By Team

“Mr Krishna used to work together on the roadside with a friend. His friend used to go to college in the morning and he would go to college at night. It seems only fitting that these two enterprising bibliophiles own landmark bookstores on the same street – a fitting fate for the two young men who once peddled novels to MG Road shoppers”

Mr Krishna poses at the Church Street branch of Bookworm

In his wonderful book, American Gods, Neil Gaiman famously wrote, “What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”

You only have to walk through the doors of Bookworm to know that Gaiman was absolutely right. Book-lined shelves fill the space – ranging from popular bestsellers to stunning rarer tomes. 365 days a year, an unassuming gentleman mans the front desk. Meet Mr Krishna, the man behind the success of Bookworm.

The Emergence of a Bookworm

Hailing from Rangasamudra, a small village near Mysore, Krishna came to Bangalore to finish his education. His thirst for the written word began in school, reading comic books and whatever Kannada literature was accessible to him at the time. His love of reading was fostered by a teacher who took an interest in him, “He had a very good collection of books – both Kannada and English. He used to subscribe to ‘Wisdom’. So, I used to read a lot of Wisdom and Kannada storybooks.”

The First Books He Sold

After he graduated from school, he wanted to study further. However, his parents urged him to get a job. As a compromise, he decided to do both. “I joined Vijaya College in Bangalore, and in the morning I used to work on the pavement selling books. When I was free I used to read a lot so that’s how I learned about the industry, the best sellers, and the demand in this area.”

How did he fall into a life of bookselling? He says, simply, “Searching for a job, I got an offer to sell books on the pavement.” His employer? His current neighbour, Blossom Book House. He reminisces, “We used to work together on the roadside. He used to go to college in the morning and I would go to college in the night.” It seems only fitting that these two enterprising bibliophiles own landmark bookstores on the same street – a fitting fate for the two young men who once peddled novels to MG Road shoppers.

Finding His Path

“Initially, after my graduation, I wanted to do my MBA. As soon as I got into the programme at Karnataka State Open University, I quit my job with Blossom,” he says. Degree in hand, he had a difficult decision to make – to find a more mainstream job or pursue his passion for books. He confesses, “After my MBA, I was in a kind of depression to tell you the truth. I didn’t want to leave the bookselling business. I wanted a good job but I still didn’t want to leave this.” He ended up finding a small place in Shrungar complex. The rest, as they say, is history. After a few months, it became clear that he was in the right business.

Delving Into His Passion

When asked why he loved books so much, Krishna laughingly admits, “I don’t know!” Today, Bookworm is a chain and Krishna spearheads three stores in the city. Once upon a time, he read every book that passed through his doors. Unfortunately, success has kept him too busy for that. However, as he quickly reassures us, he does have a wonderful personal collection that he is constantly adding to. He admits, “Whenever I find a really good book, I keep one aside.” Well, can’t say that we blame him!

The Business of Bookselling

With big online retailers like Amazon and Flipkart on the horizon, we were surprised to hear Krishna’s confident assertion that business at Bookworm was booming. “It’s increasing, to tell you the truth, because nowadays young people are reading more, and parents are pushing their kids to read.”

He recalls a time when people declared bookstores obsolete with the launch of Flipkart in 2010 but says that since the population is so young, they have the spending ability and they want physical books. Krishna muses, “They want to touch and enjoy them properly. Kindles and E-readers aren’t a threat to us.”

He uses Church Street as an example. Home to three big-name retailers – Bookworm, Blossom, and Gangaram’s – most Bangalorean’s visit the area to get their literary fix. Krishna says, “Blossom and we have a wide range, and if we are not able to procure the book for our customers, they can order it online.” He continues, “Who (of the three-book houses) gets the business isn’t important – we have to satisfy our customers. If they are satisfied they will tell 100 people. And if they come to Church Street, they will find something in one of our shops.” His logic is simple, “There are plenty of things to read.”

In Krishna’s opinion, globalisation has been a gift to literature, and he is happy to discuss his favourite Nigerian and South American works. He admits that these are harder for him to procure, and that’s when customers turn to online marketplaces. “They take some time to get, and customers these days don’t wait.”

So how does he cater to the elderly, the middle-aged, and the millennials? He reads book reviews religiously, listens carefully to publisher recommendations, and follows sales trends to determine what people are looking for.

Calling All Bookworms

Perhaps the best way to illustrate Krishna’s generosity is to talk about his latest idea. He recently began an outreach programme of sorts, the success of which depends on the dedication of his favourite people – his readers. The programme, called the ‘1000 Lives’ initiative, is based on a simple yet effective idea. When you enter Bookworm, you’ll see a clear box containing several gift-wrapped books. All you need to do is take one and gift it to an underprivileged child. The books are freely given, and your kindness will cost you nothing and give you infinite satisfaction.

Many people who pass through the doors of Bookworm will ignore the quiet man seated at the front desk – a mistake in our opinion. His love for books is only rivalled by his determination to make a difference in whatever way he can. When we first interviewed Krishna, we were in awe of his hard work and dedication, which ensured he rose from his humble pavement days to becoming a successful retailer in his own right. Now, however, we are more grateful for his simplicity, humility, and determination to honour his roots and change the lives of those around him. The world would be a darker place without books offering us hope, freedom, and knowledge through their pages – and Krishna’s efforts truly honour the bookworm spirit.

Content with a Cause

Having been educated in a Government school himself, Krishna has a keen appreciation for the trials that rural bookworms face. This is why he conceptualized a new idea to give back to the system that helped mould him. When customers visit Bookworm, they can purchase gift vouchers for Rs. 500. That money will go toward building libraries in underprivileged and rural schools.

He explains why this cause is so dear to him, “My teacher taught us A B C D in the fifth standard. Our English was very poor. In the second PU, our ma’am didn’t know how to speak the language. It’s not only English. That reading culture has to be cultivated in the initial stages especially in rural areas. It influences our creative thinking, our morals – everything.”