The Himalayan Times Online
In scholarly pursuits
In Nepal the establishment of private universities has made it possible
for students to do a variety of courses. The horizon is
no more limited to business studies or major English. However,
students doing specific courses do have to deal with the
scarcity of relevant and quality books along with the sky
rocketing prices of those available. Thus, they are left with no
other choice but photocopies.
This is where Mandala Book Point comes in. It is a place where students
can find the prescribed books, and they need not worry about the hole
that will be burnt in their pockets as the books are priced according to
the Nepali market.
Man and his books:
Madhav Lal Maharjan has been surrounded
by books for most of his life. He worked for Nepal Book sellers where he
met Professor Ishwari Lal Shrestha who has been his inspiration.
According to Maharjan, no other business is as good as the book
business. Thus, he hardly ventured into any other business.
Initially he established the Himalayan Book Sellers at Thamel as a
family business. However, after a split in the family, he had to start
another business, but he could not think beyond books. So, at the end of
1988, Maharjan established the Mandala Book Point at Kantipath.
Containing the universe:
The choice of the name Mandala (which means universe) was very simple
for him as he believes,”Books do not need a passport to travel”.
Keeping in tune with the name, the store encompasses a wide range of
books. Be it a child or an avid book reader or the scholarly type, the
store has something for everyone. However, Maharjan admitted that the
focus is more on books related to academics.
“We want to make books related to academics available to the scholars
and students of the related field,” he says.
Deals that work:
Maharjan is well aware of the fact that
there are very limited buyers for such kinds of books. Moreover in a
country like Nepal, price is a major challenge. However, at Mandala one
can find books related to subjects like development studies, Sociology,
Anthropology and others at very reasonable prices. This has been made
possible by the folks at Mandala being able to strike special deals with
whose sole motive is to make his place a resource centre for
academicians, also claims to have some very rare books on his shelves.
Books by renowned international writers on issues like conflict, media,
military are also available here.
No piracy please:
also the General Secretary of National Book Sellers and Publishers
Association. Thus, he is well aware of the two most harmful trends
prevalent today — piracy and photocopying.
He says, “We are trying to control the problem in a subtle and indirect
way as we cannot stop people from photocopying books.”
In order to deal with these trends, the store has asked publishers to
bring out certain books, which are in high demand among Nepali students,
at lower prices. But the effort from one side is not enough. “The effort
of people involved in book business needs support from readers as well,”
strongly believes that the reading habit needs to be promoted in Nepal
as it will not only help generate awareness about the piracy in books,
but will also boost publication of “books with Nepali context”.
As the saying ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, there is a certain
trend happening in Nepal that is a major encouragement. Mahrajan said
there are certain private schools that are giving assignments on books.
Word of mouth:
According to the owner, like most of
the organisations of Nepal, his store also doesn’t follow a typical
corporate management. For Mandala, the word of mouth from a satisfied
customer has been the most effective marketing strategy. However, they
have tried their hand in activities like book reviews and launches.
Stating that his yearly sale of the books is sustainable, Maharjan
asserts that most of his customers are foreigners. He also takes pride
in being able to provide rare books at cheap prices. This probably sets
Mandala apart from rest of the Capital’s book stores.
Keeping up with trends:
Running a bookstore has its own set of
challenges. One needs to be up to date with all the books that are
published within the country as well as abroad. Besides keeping a tab on
the trends of the book world internationally via the Internet and
newspapers, the people from Mandala are also in touch with publishers on
a regular basis.
Then there is the task of knowing the book that is relevant and in
demand. They are also required to know which book will be able to
capture the readers imagination the most, and select accordingly.
Then there is the time factor, thus getting the book as soon as possible
is imperative to survive the market. “A constant
two way communication with the
publishers is vital,” says Maharjan.
The trend of gifting books, which is
not prevalent in Nepal, needs to gain momentum so that places like
Mandala can expand their customer base to include the locals as this
will definitely promote the reading habit,” says Maharjan.
He also wants to be able to order books directly from publishers in
foreign countries, and also take orders for books related to Nepal from
scholars living abroad. However, the lack Open General Licence Law is
hindering this. “If our country had this, we would have been able to get
relevant and best books for universities in Nepal. It would have been a
big blessing for our students.”
Although the store has focused on customers involved in some specific
field, it does house other books that cater to demands of other book
lovers. The rows and rows of shelves are stacked with books from Enid
Blyton to Mario Puzo, from variety of dictionaries to yoga books. People
looking for any type of book can pay the store a visit, and chances of
coming out empty handed are very less.
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