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August 8, 2011

The Bookworm, Bangalore

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Written by: Purnima
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There’s nothing much to say about this bookstore called Bookworm in Bengaluru. If you’re a bookworm, you step in, get lost in the books for hours together and when worldly matters play spoilsport, you end up taking home stacks and piles of books, without emptying your wallet too much. Known for used and rare books, this is a must visit place for any book lover, not just for the amazing collection it has and for the reasonable prices it offers, but also for the ambiance and well-informed, helpful staff.

The following is an excerpt of my conversation with Mr. Krishna, owner of “The Bookworm”, about the store, in particular and many other things, in general. I thank Mr. Krishna for taking out time on a rather busy Monday morning to talk to us and help us know the bookworm behind The Bookworm.


The Bookworm, Brigade Road, Bengaluru

How it all started?

In 1997, I was doing my graduation in commerce in evening college. In morning time I used to work with a small bookshop. I was an avid reader and used to read a lot; fiction and classical fiction. So, I got  fairly good knowledge. And after my graduation I’ve done one year computer course. After that, I’ve got a small space in this same complex (Shrungar Complex) in this same place, but at that corner. It was only 10 X 10 m space. So that’s how we started a book shop. In 2000, we’ve opened an actual bookshop. Now, it’s been over 11 years. We’ve been doing very well till 2010. Every year there has been progress till 2010, actually, with progress percentage going up, every single year. Now-a-days there is cut throat competition. Though there hasn’t been much growth percentage in last year, but we maintain the old customers and clients. Because our shop is customer relationships based shop. We’ve an offer kind of thing: customer buying any book from us can sell it back to us at any time in future. And when they return it, they get 50% of the cost of the book, back. This is an unique offer and nobody else gives it. So, that way we keep our customers hooked. We look for real bookworms.. people who read a lot and come back again and again for books.

Now-a-days online bookstores are giving such cut throat competition. Despite that, if we’re able to sustain in the market, it is because of our customers. They want to exchange books. Also, we can pursue books for them which are not in the market. The rare books. We maintain requests from customers with their contact details. Though it would take time, we’d hunt for the book and give them the book they are looking for. That is our USP sort of thing, if you’d like to so.

Back in ’97, when you had started this, you might have had many other business opportunities. Why have you chosen book business?

No. I don’t think so. I’m from a small village near Mysore. Bangalore isn’t my native place. I didn’t have any knowledge, unless I came here. Options, as you say, weren’t much. I managed to find work in a small book shop, that was petty much what I could do.

Which bookshop was that?

It was a shop on the pavement. I used to work there. And in free time, I used to read a lot.

You said, you are from a remote village. Did you get to read any or many books, in your formative years?

There was a convent teacher, in my village. I used to go to him for tution. He used to collect lot of magazines. I got to chance to read them all.

What motivated you for a bookshop? Bangalore has had enough bookshops, always. No?

When I was working there, I developed relations with many customers. Since I was into reading, customers used to ask for recommendations and suggestions related to books, authors. They used to enquire me and from that, I used to understand readers and what they usually look for. Once done with my education, I couldn’t think of any other job. I was passionate for books. Also, I met different kinds of people with different backgrounds. I love meeting people, knowing them, their jobs, getting to know their tastes and all. This all got me interested in this business. Also, it gave me free time to keep my reading hobby intact.

How difficult it is to run a bookshop, these days?

Mr.Krishna at the Shrungar Complex outlet, M.G.Road.

The online stores are doing business at a loss. They are giving huge discounts just to get a big customer base. It is getting difficult in face of such competition.

Difficulties in running a bookshop..some books lose their demand after some point of time. In sunny days we get hundreds of the best sellers and keep them for sale, but gradually those books lose demand and it would be hard to sell those copies later. Example: Bill Clinton book. When it was released, there was huge demand for it. Now, I’ve five copies and nobody wants to read it. Earlier, I used to sell at least 10 copies of it, everybody. We used to sell 25 copies, minimum, in a week’s time.

If there are any negative reviews about a book, then we don’t get the book.

So, you shoud know when to get what books?

Yes. You should have knowledge. Knowledge of what books will sell, always.

Then, how do you select the books that would be up for sale? Personal choice? Business requirements?

No. It is not personal choice. Since we’ve a fair idea of our customer’s choices and tastes, our collection is selected on their preferences. When there are books in the market, I read them and if it strikes me that the particular book might cater to one or any of my customers, I’d get them onto sale. If the books are rare and antique, we get hold of those old copies. About the new books, we usually go by the reviews, feedbacks and all, before putting them on shelves. Based on prior experience, we get the books.

How do you select these people to work with you?

These are from my native place.

And are they into reading, as well?

No.

I ask, because, I find them knowledgeable about books and also, they seem to interact with customers well.

They are trained. I ask them to read a lot about books, the reviews and all. Also, interaction with customers and their likes and dislikes helps.

I see this is a book exclusive store. No soft toys. No music. No movies. It’s all about books and books. But from what I’ve had heard from other people in this business, that it is really difficult to sustain business with books alone. Having additional things to sell gives them the scope of doing book business. What do you think?

No. What they do is to keep every author, every book on the shelf. And when they don’t get sold, they say, books aren’t selling. But what we do is, we keep only what our customers look for. We keep what gets sold. No unknown titles. So, we don’t need add-ons to run business.

Can you talk  about the interests of Bangaloreans in terms of book reading?

They are amazing. Also, reading habit is increasing. In Bangalore, what we’ve observed is that many people are looking to build their personal libraries. Those sort of people, keep coming here. Because, it’s cheaper. Also, they get what they are looking for. So, definitely, they keep coming to us.

If there is a new book released into market, when can that be expected in bookworm?

Popular title, definitely on same day. Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer etc on same day. If there are any new writers , we don’t get them immediately. We do some sort of enquiry. Or, get just one copy and see how it sells.

Do you take phone orders? Couriering?

Yes. Yes. We do.

Bookworm is restricted to Bangalore, alone?

No. It’s not like that.

We’re right now sending the bank examination books to everywhere in India, especially to Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh.

So, someone transfering you money online and looking for some books, you’d ship them?

Yes.

How are Kannada book sales here? Do you have them here?

We keep only limited stock of second hand Kannada books and also, only very good books, only like Gnanapith Awardees, classics etc. But such authors are so much adored that, that nobody is willing to part with them. It’s very hard to procure such books. Deccan Herald office is close by. Those journalists keep coming to us about such rare books. But for them alone, we’re unable to find these books.

Oh.. Deccan Herald journalists are your customers?

Yes. They come quite regularly and ask for books. Kannada books usually go to them.

Do you see youngsters showing interest in book reading?

Of course. Because of some books that are made into movies, people are coming back to books, especially, Harry Potter series, Nornia, Lord of the Rings..

Which genre sells the most?

Novel. But then, it depends on lot of factors. But usually it’s fiction, here.

We’ve a special outlet selling children’s books in the next corner. That is also doing good.

This bookshop is open seven days a week?

Yes. All days.

Timings?

10 am – 9 pm.

Breaks?

No breaks. Customers can walk in anytime. Some or the other would be around to help.

How was the media attention to this endeavour?

Firstly, there was an good write up about us in Deccan Herald and from then on, we were in all leading dailies.. the Hindu, Indian express, Times of India etc.

So. Media attention was good.

Most of the journalists are my clients.

Do you plan to have an online version of the store?

Yes. It has become a necessity. We plan to come up with something of that sort, within next 6 months or so.

Would you purchase from customers any old books, not necessarily brought in Bookworm?

Yes. We do. But only selected titles. And we pay cash.

Anything that you want to say about Bookworm?

We’ve good collection. There’s a special store for kids. We cater to libraries, as well. So, if you’re genuine bookworm, our best effort would be to do our best.

Address:

The Bookworm

No.32, Basement, Behind New Trendz Shoes,

Brigade Road, Bangalore – 560001

_________________________________

No.80/1, Shrungar Complex

M.G. Road, Bangalore – 560001

Contact: 080-41126755, 080-40913205

 



About the Author(s)

Purnima

Software engineer by profession, Hyderabadi at heart, laidback by choice, an introvert by default, schizophrenic at will etc. etc... so much so about her, to give you enough to guess what she might come up about the worlds of words she wanders.. keep guessing..



7 Comments


  1. Vasu (Srinivasa Nyayapati)

    Nice article Purnima,

    I recall the early years when I came to Bangalore. British Library, Premier book house, BookCellar and Ganagrams were all close byon MG Road. I was there frequenting them all on all Saturdays and Sundays. Pick or buy a book and go to India Coffee House, order a coffee and start reading the new book. I lost count of the number of books I read in the India Coffee House.


  2. […] à Bangalore et j’ai découvert les bouquinistes de Church Street, notamment Blossom et The Bookworm, j’étais vraiment ravie. Un de mes meilleurs souvenirs dans cette ville, est d’un […]


  3. Purnima

    @shubh.. Please go ahead!


  4. shubh

    Thanks for the article.
    This is the only place where new phones number of the shop is available.
    I am going to link to your blog if it is alright with you?


  5. Sreenivas

    Purnima garu,

    Thank you very much for accepting the request and for taking the time to investigate. I really appreciate your efforts.

    You are right, it might be a while before such service might become available in India.

    Once again, thank you very much!
    Sreenivas.


  6. శ్రీనివాస్ గారు,

    ఆలస్యంగా స్పందిస్తున్నందుకు మన్నించండి. మీ వ్యాఖ్య చదివాక ఒన్ డాలర్ స్కాన్ లాంటి ప్రయోగాలు మనవాళ్ళేమైనా చేస్తున్నారో లేదో తెల్సుకోడానికి ప్రయత్నించి, ఖాళీ చేతులతో తిరిగి వచ్చాను.

    ఇండియాలో అలాంటిదోటి ఉంటుందంటే నాకు అనుమానమే! ఎప్పుడైనా తెలిస్తే తప్పక చెప్పగలను.

    పూర్ణిమ


  7. Sreenivas

    Purnima garu,

    Thank you very much for this very informative article. For those who live outside India, the hike in shipping charges have become prohibitively expensive to obtain large quantities of Telugu books from India. I was wondering if you are aware of a service like 1DollarScan (http://1dollarscan.com/)in India. This service destroys the book itself after scanning, but that is required to protect the author’s and publisher’s rights. If you can publish any information on this topic that would be very useful.

    Thank you,
    Sreenivas.



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