BANGALORE: At a time when most book stores across the city are finding it difficult to sell their wares, the Islamic / Urdu bookstores in Shivajinagar say business is going strong despite obvious odds.
They offer Qurans with translations, Urdu comics for children. A decade short of turning hundred, Mahaboob Book Depot, manned by Faizan Ahmed, was established by his great grandfather. "He could barely afford the rent till my father went abroad and made money," he says.
For several years, the shop had a bar for a neighbour, the proprietor tells us. "It was depressing — people would get drunk and throw up right outside. They were here on rent but refused to give up the space. Only a couple of years ago, we won the case and have expanded," he shares.
Near the entrance of the store, on the pavement opposite Russel Market, the first books to catch your attention are different issues of the Urdu magazine Pakeeza Anchal, popular with women.
"Each issue is out a month in advance. People buy it from us, read it and bring it back here," says Ahmed.
The store pays readers quarter the price and resells them once more at half-price. Competition from other Islamic bookstores that have mushroomed in the locality isn't something that worries him. They have a faithful group of customers who come from across the city.
He estimates the average footfall at about 200 to 300 a day, other than in Ramzan when sales shoot up.
However, digital and online shopping can affect sales, feels Ahamed. So not wanting to lag behind during the digital age, the store sells books on Amazon as well. "We'll soon be on Quickr too," adds the owner. Digital books and audio files of the holy treatise are available here as well.
Of the books the store offers, most are shipped from Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, while some are brought in from Saudi Arabia, claims Ahmed. Right next door is another Islamic bookstore, Shariff Books Depot. Earlier a glass shop, it was revamped later as the owner saw more profit in selling books than glass items.
"My father Ahmed Shariff began it as a glass shop 60 years ago," says Distagir Shariff. And about a decade ago, he noticed that people flocked to Shivajinagar to buy Islamic books, and expanded his business to attract bibliophiles — at least ones who want to read about Islam — too. At a time when many bookstore chains thrive on stationery or 'gift items', books keep business at this shop brisk. And it hasn't yet found the need to make its foray into the digital and online market. Urdu lines inscribed and framed are as prominent here as books on Islam and Sufism.
One of their specialties is the colour-coded Quran. "Different parts of the book are in different colours," he explains, adding that peoplecould even buy each of the 30 parts separately. "The first and the last are the fastest moving."