps because this is the season when these countries pull crowds, or maybe because there are so few books available on them.”
Gupta is looking forward to further growth, perhaps helping travellers to self-publish. He won’t do this at the expense of quality, though. “This is a book store for the serious traveller and I don’t want to carry any book or article that isn’t top of the line.”