Back home in India, large retail chains are a comparatively recent phenomenon for books and their patrons. Some of them like Landmark from Chennai and Oxford from Kolkata started out as a single store many years ago and spread their business to other metro cities only in the last decade or so. However news from across the street is that quite a few of them are in trouble and shutting down many of their outlets.
Pravin Tatavarti, who heads a technology organisation in Bangalore and comes from a family of book lovers was dismayed to discover his favourite store in Residency Road had downed its shutters when he went shopping one Sunday. “I decided to try out their other outlet in a mall nearby. But that too has shrunk in size even though it had expanded just a couple of years ago,” he complains.
Thomas Abraham, Managing Director, Hachette India, believes “While high street chains are having a rough time, the same is not the case with the smaller and mid size indies. This mirrors the state of organised retail. No big retail chain brand is making money. Whereas most indie bookstores are making money because the owners manage their cash flows better, know their clientele, and get stocking right.’ Abraham also believes that India is under served in terms of bookshop spread all over the country. The problem as he sees it is ‘the metros and A cities have a rash of chain stores opening that end up being the wrong format or the wrong location or just redundant.”
Abraham and Mitra’s perspectives are validated by Mayi Gowda, proprietor of the independent Blossom Book House in Bangalore. Blossoms stocks new books as well as seconds and offers discounts on all the books on display. Gowda, while admitting his bookstore is also going online, says his business has not suffered very much by the advent of players like Flipkart. “We offer generous discount not just on current bestsellers but all our books. Our faithful patrons keep coming back. In the last one year, our business may have been impacted negatively to the tune of 10-15 per cent but we are confident of regaining lost ground with our online venture.”
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Image Source : johntrathome / John Roberts