Cornish tech company connects India through digital books

12th July 2021

A company based in Truro in Cornwall has increased its export sales to India by 30% in the last three years with support from the Department for International Trade (DIT) as part of the drive to level up businesses in the region. 

Its exports in the last year to India have grown by 22 % and over the next five years its projected sales to India are forecast at a similar rate 

The Online Book Company was established by co-founders Jonathan Haward and Hugh Hastings who both lost their brothers and wanted to create a collective and collaborative way for people’s lives to be celebrated by family members and friends.

The online books can be created for a range of occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and other celebratory events. The book can be shared digitally, and recipients can add their own messages, photographs, and videos. 

Jonathan said:

“Early on, we were extremely busy with people wanting to build communities celebrating the lives of their close friends or relatives. We were bringing people together from all over the world.

“We completed a birthday book for the United Nations which has recently had its 75th birthday, encouraging people to come from all over the world to leave their messages. 

“Similarly, we created a book for Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday and received engagement from 106 countries."

The nature of the business means that exporting started organically for the company as books were shared quickly online, with the idea then being spread through word of mouth. 

The company then received support from The Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Export Trade Forum project, a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funded programme in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Jonathan said: 

“DIT encouraged me to go out and meet key people in different organisations in India. It was very useful to see the Indian market first-hand. Travelling there placed me in the vicinity of key decision makers to get their feedback and reaction. 

“It’s a slow burning operation to get into the Indian market because of the culture. It’s important to get a real understanding of this and the people you’re working with. 

“Developing trust is so important. This is something which can come through DIT in the sense that the contacts they have and the team over there are well connected. They will put you in touch with the right people and save you a lot of leg work in the process. It wouldn’t have happened without them.

“We will be using DIT extensively as our business grows in India. We’ll need more local administration advice which I’m confident they’ll provide.”

While the company has had strong success in the market, Jonathan says you must be prepared to put a lot of work in and upskill your team so that your customer trusts your business proposition. He said:

“India is a wonderful market to do business with, but you need to make sure you’re dealing with the right people. DIT will get you with the right people and help short circuit any difficulties you have.

“Working with DIT has also given our Indian customers the confidence that we are serious about the business we are doing with them. I have attended export training workshops through DIT which have provided me with the necessary background knowledge and skills to approach customers in the right way.” 

To discuss your own export development options and find out more about the support available from DIT,  call 01275 370944, email or visit

DIT’s services in the South West are delivered by Business West. For further information, click here.

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