Friday, March 20, 2009

Remembering - Mr. T. N. Shanbhag of Strand Book Stall, Mumbai.

Amidst all the chaotic bailouts, volatile currencies and news of crashing and now rebounding markets, I’ve been meaning to write of the passing away of Mr T.N. Shanbhag on Feb 27, 2008.

The story of his 700 sq ft bookstore in Fort, Mumbai is incredible.
‘STRAND BOOK STALL was founded by Mr. T. N. Shanbhag on 20th November 1948 and its website says it was the first in the world to give minimum 20% discount on all books; way before the days of Barnes and Noble.’

Here are certain aspects of their business that I really admire

Their selection of titles is always excellent. Although Mumbai now has many bookstores such as Landmark (the Tatas), Oxford Bookstore (Apeejay Group), and Crossword (Rahejas), none can match the prices offered here.

With bookstores in Mumbai and Bangalore (Strand operates in a ‘store format’ vs. the online only format, Strand Book Stall offers huge, yes huge discounts on books. Discounts off the list price range from 20-50% or more; even during non sale periods. Prices on certain new book releases even match prices at
And it’s not just the discounts; the staff at the store is extremely helpful and also track new books for regular buyers.
Over the years, I’ve bought many books on financial markets here (Strand does have excellent prices on Finance books from Wiley Publishing.)

If they do not have a book in stock, they will import it for you (yes even a single copy), and still give you a discount on the cover price, though delivery could take 6-8 weeks. We don’t have the services of just yet!

In the same way that the Reliance Group ushered in the mobile phone revolution in India, Mr Shanbhag began to volume-sell books, far before anyone else here thought of doing so. It’s important to remember that he did this in years prior to India’s 1991 reforms, when there were all kinds of import and forex restrictions. His small business has survived and thrived over the years by providing unmatched prices and consistent service to its customers.

His daughter now runs their store in Bangalore and his son now runs a book wholesale business in the US.

Strand Book Stall is one bookstore ‘Where the reader comes first’.

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