Notes from the Bengaluru Book Festival
Many of us PBees took turns to be at our stall. Sharing some of the stories we heard from our colleagues :
It must have been pretty evident to anyone who saw me that I was no expert at selling books. At the beginning of the day, my eagerness was shining through and apparent even to the elderly man sitting in the stall across from me. He walked over and started speaking to me in Telugu. He didn’t seem to care that I didn’t understand a word of what he was saying. But a minute into his monologue, he stopped to ask me this: “Caste? Married? Children?” As soon as he heard my responses, he shuffled back to his stall. Thankfully, this mildly odd and abrupt conversation didn’t set the tone for the rest of my day at the Pratham Books stall.
My colleague and I spent an unreasonable amount of time arranging the books in different ways – according to language, reading level, height, and so on – to see what worked best. Determined to be approachable, we sprang up every time a customer entered our stall. We quickly learnt that no customer was like the previous.
There was the mother who gently urged her daughter to read more Kannada books (“But this is so long, Amma!”). Then the strict elder sister who only wanted dialogue-centred books so that her brother could learn conversational English. There was the doting father who picked up every book that his daughter set her bright eyes on. The keen father who was hunting for stories with the best illustrations to nurture his son’s interest in drawing. The grandmother who marched in and out at the same rapid speed, asking for a single title and interested in nothing else. The young uncle who spent nearly an hour sifting through books to find the right story for his niece.
I came away from the Bangalore Book Fair quietly dreaming of starting a book-store someday and sort of glad that I’m part of a larger movement to bridge the gap between stories and children. And well, not to forget the realization that I desperately need to sharpen my basic math skills (Billing was a nightmare!).
A sales person’s job must be a great training ground for consumer psychology. Here are a few things I overheard at the Bangalore Book Fair, when I was not fumbling with the billing or the money box at our stall:
A young wife to husband: No, no don’t buy Kannada books, he’ll keep asking me what is this, what is this, what is that, and I can’t read Kannada fast enough.
A husband: You’re buying so many books for YOUR School, but I’LL have to carry it!
Tired child: I’ll pick up three books with dogs and then I want to go to the food stalls.
More tired child: Enough Momma, how many books! I want burger! I saw its there in that place!
Grandma: Oh, this is for 12-14 age group, MY granddaughter is much beyond all this, she reads FAT books.
A very patient customer, who I sensed was not a Kannadiga: The level 1 books are for my daughter, the rest are for me – I’m trying to learn Kannada.
The patient customer really does deserve a bouquet, no, no, a bunch of books.
Karthik Shankar, another new PBee had the following to say :
Being at the Book Fair was amazing! For the 6-7 hours that I was there, I met many interesting people.My daughter, Ksitija was accompanied by my dad. They arrived late in the evening. When I asked Ksitija what she was excited about, she replied nonchalantly, “To eat popcorn and cotton candy!” She stayed back with me for the rest of the evening, helping out with arranging books at the stall. She also found a corner to read and to be read to. Some visitors to the stall must have noticed father and daughter reading “Freedom Run”.
During the last few days, we only had 1 Finance Series set and were using it as a sample. Most of the customers wanted the same set. Finally, we declared that this would be given to the customer who came to the stall on the last day (after the exhibition). On the last day, a lady came and waited till the end of the book fair and happily took away the Finance Series.