Intelligence does not see class, level or shape of an individual. You find it in places least expected, a footpath of a normal busy road, moving between heaps of books., brewing ideas and philosophies of life, already putting in application, the marketing tricks and strategies yet to be formed in the high end business institutes of our country.
Ourvadodara encountered one such book encyclopedia on the streets of Vadodara, making us believe that books are indeed man’s best friend.
Pradeep kumar, a short individual with tall ideas believes in the power of reading, and describes his 20 year long relationship with books. He runs his enterprise on the footpath near pavilion road. He has a vast collection of books, which he provides on rent, on a temporary basis. You pay a hundred bucks as a deposit for a book along with thirty rupees as rent. When you return the book, you get to have another book on rent just for thirty.
Q. How did you come up with this idea?
- I hold a degree in public administration, and since then I had a keen interest in reading. I belonged to a family of lesser means and could not afford to buy books to read. After my education, I started working in a book shop opposite Vadodara railway station on a salary of 400 rupees. The idea of owning and reading these books attracted me a lot and that was when I decided to open a book store of my own. Due to financial limitations, opening a book store was not quite possible and I came up with the concept of this business. Besides selling books was not the main motive. My main motive was to have as many books to read as possible and provide people to read, at a cheaper cost.
Q. You provide your books on rent, how many of them do you actually receive back? Does it affect your profit margin?
- I only receive 40% of the books back. But it does not really affect my profit margin. When a customer returns the book back, it’s he who profits from it, when he/she returns the book; they get another book on the same deposit. If they don’t, the next time they have to pay the deposit again in order to get a new one. There are some customers whom I provide the books for free, because they genuinely are interested in reading and have been my customers for a long time now. And it gives me immense satisfaction in meeting people who are so addicted to books.
Q. How much time do you spare reading? What is your favorite book?
- The book called THE MAGIC OF THINKING BIG. It is written by David Schwartz. I am highly influenced by this book. I open my stall at about 12 in the noon. It goes on till eight in the evening. I read late nights, sometimes even till five in the morning.
Q. So you have your stall on the footpath. Did you ever face any pressures from the local authorities or police?
- Not really. Actually the people at higher posts in these local authorities are all educated. They understand the importance of books. And my business only helps make people more educated and learned. So they don’t pressurize me to move.
Q. Your stall is literally open and out all day long. Have you ever experienced any case of stealth?
- As a matter of fact I have once. I once went for refilling my water bottle leaving the stall. A customer came and picked one of the books and started walking away. I ran after him, brought him back and gifted him another book called The secret. I asked him to read it both and return them back, without charging anything for the books. The guy was highly embarrassed.
Q. Why do you think you have such a huge customer base?
- 70% of my customers are students. It is obvious that students cannot afford to pay much for these books. When they get to read it for price this low, they definitely opt for it. Also, I have in my collection, books that are rare and difficult to find.
Q. I have noticed this that a majority of your customers are girls. What do you think is the reason?
- (Smiles) When it comes to novels, I have realized that girls are more into reading than boys. Even if you look at the larger picture, girls score more than boys and are ahead of them in academics. The reason being strong focus and concentration, which is lacking in the other sex.
Q. You have been in this business for almost a decade now. What transition have you noticed in the readers in terms of books and reading?
- To be honest, I find today’s generation to be highly lacking in English. It is true that most of them can speak and read English, but their taste have changed over a period of time. Earlier, authors like O. Henry were in demand owing to their classical English but nowadays most of the customers go for Chetan Bhagat and Eric Sehgal. Their works are very successful, but they lack a quality which classical literature used to possess.
Q. Which book and genre are in high demand these days?
- Fifty shades of grey. It is written by E. L James. It’s an erotic romantic novel which created quite a stir internationally when it was launched. It’s not available and is difficult to find. But I own a few copies of it. Romantic genre is the one which sells the most these days.
Q. What are your future plans?
- I want to own a shop in Fatehgunj. The rent is too high in this area, and buying a place is out of question. I’ll continue to run this stall till I find good deal.