Hobbyists Hub: A concept

In the last one week, I had been discussing with friends and family about an idea I had in mind. The hobbyists hub.

What initially started as an idea of a book library for a niche segment, morphed and mutated into something you see in the image. I was pretty excited because it stitched together many things I loved.. books, photography, travel, cycling, etc.

However, in the last 2 days, I haven’t been so gung-ho about it though. Before we get into details as to why, here is a brief about this idea.

Hobbyists Hub – the seed thought

After paying multiple visits to many libraries to pick books and feeling disappointed after seeing collections there, one sudden night, I thought of setting up my own library serving this niche segment – hard core hobbyists like photographers and offbeat travellers.

A library that took only hobbyists as its members, that procured material only on hobbies and took pride in being in a niche! Sounded fantastic to me.

A photography book that costs around 2000 Rs which a regular library could not keep on its shelf would be available with us… the USP of this library!

That was the basic idea!

The additions

After brainstorming with friends and burning midnight oil for a few days, several changes were made to it. Why not add other material like documentaries? Made sense.

And then, why not workshops and weekend events? Hmmm.. yes. Can be managed somehow. And yes, it will help create a better experience for the hobbyists.

Why not make it a platform for others to come and rent / sell their stuff?  This would be very tricky… especially with stuff like lenses. An average lens costs upwards of 25000Rs and rental would be atelast 1% per day. Is there a market for this? If yes, how can you lend a lens to someone you may not know fully? How do you make sure the returned lens is in decent condition? How do you make sure that the renter didn’t give a lemon for rent? Several challenges.. but can be figured out somehow, I thought.

Then, services like itinerary planning, hobby consulting, etc. And a platform to showcase the hobby.

Then we had to think of who our users would be.. hobbyists. But that is too general.. which segment of the hobbyists?

Types of hobbyists and their needs

To me, there are 3 types of hobbyists.

  1. Wannabe or Newbie
  2. Amateur
  3. Pro

And the entire idea was to serve all these people in a different manner that befits their know-how. A pro would be offended if he were to be treated like a newbie!

Wannabe / Newbie: One who has seen other people do interesting stuff and is keen on doing it himself. But he needs help taking off…

  • do I really like this?
  • where to start?
  • what to buy / which workshop to attend?
  • what to consider before buying?
  • whom to buy from?
  • can I rent / test things before buying?

Amateur: He has been in the hobby for a while and knows things, but is not yet there. He is keen on taking his hobby to the next level or is just happy to maintain status quo enjoying whatever he is doing currently. His needs are

  • should I try that expensive equipment?
  • can I sell my current equipment to part fund next purchase?
  • I like ‘XYZ’s material.. but it is expensive. Can I rent it out?
  • can I rent that expensive lens for a few days for my Ladakh trip? or perhaps a 2nd body?

Pro: He has been in the trade for long enough or has spent enough time learning things and is comfortable with advanced stuff. His needs are different too

  • how can I make money from what I know?
  • can I take people on a tour? can I conduct a workshop?
  • I want to rent my equipment to others
  • I want a 2nd body for my next trip and that exotic lens
  • a friend of mine wants to check out equipment I recommended. Is there anyone who rents it out?
  • is there a platform for me to conduct a workshop without hassles?

The idea expanded further

Then, the idea went further. Can we create a platform where Pro’s could register as Experts and provide consultations for the Newbie’s? Can we have a rating system to track Pro’s and have the top 5 rated Pro’s as the points of contact for every pin code? Can we get the location of a Newbie and assign him to the nearest Pro? Can we provide a platform for the Pro to make money and for the Newbie to learn? The Amateur could be monetized mostly by using the rental system.

Can we have people put up their stuff for rent? Can we take a commission for handling it seamlessly? Is it an operational headache to tackle rentals like bicycles, lenses, cameras, backpacks and tents?

Will people use us a medium to know each other and avoid the payment gateway to reduce their cost?

The original idea is lost

Somewhere in all this discussion, the original idea of being a simple rental place for hobbyists got diluted. The offshoots are very interesting by themselves… but are operationally intensive and can take long to monetize.

After all the additions…. I realized a few things (mostly negative, few positive)

  1. its interesting, but definitely not simple and I hate complicated stuff
  2. its not a product (except for the platform), but a service
  3. operationally intensive and thus, will have higher running costs from day 1
  4. longer break even period
  5. I still love books…
  6. I am not sure if I enjoy conducting tours or being a tour-operator
  7. I love automated systems and if executed well, this seems to be a promising system
  8. it brings me closer to the community I want to spend the rest of my life with
  9. I am still confused.. where to start? Its too complicated for a first time overwhelmed newbie entrepreneur

Market size and few other q’s

Is there a decent enough market for this? Are hobbyists a small section of the society? How many hobbyists are actually active learners and how many actually spend money on such things?

If there were such a system in place already, would I place my expensive lens on rent?

Would I sign up for a membership to gain access to learning material, mainly books? Or would I simply buy my own and keep it for long?

Which of these is a simple stand alone idea that can be implemented on its own and rest dropped out?

Why do you want to run a book library for hobbyists? Will it make even 25% of what you earned in your high paying job? Perhaps, you could earn what you would in a month by conducting a Datawarehouse training for 3 days! Why not simply stick to consulting and training instead!

Why not simply remove all the complications and just run a simplified general library? Provide fantastic user experience to differentiate yourself. Why focus so much on being unique? Why not try to be the best in a tried and tested and perhaps even crowded space?

Follow your heart,… but there are clever ways to do it.

And then the wonderful questions Sameer pointed out to me yesterday:

a) is it something you want to do ?
b) is it something you’ll do through its downturns ?
c) is the money you think it can generate something you can live off/with ?
d) partly related to (c) – what do you really want out of it ?

Go back to the desk. Rework!

I am disappointed that the idea turned into a complicated one which I may eventually drop… but am thrilled too. I am happy at the way I’ve been using my brains these days! Perhaps, its a good exercise too.

Now, what do you think about the concept?  Do leave a comment.

9 thoughts on “Hobbyists Hub: A concept

  1. Don’t worry about the ideation phase – it always gets more complicated than it needs to. Now, see if there’s still things in there which you (we?) can start with in a small way, and that excite you – wrt those questions 🙂

    1. @Sameer: Yup, it got too complicated.
      Reworking things again. Your q’s are helping put things in perspective. Perhaps strip things down to 2-3 key things and then see if it can be done and if anyone ever wants it.

      Will keep you posted. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Hey Prem! I’ve been following your site for quite sometime now..Anna told you’ve quit your job and gonna start something of your own! I think its a great idea..with your brains, its high time! The Hobbyists Hub is kickass! I’d love to sell/ rent/ few stuff I’ve been planning to make (if at all I do)! Don’t just keep contemplating. Though things may seem ambiguous now, am sure you’ll see a clearer path when you get there. BTW, just been thinking..how’d you benefit from this? Am sure you have sumthin’ up your sleeve! 🙂 Good luck..give my love to Suguna and baby!

    1. @ Rashmi: Nice to see you here :-). Btw, not yet quit.. got a month more to go.. long notice period!
      Going back to the drawing board to see if it’s something I want to do.. and in some stripped down variant.. dont want to clutter too many things to start with.
      How do you make money?
      – from rentals if stuff is owned by me
      – from experts if I create a platform for them to showcase their stuff and perhaps even organize things for them
      – by being a platform (a small fee for every transaction or whatever).

      Idea is too early.. even before monetization, need to think if anyone needs it or not. That can be tested only by trying… until then, things are just a hypothesis!

  3. Hi Premsagar,

    Your idea is brilliant. Sure, there are a lot of things that you have to think about before you go ahead on this, but i am very sure that there is a good enough section of society who are serious hobbyists and would love a forum or a platform or hub where they can interact with other people with same interests in person and not through a online community or forum.

    I especially liked the library idea of yours.

    My best,
    Nagaraj VL

    1. @Nagaraj: Thanks for the comment.
      This idea is close to my heart, but am really thinking about the feasibility of such a thing and the operational and capital intensiveness of it. Let me see how it goes.

  4. I sure wish you the best of luck. I think hobbyists hub is gonna benefit all the hobbyists in Bangalore.

    Nagaraj VL

  5. Prem,

    Came to know about your blog while looking for Kalyan’s workshop 🙂 and liked the simple and uncomplicated writing of yours on your travels and the way you plan your itineraries which is real adventure in compare to a luxurious comfortable travel.

    As on being a newbie One’d like to go on a economical outing with newbie/wannbe folks where they can share their learning/clicks/ work together to learn, in that way I think people feel more comfortable instead of joining a pro group.

    So may be first kick off couple of such weekend outing (like trip to unknown destinations or photography expeditions) through word of mouth in parallel of stuff you are working on. I think today people need more than just a well arranged travel package – it is adventure, challenges, off-roading & unknown destinations.

    Good luck in all your endeavors.

    – Arpit

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