KALABURAGI: Basavaraj Konek has come a long way from his apprenticeship at a book store as a teenager -- he is now an author, publisher and owner of a book mall in Kalaburagi. At the age of 70, he can look back on the twists and turns of his life, the many chances he took, and the opportunities he got, to achieve what he has today.
Siddalingeshwar Book Mall and Book Depot, which he has nurtured over the years, is a treasure house of tomes, especially textbooks which are always on discount. At least 1.5 lakh books of various categories are available at the store. Konek has also published books of about 2,000 writers of Kalyana Karnataka region. Born on Basava Jayanti in 1952 to Gurappa and Itabai, he spent his childhood in poverty and struggle. His parents managed to admit him to school, but he lost his father by the time he completed Class 10, which meant that he couldn’t pay Rs 13.50 for his SSLC re-examination.
Basavaraj got a job in Dharmapal Arya’s Book Depot and earned his exam fee. But with the family’s financial burden weighing heavy on his young shoulders, Basavaraj was forced to find a new job at Bhavikatti’s Book Stall, where he was paid a princely sum of Rs 80 per month. Here, Basavaraj developed many contacts, and became a favourite with customers.
People who visited Bhavikatti’s Book Stall started identifying Basavaraj as ‘namma huduga’ (our boy). An intelligent young man, he learned valuable lessons on business acumen, humility and belief in customers. It was here that he understood the importance of books and that they could be a good business idea. After working for over seven years, Basavaraj mulled the idea of starting his own bookshop, knowing well that he would be entering a competitive field. Though he was offered the post of village accountant, he spurned it and started a small bookstore, more like a paan stall, near Jagat Circle in 1977. He was overjoyed when he earned Rs 1.25 from his first customer.
Sheer hard work and sharp trade skills helped him take his fledgling business to a new level, and eventually, he opened a book mall.
From store to publishing
After a few years, Basavaraj made his first move in the publishing line, with pocketbooks for SSLC students on subjects like Kannada and Social Studies, which he himself authored, with the help of high school teachers. He worked hard to market his pocketbooks, visiting every high school, talking to principals, teachers and students.
The rapport he established with educational stakeholders -- teachers, lecturers, principals, librarians and administrators -- was a big boon in promoting his business activities. His idea of business growth included having his two sons spend a minimum of one hour every day in his store to master the trade, besides their school education. While his first son Siddalinga is a B.Com graduate, second son Sharan completed his MBA. His wife Basamma was a dealer for MSIL and won kudos for her work.
The opportunity to expand his business beckoned when Gulbarga University was carved out as a separate entity from Karnatak University, Dharwad. As owner of a textbook shop, it was his primary concern to ensure that all textbooks are available to students. Initially, students of Gulbarga University had to follow the syllabus of Karnatak University, with only one or two chapters of localised content, but even for that, they had to struggle for study material.Responding to their needs, Konek met professors and lecturers, and got them to author books, which he published. Thus, he became the sole publisher of all books required by Gulbarga University.
Encouraged, he launched 25 books under the leadership of short story writer Balachandra Jaishetty in 2002, to mark the silver jubilee of his book business. He has another pet mission: to encourage budding and senior writers of Kalyana Karnataka region. Towards this end, he started publishing a minimum of 25 books every year, giving writers their honorarium, besides 25 books free of cost. This year, he has published 125 books written by different writers on various subjects.