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This bookshop, which has an ISO tag, is indeed a paradise for students

— Photo: K, Murali Kumar

BOOK PARADISE has about it the feel of a neatly laid out super bazaar. All sections are labelled — IT, Management, Statistics, Religion, Literature, Reiki, and so on — and you will not find a single book in the wrong section. What's more, you will not find a Unix book in the C++ section among the IT shelves, which cover an entire wall in the huge bookstore in Jayanagar IV Block.

M.S. Venkatesh, the Managing Partner of Book Paradise, shows you around the shop with pride, and his careful eye is quick to spot one book in the wrong slot — Thoreau's Civil Disobedience among the Self Improvement books. He summons a shop assistant and asks him to put it back where it belongs — the Literature section. "We have a person employed just to make sure the right books are in the right place," says Mr. Venkatesh. "It was during my visit to a bookstore in Frankfurt that I realised how the books can be arranged in a customer-friendly way."

It is this emphasis on neatness and diligent attention to detail that has won Book Paradise ISO 9001:2000 certification — a first for any chain of bookstores in Karnataka. "Our employees are specially trained in customer care, starting from the way they have to receive a call." And if a customer has forgotten the name of an author and can remember only the first two letters of the name, the help desk will look through the database on the computer to jog his/her memory. And if the shop does not have the book a customer is looking for, the help desk will enter it in the logbook and inform the customer as soon as it arrives. They even door-deliver the book if it is within a five-kilometre radius. The shop takes as much pride in documentation and monitoring of transactions, which also impressed the ISO team immensely.

In order to attract customers, Book Paradise has come up with some unique schemes. A customer can, for instance, give old newspapers or books (for Rs. 40 per kg, while the market price is around Rs. 5) and have that amount waived on the purchase of books. There are also several gift and discount schemes.

Mr. Venkatesh says that store caters particularly to students — from high school to post-graduate courses. As you go around the store, you realise that the shop actually has every conceivable book a student would ever want, from guides to books on advanced computer languages. About 80 per cent of the shop's customers are students. This special emphasis on students' needs is, perhaps, because Mr. Venkatesh actually started out with a company called Educational Supplies, which distributed imported books in bulk to various research institutions and colleges.

It was when the V.P. Singh Government banned imports in 1993 that he (along with his brother) did some quick thinking and shifted to retail business. They started the shop opposite the Jayanagar Shopping Complex, and today, they have four more retail outlets in various parts of the city. The brothers also tested the waters of the publishing industry by bringing out books such as Puzzlingly Yours and Jayanagar Shoppers' Guide. But this line of trade did not somehow enthuse the much.

"Anyway, the ban on imports went with the V.P. Singh Government. But we continued with both our businesses, the emphasis being on students," says Mr. Venkatesh, who has drawn much inspiration from the books in the Self Improvement section in his own shop.

Book Paradise can be contacted on 26637466 or bookparadise@vsnl.net.

BAGESHREE S

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