An inconspicuous building on Church Street, Blossom Book House or Blossoms, as book lovers fondly call it, is one of the few surviving second hand book stores in Bangalore. Started in 2000 by Mayi Gowda, Blossoms has grown a few floors in the last ten years without losing its inherent ability to be welcoming and accommodating.
"In 2000, when I started Blossoms, I was hardly 23", began a shy, yet highly energetic young entrepreneur arranging a shelf of books smiling tirelessly at every customer who walks in. Hailing from an agricultural family in Mysore, educated to be an Electrical Engineer, Mayi Gowda believes he took a huge leap of faith when he started Blossom book house. "That was ten years ago. I did not belong to a well-off family and I had to set this place up with my own money", he says. "My parents thought I was being stupid then. Now they have comfortably moved in with me."
"Blossoms started as a small store of about 100 Sq. Ft. Since then, we’ve grown into a 4000 Sq. Ft. store on Church street filled with books across the three floors of the building. Initially we had tough times in a small place, it is a small business. But we have come a long way from there and the journey has thus far been good", he reminisces.
"The biggest problem those days were the sourcing of the books. When I decided to quit my job and start blossoms, I had no knowledge of the business. I set this place up with a collection of my own books, about 1500 of them. Then we started sourcing books from Majestic and later Chennai. Now fortunately we have a huge network of our loyal suppliers from across the country and that problem is well solved".
For an Orwell fan whose favourite book is Animal Farm "especially for it is a satire about Communism", Gowda has an uncanny positivity about himself. After a long discussion about his humble beginnings, he says "Now, I don’t have any challenges. Blossoms is well established and I make a comfortable living out of it".
Drawing an inference from his business he says, "Reading habits among Bangaloreans have definitely improved, if sales at Blossoms is anything to go by. Parents seems to be encouraging children to develop a reading habit and bring them to the store".
The reading habits of Bangaloreans in vernacular languages has also increased in the last few years, he notices. "As a child, I have read so many books in Kannada. Most books will not even have the names of authors on them. But now many Kannada books are being published and there is high demand as well. Byrappa seems to be the most popular author in Kannada", he reckons.
Gowda’s business principle is a simple but effective one. He believes that "in any business, if you offer a good price and provide a good service, customers will keep coming back".
On Blossom’s ‘buy back’ system he says, "A lot of people love reading and so buy books. But once they finish reading it, they either have no space to store them or just have no use for them anymore. In such a case, they can bring it to us and get half the money. We are in the business of selling used books. So it’s a win-win for both the parties", he adds.
Recollecting one of the happy customer stories, he narrates the story of a gentleman who lost his copy of Frank Herbert’s Dune at an airport without reading till the end of it. "Four years back, he came to Blossoms to buy another copy to finish the book and to his surprise found the exact same book he lost at the airport. The customer was jumping up and down in joy! It is great to see such happiness in people. It justifies the joys of second hand book selling."
"I don’t go to any literati gatherings. I am not part of any book clubs. But many of our customers are and they take the message of Blossoms much better than I can", he says nailing the point across that Blossoms is a no nonsense business run with all substance and no fizz.
On his plans for Blossoms in the future, Gowda says "We have newly started the online store. It is not exactly doing very well. Our next step is to make it much better and reach out to more customers through our website", with a voice that showed immense determination. ⊕