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Khalil Ahmad, the Journey from book-worm to book-world

This is the story of the visionary book-worm who slowly and steadily went up to becoming the king of book world in Goa. Today
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This is the story of the visionary book-worm who slowly and steadily went up to becoming the king of book world in Goa. Today no one can match a number of books he has in his St. Inez store spread up into 6000 sq ft area. The journey to this was not easy for him. He came to Goa with just a dream of setting up of his own bookstore and finally managed to setup the book-world in Goa. Let me take you on the roller-coaster ride of the success story of Mr, Khalil Ahmad, the owner of Broadway Books in Goa.

I remember of meeting Mr. Ahmad somewhere in 1988. Then Goa was not developed to the extent it has swelled up now. The roads had a deserted looks with few vehicles moving around in the city. Not many could afford two or four wheelers those days. There was hardly few book and music stores existed in the city then. You could easily count them on your fingers. Mr. Khalil was working for the UBS publication company as an area sales manager for the Goa region. I was just doing my high school studies and used to work for him on part time basis. I remember very well the amount of knowledge this gentleman had then about the books has been just augmented with the time. He used to conduct the exhibitions of books in all the major cities of Goa on the regular basis. I used to handle the sales (both indoor and outdoor).  I was very happy since I used to get a free reading of books all the time along with little pocket money too.

Although it is not my story but I may be popping in now and then since I have been a part of his journey in a very small way.

Mr. Khalil has a vast knowledge of books right from the beginning and that perhaps had developed in him due to his love for the books. The exhibitions he used to conduct then was huge with an entire top floor of Menezes Braganza Hall in Panaji being filled up with piles of books. If someone had to inquire about the particular books, within no time he used to narrate the content of that book and also get the same to the buyer in a fraction of the moment.

It won’t be an exaggeration if I say that those days owning a book was a very expensive affair. There was no existence of the digital media then and Google ceased to even exist. Imagine the information you may be looking out for then would have had no other option than to go through the books of reference. The books were the manual Google that existed then and it used to sell like a hot cake.

I still keep in touch with Mr. Ahmad and still buy many books from him. But till date, I never saw him changed a little bit. Having owned one of the biggest book outlets in Goa Mr. Ahmad still helps the customers same way as he has been doing for past 28 years. When you visit his outlet you will find him available always at your service at the ‘Broadway Book Centre’ Ashirwad building in St. Inez. He will assist you with the information and the books you are looking for besides recommending you the more references.

As a young boy, Khalil Ahmed always loved reading books and he always dreamt of working in a book shop. “I developed my love towards the books right from very young age. I used to read books of all genres. To peruse my love further I decided to join the book publishing firm. I joined the UBS Publication House Mumbai in 1974 as a Sales Assistant. After working for two years on the position of Assistant Sales I was promoted to the position of Area Sales Manager for Goa region. In Goa, I worked for around 18 years under the banner of UBS Publication and during this period, I learned a lot about the Goa and its lovely people,” Khalil Narrated.

According to Mr. Khalil, the UBS Publications was one of the largest publication houses in India then. “It was No. 1 publication house in Asia and I was at the helm of it from the Goa region. Book reading was not the trend then, only the serious readers, who either for the purpose of reference or stack up to their libraries used to invest huge amounts in the reading material. I used to hold the exhibitions of the books across Goa in various locations for UBS Publishers and I always received very good response every time in Goa,” he said.

Mr. Khalil was perhaps the only person who brought the reading habit into Goa. Prior to him, no one had even dared to organize such exhibitions in Goa. “UBS had the widest range of books. Right from the encyclopedia to general knowledge books, fiction, and nonfictions, everything was available under one roof,” he said. It’s quite possible that many may have tried doing the exhibition of books in Goa but they never managed to do it on the huge scale that Khalil did then and doing till date. “They never had the wider range what we had then. Even now hardly anybody stock up the range what we have at the moment. Then it was only UBS publishers but now I have the books from various publication companies from India as well as abroad. If someone points out that we do not have a particular book in the stock I assure them to arrange the same within 4 to 5 working days and that is what prompts the people to come back again,” said Khalil.

Broadway books

I was always wondering why he decided to settle down in Goa and started the business right here when the development was not taken shape in Goa then. Finally, I decided to ask him and according to him, the reason for his being in Goa is his love for the people and serenity of Goa. “I fell in love with the beauty of Goa and its people. Goan people are different from to the people across the world. If they start liking someone they will do it till the end. They are very humble and the most significant part of is, they are well educated. If you compare the people of Goa with the other parts of India you will be surprised that Goa has the most civilized people in India. They love to drink and merrymaking but they will never cross their boundaries and that is what made me stay back in Goa. Now I feel that it was the best decision that I had taken then,” he narrated.

According to him, the success of his venture in Goa is only due to Goa’s highly educated (may not be highly qualified) people. “They know the value of books. They do not mind spending money for the same. The idea of exhibition became popular with the due course of time. People started reading more. I started finding out what people like and dislike and based on that I started bringing the books. I used to write down every time a person enquired about the book that was not available to me and regardless of their order I used to make sure that in the next exhibition I display that book and let me tell you that my calculations on this never went wrong. People used to always pick up the books that are more on demand. It is the careful study of consumer behavior and their demand that led to the success of the every exhibition in Goa,” he said.

After working for the several years with the UBS publications, Khalil decided to move to Muscat for three years. “There also I was working in the similar industry. It was my wife who persuaded me into starting my own business since according to her I had gained huge experience in this industry. She had a complete faith in me and I am thankful to her for that. Finally, I opened the Broadway Book Center in Goa. Initially, I started with holding an exhibition since I had no much capital to invest in the big shops in the city. After working for the few years with exhibitions finally I managed to start Goa’s biggest bookstore at Ashirwad Building in St. Inez at Panaji,” he said.

Presently Mr. Khalil has more than 4 outlets in Goa alone, besides the outlets in Pune and Dubai too. But the St. Inez is the biggest outlet in Goa having the biggest range of books. “People from Maharashtra & Karnataka come down to our St. Inez outlet to purchase the books. We are open on Sundays especially to cater those people who cannot make it on working days. This place is like a library where people can come, sit down and read the books. We do never object to it. In fact, I encourage the reading habit. This place is made for the book lovers. They have full freedom of reading the book and then making the decision of the purchase. Maybe others do not encourage this, but we do,” said Khalil.

Broadway presently deals with around 180 publishers from all over the world. “We do not have any competition. Today we are not only selling the books by other publishers but we have our own publishing house. We support the Goan talent by publishing their books. According to me, there is no risk in promoting the first time writers. In fact, I believe in promoting them and by doing that I encourage them to write more. Although I support the Goan talent but we do not publish every manuscript that comes in front of me. I first study the script and then decide if it is worth publishing. Once it is published we send it across the world over through all our existing 180 publishers to make sure that it reaches to a wider audience,” he claimed.

Khalil Ahemad 2

Although Mr. Khalil is doing very well in Goa but the time keeps changing and he had also gone through that phase when the digital technology started catching up in India. “Yes, we had gone through the phase when the digital books started replacing the printed books. The giants like Kindle by Amazon was a threat to us initially but slowly people have realized that there is nothing like having the printed books. According to me, no digital technology can take over the printed books market. Every innovation has its own benefits and drawbacks. As far as the India is concerned it will take another decade for the digital media to take over the print media. Many parts of India do not even have proper internet connections and maintenance of the electronic gadgets is another issue,” said Khalil

According to him having alone the digital access is not sufficient enough; one must have the range too. “The digital media has a limited range of books while we have the widest range. According to me, no internet and television can’t give you the knowledge what the books can. Besides that, we also offer the books at very reasonable rates. We hold special exhibitions where we sell the books for just Rs. 50/-, we can afford it since we buy them in huge containers direct from the publishing houses in UK and US,” said Khalil.

Khalil has many awards at his disposal. Right from the Business Goa award from the local publication entity in 2012 to Indo Global Educational Excellence Award in 2013. He has also published the book which won the Limca Book of Records award. Mr. Khalil being the most humble man I ever knew till date gives all the credits of his success to the UBS Publishers from where he started his journey into the book world. “I will be always grateful to the UBS Publishers who gave me an opportunity to work and learn and it is because of them I have attained this position in my life. I want to send this message across to all those who work hard and has a dream to succeed. “Never give up your dreams and there is no substitute for the hard work,” he concluded with this.

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