While business circles are being hard-hit by feelings of insecurity among investors, there is one business that seems to defy the current state of affairs, the book business. Somehow, it seems to be less affected in comparison to other kinds of businesses these days.
â€œThough there have been some difficulties, we persist in carrying out our usual business,â€ says Bashudev Dhakal, proprietor of Makalu Book Publishers and Distributors, Kathmandu. â€œWe have retained the same volume of investment into the book business as in previous times,â€ Dhakal said, â€œPeople need to read.â€
Dhakalâ€™s business specialises in publishing and distributing competition exam oriented books. â€œWhenever any vacancy announcement comes from the government or semi-government agencies, such as Public Service Commission, aspirants flock to our stores asking for competition books.â€ Speaking to The Himalayan Times he said, â€œThe growing demand compels us to supply more.â€
The book business is perceived as a low risk business. Whether there is Emergency or violence or not, people continue to read. Investors therefore find little difficulty in financing this business.
Though it occupies a significant position in Nepalâ€™s overall trade, proper estimates of its trade-volume cannot be issued. Most of the publishers and distributors are reluctant to reveal their annual turnover for tax reasons and various other liabilities. But traders like Dhakal maintain that books worth over hundreds of millions of rupees, published either inside or outside the country, are sold here every year. And this bulk amount has not been reduced during the period of emergency.
Sajha Prakashan, a pioneer publishing house for books in Nepali language, makes a turnover of an average of 46 million rupees per year in distribution and about 6 million rupees in publication. Netra Prasad Adhikari, general manager of the Prakashan, told The Himalayan Times that the Nepalâ€™s political and social scenario is unlikely to ruin the book-trade.
Though the business seems to be successful in stealing the show, problems do exist. Distributors find it difficult to trade in far reaching parts of the country, where conditions are not so favourable.
â€œWe have to give books on credit to dealers inside and outside the valley,â€ says Govind Shrestha, of Ratna Pustak Bhandar, â€œBut our dealers have problems in getting back the sale amount from the retailers as retailers are mostly located in remote parts of the district and going to these parts is not easy these days. But our business is surviving anyway.â€ Shrestha told The Himalayan Times. Ratna Pustak Bhandar is yet another pioneering brand name of book trade in Nepal.
Publishers publish the books and hand them out to the distributors, who then give them to local dealers in major cities and district headquarters around the country. Retailers ultimately get their supply from these local dealers. All this has to do more with credit than with cash. Only when the customer buys a book does the cash start flowing. Growing violence and unrest in the country strikes the business in this reverse chain of monetary flow.
â€œWhen we ask for the local dealers to make payment, they tend to ignore it, saying that they have been unable to raise money from the retailers,â€ Dhakal said, speaking to The Himalayan Times, â€œAnd they attribute it all to social insecurity caused by Maoist insurgence.â€
Another facet in the book business of Nepal is the imported ones. Books worth several million rupees come to the country from abroad, mostly from India. The major market for imported books is the Kathmandu valley, which is less likely to be affected by insecure conditions.
â€œWe have been unable to fulfil the requirements of college and university level students and have to import books mainly from India,â€ said Shrestha, â€œUnofficial estimates are that books worth over one billion rupees are imported from other countries."
It seems the book business is just following that of the momo shops and barberâ€™s stalls, ubiquitous in the Kathmandu valley and among those, which never fail.