In love with writing since she was eight years old, and born into a family of educators, Aarti Gosine always had a thing for books. So it’s only natural that she’d start a publishing company, right?
Partnering with her dad, Aarti started JAV Publishing House Limited which creates and publishes specialised, SEA textbooks for Standard Four and Five students in 2007. Since then, the company has distributed three books “Comprehension Exercises for Upper Primary Level” and “SEA Language Arts Revision Tests” by Bernadette Gosine, and “Writing Skills for Upper Primary Level” by V. Ramsamooj Gosine. It’s a real family affair. Her parents write, and help out with the operations, and her husband and brother chip in.
At 33, Aarti still has much she wants to achieve. With a full plate that includes writing for magazines, providing administrative support for other businesses, completing her MBA, and tutoring SEA students, one wonders how does she balance running JAV at the same time? So you know we had to maco her business.
Outlish: Tell us about JAV Publishing House Limited, and how it all got started.
Aarti: My dad and I started JAV Publishing House in 2007. He is a retired teacher and a writer, and taught me everything I know about writing. I have had stories published in the Junior Express since about the age of eight, so I’ve always had a love for writing and books. Previous to starting the business, I was working at PriceSmart. I had been there for seven years, and I wanted to do something that would make me more independent. With my love of writing, publishing was a natural step for me.
We published our first book in 2008. I realized that there was a lot of pressure on students writing SEA and so we tried to produce user-friendly books to help them in their preparations. I think of JAV Publishing as educational publishers, so we are not only planning on producing textbooks, but also children’s novels to encourage them to read. I also tutor students preparing for the SEA exam, and as a tutor, I realize that not many children read as much as they should. You can see the difference with those who read; their compositions are much better, they are better able to express themselves, and they also excel in the comprehension section of the exam.
Outlish: Did you start JAV before or after you started tutoring?
Aarti: I started tutoring after I started JAV Publishing. Someone asked me to help their daughter prepare for the exam and I realized that I enjoyed it so much, so I took other students. Both my parents are teachers so I guess it’s in my blood. Dad taught English at the secondary school level, and my mom is a retired primary school teacher. My mother always wanted me to be a teacher.
Outlish: What does JAV stand for?
Aarti: JAV stands for Jeevan (my hubby), Aarti and Ved (my brother).
Outlish: What were you doing at PriceSmart previously?
Aarti: I started at PriceSmart in their inception in 2000. I moved from sales auditor to inventory auditor, internal auditor and then assistant buyer.
Outlish: Ahhh… so you’ve moved from buying to selling.
Aarti: Yes exactly. Knowing the buying side gave me a good idea of how buyers work with respect to inventory and seasonal items etc.
Outlish: What was that start up process like for JAV?
Aarti: Start up was a bit tough as with other businesses. In the beginning, we gave away many copies of our books to get the awareness of our company out there. There are many other well-established publishing houses out there, and teachers prefer to go with what they are familiar with.
Outlish: How long did it take to get into the market and get the sort of reception you wanted?
Aarti: We took maybe about one year to get schools to try our books and we are still not where we want to be. We still have to work with the schools, visiting them over and over before they decide to try the books. Sometimes they may use it one year and not the next so we don’t have any sure markets. Regarding business outside of Trinidad and Tobago, we also got the opportunity to sell our books in Jamaica. Our exclusive distributor there is Sangster’s Bookstores.
Outlish: Sounds like persistence is key. Which stores distribute your books in T&T?
Aarti: All the major bookstores distribute our books… RIK, Ishmael M Khan, Metropolitan, Charrans, and many smaller ones. And yes, persistence and patience is definitely the key.
Outlish: Like any business you’ve got your ups and downs.
Aarti: Yes, and the textbook business is very seasonal.
Outlish: Some people start off on their own with no support, but having started it with your dad, it must be good to have a partner you can truly rely on.
Aarti: He is a great support and so is my mom. And of course my husband. If I did not have his support then I would not have been able to quit my job at PriceSmart and venture into this. It is invaluable support.
Outlish: How do you manage your business operations?
Aarti: I work from home and it’s just my dad, mom and I. Dad does the visits to schools etc and I do the financial and administrative and editing stuff. Mom does most of the writing and my brother helps with the graphics. So it is really a family business.
Outlish: A real team effort…
Aarti: Yep and it keeps us very close.
Outlish: So what business stage are you at right now e.g. have you started to break even, or are you making a profit?
Aarti: We have started to break even. Whatever little profit we have, we put it back into advertising.
Outlish: The familial link between you and the authors is obvious. Are you going to keep the authors within the family or branch out?
Aarti: So far my mom and dad have written books, as they have a world of experience, as they were teachers for over 30 years each. However, eventually we will publish other writers, especially when I start the line of children’s books.
Outlish: What’s a typical day like for you?
Aarti: Well in addition to the company, I do some part time administrative work for Trinidad Weddings (TW). So my day starts with work for my company, follow up calls, book keeping and dealing with the legal aspects. Then I do administrative work TW. I also try to fit some of my own writing in there somewhere, and some studying, as I am trying to finish my MBA. But at least one day for the week I make sure and visit my parents. That’s very important to me.
Outlish: So I imagine that more books and expanding the business lie in your future plans.
Aarti: Sure… future plans for JAV include producing workbooks in writing for lower primary levels, and not just SEA classes. For me, personally, I would like to write children’s book.
Outlish:School related or fiction?
Aarti: Fiction, I love kids and they don’t analyse everything. Their imagination is boundless, and I have a passion in teaching them to read.
Outlish: Any final words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Aarti: Believe in your dreams and don’t let anyone deter you from reaching for the sky. You can only be truly happy by doing something that you love.
To contact JAV Publishing, you can call 681-7308 or visit them on Facebook.
Photography by Mark Lyndersay.