Wednesday, November 26, 2008


In our series on Bangalore’s home-grown retail brands, this week we look at Select, Blossom and Book Worm that have made the seconds books trade into a profitable business
Nirmala Govindarajan | TNN

Investment banker Richa Das adds another book to the already selected stack of 15. It’s great value for money at the seconds books store Book Worm, for this voracious reader. “I’ve been coming here for the past two and a half years,” she says, and goes on to say that there are three reasons for doing so: “The prices are great; I get whatever title I ask for and if it’s not on the racks they source it for me; and I can browse at leisure without anybody breathing down my neck.” It’s a similar story with Gingie Maynard, a social worker from Florida. Blossom Book House, another seconds store, has been a weekend hangout ever since she started working in Bangalore in July. “I like the price and the feel of the place. They have a lot of books, books that I miss from home. I spend Rs 200 on an average and for a used book the price is pretty much the same as it would cost for one back home,” she says.
Accompanying her was friend Julia Kocian who is currently travelling in India. “It’s the second time I’m visiting Blossom. Although I find it a bit disorganised and overwhelming, I like the feel; it’s like finding treasure in a trove,” she says.
A profitable trade
Second hand books are raking in the moolah at stores like Blossom Book House, Book Worm and Select Book Shop, a selection of book stores in and around M G Road. “Sale of new books gives us a profit of 10% to 13% which goes towards maintenance and rent. It’s the sale of old books that helps us make profits of Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000 a month,” says Krishna Gowda, owner of Book Worm. Most have innovative schemes to keep the customer coming back. Blossom Book House offers a discount of 50% on the marked price for new as well as second hand books if the customer wishes to later return the book and exchange it for another. Blossom sees sales of Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 every day, and a profit of about 10-13% on that amount. Mayi Gowda, owner of the store, concedes that he’s able to sustain his business purely because of the numbers of book lovers who patronise his store. “Although some non-Bangaloreans walk in every day, 60 to 70% of my customers are local people. On an average, a person spends Rs 400 to Rs 500 per visit and a few spend as much as Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000,” he says.
Turning passion into business
So, what drove these young entrepreneurs to think of starting seconds book stores?
“I’ve been a book worm and reading has been a passion all along,” Krishna says. While he was doing his graduation at an evening college, he set shop on the pavement on M G Road. His investment then was Rs 4,000 and the net profit about Rs 250 a day. This was between the years 2000 and 2002.
After his graduation, he had plans of opening a shop in Koramangala. “I was looking for a roughly 300 sq ft store, but didn’t find space. Eventually, Ifound a place at Shrungar Shopping Complex in 2003 that fitted my budget. Recently I opened another branch on Brigade Road Cross. In both shops put together, we have about 50,000 books and the total investment is about Rs 35 lakh,” says Krishna. Mayi too dreamt up the idea while he was still a student. “I’m an avid reader and noticed that Bangalore had only one seconds book store — Select. Soon after I completed my engineering, I set up a store
in 2001 which has now grown into this three storied building that houses about 5 lakh books,” he says. Select is one of the earliest seconds stores in Bangalore and its USP is its very rare collection of books. It was founded 65 years ago by K B K Rao and is now run by his son K K S Murthy and grandson K Sanjay. “People call to say they have rare copies of books, which we sift through and take. We also source books from Mumbai,” says Sanjay. Select also keeps a few new editions like Vikram Sampath’s book on the Mysore Wodeyars, the History of Vijayanagar and the History of Coorg. “There’s not much point in keeping easily available books like White Tiger,” he says.
But for the past six years, it hasn’t been easy finding rare books. Sanjay thinks people now probably see greater value in them and don’t want to part with them quickly.
Krishna and Mayi have sourcing agents across cities. “I have sourcing agents in Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi. Most of our rare books are from paper stores,” says Mayi.
Sheer variety
Select sees around 10 to 12 customers a day, while it’s 100 to 150 for Blossom and Book Worm. Rajive Rathod has been visiting Select for the past four years. “Whenever I come, uncle K K S Murthy recommends books as rare as Huxley. And these are books that are not in print,” he says.
Writer, producer and director Kannan Parameswaran, who we caught browsing at Book Worm says, “As a writer, I read a lot. Given the discounted prices of books at stores like Blossom and Book Worm, I am able to get books at a much cheaper rate than elsewhere. And I love their 50% buy back scheme. It’s great because I can find a Collin Forbes here for Rs 100 whereas at Gangarams I’d have to shell out Rs 400. So far, I’ve picked up at least 1,000 books from this store alone.” Meena Cordeiro, a home maker, swears by Blossom. “Whenever I need a particular rare book, I come here. I totally rely on Mayi to provide a book that I can’t find anywhere else,” she says. Kiran Rodrigues, a social worker, finds Blossom to be the best book store he has come across in India. “I’ve been in Bangalore for six months now, got to know of this place and find that it’s simply the best. I’ve been to book shops in Kolkata and Mumbai, but there is none to match this. They have very rare copies of Dr Zhivago and Osho which I couldn’t find anywhere else,” he says.
Handling competition
With three or four second hand book stores, as also regular book stores like Gangarams, nestled within a half kilometre radius, is competition adversely affecting business?
“Business has certainly come down. Earlier, ours was the only used books shop, later, new ones cropped up,” concedes Sanjay.
But Krishna feels there’s still tremendous scope. “Our trade is like an ocean. We have diaries full of requirements by customers. So there’s plenty of scope for all seconds book stores to thrive,” he says.
Gangarams is seen to have a very different clientele from that of the seconds stores. Balram Sadhwani, president of the Book Sellers’ Association of Bangalore, notes that Select has books that can be treated as antiques. “People have a requirement for these rare pieces which can be procured from there. Shops like Blossom and Book Worm offer huge discounts. If a person is planning to set up a library in the landing of his house and is looking for a vast number of books, it’s a good idea to go here because shops like Gangarams will not offer even one percent discount. But in an area like M G Road, both genres of bookshops are equally important and there is a market for both,” says Sadhwani.
In 1967, I was posted to the Military Hospital, Bangalore (now CHAF) as a Captain AMC. I stayed at the Rajendra Singh Institute / Sub Area Officers Mess, where I met a handsome young army officer. We fell in love and our wedding was fixed for December 25, 1967. He had to get his suit stitched, and I my choli. A number of tailors expressed their inablity to help us as the time was short. Finally, we walked into P N Rao & Sons on M G Road. An Elderly gentleman in a spotless white dohti, coat and cap came forward with a smile and personally took all the details of the suit.Then I asked him about my cholis. Smilingly he told me that they were exclusively gents tailors. Then probably seeing my disappointment, he took the material from me, and holding it to his chest, promised to get them stitched for me. True to his word, the clothes were handed over to us, exquisitely tailored, on the due date. Only then did I come to know that this gracious, ever smiling gentleman who went out of his way to help a total stranger was P N Rao himself. Forty two years have passed by, but I have never forgotten this kind hearted gesture.
Is it any wonder then that P N Rao & Sons have risen to such great heights amongst all the competition? P N Rao is no more. I am sure his noble soul will guide his heirs to even greater heights in the times to come.
| Dr Swarna Naidu,
Jeevan Bhma Nagar, Bangalore

Select was founded 65 years ago by K B K Rao and is now run by his son K K S Murthy (above) and grandson K Sanjay

Second-hand books are raking in the moolah at stores in and around M G Road

Mayi Gowda (inset), owner of Blossom Book House, concedes that he’s able to sustain his business purely because of book lovers


At Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 10:35:00 PM GMT+5:30, Blogger Unknown said...

Very informative but can you please give the addresses of the bookshops mentioned.

At Friday, May 1, 2009 at 5:07:00 PM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Mayur said...

blossom is duping people in second hand books... They sell a book they buy for Rs.30 to 40 at Rs.200 to 250. This was demonstrated to me by one of their sellers and i was surprised. Later, i was told similar things by other people too. Select is supposed to be less cut throat.


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