This year will be a special one for Crossword Bookstores because a few months from now it will open its 100th book shop in the country. Already strong with 94 shops in its chain of bookshops, another 7-8 are set to be opened this year, according to Pune-based Aakash Gupta, director, Crossword Bookstores.
Crossword, along with the 80-plus years old Express Book Service (EBS) at Camp, and Akshardhara Book Centre on Bajirao road are among the bookstores that are continuing to stand tall in business and buck the trend.
Very recently, the iconic Strand Book Stall in Mumbai and Popular Book House in Pune downed shutters within a week of each other. While a number of old and new bookshops such as Manney’s in Camp and Twist ‘n Tales at Aundh have closed down over the last few years, what’s the secret of those that are continuing in business?
“When book sales started falling, I thought of a new idea. I began organising author interaction events at Pune’s corporates. I hold at least 10 interactions a month in various IT and other firms. A small quantity of books get sold at these events and there is also an increase in footfalls at my shop,” said Rohit Jerajani, the third generation owner of EBS.
He is not only grateful to a loyal customer base which has stood by him steadfast over the last three generations, but has also specialised in putting up bookstalls at various public events. A number of publishers make it a point to reach out to him for promoting their new books in Pune. This means additional business for EBS.
A quaint bookshop with a large array of magazines, and a large collection of books, all wrapped in transparent polythene, EBS is also facing the strain faced by other bookshops.
“Honestly, today the bookstore industry is facing a slump,” Jerajani said candidly, blaming the book piracy business and the heavy online discounts which were killing bookshops across the country. “Publishers too are not coming forward against this (piracy). Loyal readers and citizens need to come forward and raise their voice against this,” he said.
Crossword does not deal in just books but stationery and toys too, along with audio books, film and music DVDs. “One of the main reasons for failure of other businesses is financial mismanagement. We can combat the challenge of online because we offer a good selection and a great atmosphere to shop in,” said Gupta.
The bookstore focuses on offering a good ambience to browse through books and shop in. A strong brand image and customer loyalty have helped. “Those who have read and bought books at our store during their childhood days are now getting their children to Crossword,” said Gupta.
Located barely 500 metres from Popular Book House, the iconic International Book Service transformed itself through a partnership with Bookganga.com and became Bookganga International Book Service. Founded in 1931 by the late VN Dixit, his son, Upendra Dixit had to take the brave decision of entering into an alliance with a new entity and continue in the business of retailing books.
Popular’s proprietor Sunil Gadgil cited online bookstores as one of the main reasons for him shutting shop. Pune has seen the shutting down of many bookstores in the city because of piracy or the direct effect of online sites. “We too had ventured into online selling of books but we cannot compare with the giants present online,” said Gadgil.