Sunday, April 25, 2010

BANGALORE’S BOOK PEOPLE, INDIA’S LIBRARY

BANGALORE’S BOOK PEOPLE, INDIA’S LIBRARY
Libraries and book stores that started in Bangalore are opening branches in other cities
Nirmala Govindarajan | TNN


They all had Bangalore as their launch pad and took off well. Book stores and libraries that etched their beginnings in Bangalore are now foraying into other cities.
“The way Bangalore’s booksellers have been faring, I wouldn’t be exaggerating by saying that they’ll make a mark in their cities,” says Balram Sadhwani, president, Book Sellers Association, Bangalore.
Sankars had its first outlet at the HAL Airport, before spreading to 10 Indian cities, and plans to open eight more branches. JustBooks, the library with an OnDemand retail facility, has over 10 branches in Bangalore and is opening its first branch outside the city in Mumbai.
“As far as booksellers are concerned, we don’t find anything parallel to Sankars. Its director Vivek Sankaran not only sells the book, but understands it and tries to identify the real buyer. What really goes for him is that he tries and maintains contact with his customers,” says Sadhwani. Sapna is another great example of book people who connect, he adds.
“The owners have given the city a book mall and many outlets across the rest of Karanataka,” says Sadhwani, adding, Just-Books, with 10 branches here, has huge potential to spread wings outside the city.
Sadhwani indicates that India’s reading populace continues to grow. “From what I assess through our national book fairs, Kolkata’s readers are growing in geometrical proportions. Chennai’s readers show tremendous responses. Mumbai’s avid readers don’t turn up in such large numbers to the book fairs given that there are several well-established book stores. In Delhi, there’s brilliant response from government bodies and research institutes. We’ve conducted our seventh fest in Bangalore and between the first year and now, both visitors and participants have boosted our morale in a big way,” he smiles.
So, what takes Vivek Sankaran, director of Sankars, and Sundar Rajan R, founderdirector of JustBooks, across the country?
When was the idea mooted?
Sankaran: Sankars, the book people had its humble beginnings at the Bangalore airport in 1967-68, until the airport moved base to Devanahalli, where we presently do not have a presence.
Rajan: Started as an experimental centre in Whitefield in 2008, JustBooks clc is now incubated as a start-up enterprise at NSRCEL, IIM Bangalore, with 10 libraries in different parts of the city, two apartment libraries, a library at the food court of a tech park, an OnDemand platform on the Net and a corporate library. Retail too, is an OnDemand facility at some of our centres.
Books, libraries and readers in India
Sankaran: Though our forte has always been management books, we are also the largest retailers of best-selling fiction, be it of the latest Frederick Forsyth or the new Dan Brown. Were also proud of our collection by Indian authors. Authors like Shashi Tharoor, Anita Nair, Chidanand Rajghatta and Raj Kamal Jha, among several others, have released their works through our stores.
Rajan: The key to knowledge is often hidden in a well-stacked library. There seems a renewed interest in books in India, going by the trade figures and the number of publishers setting shops here. There is also some serious talent being unearthed with some very original writing. It’s a great time to be around for a book lover.
Spreading wings to other cities
Sankaran: Sensing and anticipating the needs of our customers, over the years, we have opened branches in Ahmedabad, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram, Coimbatore, Bhubaneswar, Goa, Kochi, Hubli, Mumbai and Mangalore. Our latest project is the Nalanda bookstore at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai. And, we are setting up eight more SIS (shop-in-shop) models this year. Rajan: JustBooks clc is an attempt to combine new generation retail industry concepts like multiple formats, vibrant ambience, customer-friendly operational procedures with friendly technology like RFID usage, self service machines, while keeping the function of a library at the core. We hope to increase the efficiency of our library operations by borrowing liberally from supply chain and other distribution logistics followed in retail industry along with smart usage of technology. We have six stores in Bangalore at Rangashankara, Taj Residency, Oasis Lifestyle, Safina Plaza, Atria and Le Meridian. As many of our customers frequently travel, we’ve spread our operations to more cities.
Rajan: Bangalore is a great place to start. The response from the initial set of consumers can make or break a startup. JustBooks was lucky to get a caring set of members, who were patient with its initial hiccups.
The USP
Sankaran: Customer feedback determines our decision-making process and translates into all activities including stocking decisions, display, decor and service. Our high-quality service has laid the groundwork for a longterm relationship with our customers, making them repeat buyers.
Rajan: JustBooks is not the act of putting the right books on the shelves — but the act of connecting readers and books. When a member signs up at any one branch of JustBooks, she/he instantly becomes a member of the entire chain and gets access to all the books in all the branches of JustBooks. She/he can either walk across and access the book or can request the book to be brought from any branch and given to her/him. Members who signed up with just about 10,000 books a year ago now have to access to over 1,00,000 books at no additional cost.

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