Year of the 50th

UAE: Indian expat of 42 years offers sales and discounts to promote reading Filed on September 16, 2021
Photo by Shihab

Bhishan BK Sainani is best known for his time-honoured, hidden treasures — Book World Trading in Satwa and Archies Bookshop in Al Karama

For more than two decades, long-time Indian expat Bhishan BK Sainani has been trying to preserve the scent of heritage through books — over 100,000 of them.

Once an employee of Dubai Aluminium (Dubal), Sainani is best known for his time-honoured, hidden treasures — Book World Trading in Al Bada, Satwa, and Archies Bookshop and Lending Library in Al Karama.

Both still stand tall in this hypersonic city.

Sainani, who first came to the UAE in 1979, reminisced about the ‘good old days’ as he spoke to Khaleej Times about the pandemic, his evolving business, new-age reading life and his love for all things Dubai.

“After travelling to US, Canada, Europe and the Far East, and after coming from Iran to Dubai in 1979, our children were planning to go to the US for higher studies,” he said. “Therefore, in 2001, my wife thought of starting some small business to keep her busy.”

Hailing from an erudite family in New Delhi, Sainani said their first thought was starting a library and a second-hand bookshop. This became Book World Library in Karama, which later moved into a bigger space under the name of Archies Bookshop.

“Looking at the big response in Karama, and while our second child was also planning to move to the US for higher studies, we opened another outlet called Book World Trading in 2002 in Satwa,” he said.

For lovers of the written word, Sainani’s stores are a place to find wallet-friendly titles and indulge in escapism.

“There’s nothing much better than letting your imagination run wild as you lose yourself in a great book," Sainani said. "That’s what I keep telling people. Reading time is a special time and even the UAE leaders have been reinforcing this. We have so many amazing international book fairs that are held every year here."

Many of the books at Sainani’s shops are sourced from local publishers who set up stands at various book fairs.

Book lovers are also spoilt for choice — the floor-to-ceiling sliding bookshelves hold paperbacks and titles for everyone, with genres ranging from fiction and self-help to cookery and travel. The lucky ones may even stumble upon a truly rare find.

“We have a collection of around 40,000 new and used books in Satwa at Book World and around 60,000 new and old books at the Archies Bookshop in Karama,” Sainani said.

As digital began dominating the market, many second-hand book stores in Dubai closed shop. But Sainani’s bookshops in Karama and Satwa stood strong, braving even the Covid-19 pandemic’s blow.

The shop began offering home delivery for added convenience and Sainani said he has received requests to house textbooks.

Some customers, many of them regulars, sit on the benches outside Archies Bookshop in Karama.

“The one good trend that I witness these days is the emergence of book cafes and availability and sale of books in varied venues. Book cafes successfully interweave a culture of coffee, reading and leisure. So many top cafes and hotels in the city have sourced books from us, as our pricing is far more reasonable compared to any larger mall-based stores,” Sainani said.

But this treasure-trove for bookworms may one day go digital.

“Businesses are looking for ways to reach and serve customers by going online and many have approached me,” he said. “Although this may help fuel sales, so far I have refrained from it."

Explaining the reasoning behind his reluctance, Sainani said: "When one opens a physical book, a very special smell is experienced. That’s because the smell of a book is almost like the scent of heritage that I have been robustly trying to preserve ... I just wish that the city had more takers for physical books — just at the same pace as the city has grown in all these years."

Nandini Sircar

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