An entrepreneur’s happiest moment is when he is loved by his clients and customers. And no one has experienced it better than Mayi Gowda. Ask any bibliophile in Bangalore where to buy second hand books and they will direct you to Blossoms bookstore on Church Street.
Known for his hospitality, Mayi Gowda lets you read books in his bookstore and even brings you coffee. "It is not possible for a customer to buy all the books,” he says matter of factly. Unlike other stores, he emphasises on creating a bond with the customer instead of just selling books. As a result he is the owner of the most loved bookstore in the city.
Born and brought up in Rangsamudra, a village 22 Kms from Mysore, Mayi Gowda had his early education in his village itself. Dreaming of becoming an engineer, he came to Mysore to do a diploma in electrical and electronics engineering after his SSLC. In 1995, Mayi came to Bangalore to pursue his engineering, and he joined Electrical and Electronics Engineering in UVCE (University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering). He lived with a friend in Peenya, and would spend time with booksellers on the pavements of Avenue Road. He would help them and slowly started selling books on the pavements of MG Road. Meanwhile, the friend with whom he was staying went back to his village. He had to vacate the house in Peenya, and moved to a hostel in Gandhi Bazaar which did not charge anything except for his meals. Coming from a poor background it was difficult for Mayi to make ends meet; his grades also started falling.
Mayi had to drop out of engineering and it was then when he started selling books full time. Meanwhile, one of his friends, Mahesh, who had also come to Bangalore to pursue engineering, joined him as sales started picking up. He was making up to 200-300 rupees per day. "I still wanted to be an engineer," add Mayi recalling his initial days. He joined college again. During the day he would attend college and in the evenings work at his makeshift bookstore, while Mahesh joined an evening college to fill up for Mayi at the bookshop during the day.
After his graduation, Mayi got a job in General Electric through campus placement, but he quit after 15 days. His friend Mahesh had a shop on Brigade Road, while Mayi was selling old books on the pavement of Brigade Road. Both of them used to refer customers to each other's shops in case a book was not available with them. "Many times I would take my customers to Mahesh's shop in case I didn't have a book they were looking for," Mayi say with pride.
Mahesh shut his shop and joined Infosys after his graduation, while Mayi rented the first floor at the current address. Six months later, he took the second floor in the same building and slowly expanded to the ground floor. His present shop is spread over three floor now.
Mayi ventured into e-commerce in 2006, well before the big players entered the space. Online sales did well for two, three years but have now dried out. He says the business is not doing well as more online businesses are picking up.
Starting on a pavement to make ends meet with just 1500 books 12 years ago, today Mayi has his store in one of the most sought after locations in the costliest city of India and an enviable collection of over 2,00,000 books which also makes him the largest second hand bookseller in the country. What does it take? He has just one word to sum up his incredible journey – “Confidence.”
Visit Blossoms here. How do you think small booksellers can survive the onslaught of big online businesses? Do comment.