@Ramya
Ramya V
@Ramya · 1:21

In Conversation with Ajay Jain, Founder of Kunzum Books.

article image placeholderUploaded by @Ramya
Hello, everyone. I'm thrilled to welcome Mr. Ajay Jain, the visionary founder of Kunzum Books, onto the Ask an Author series on swell today. As a part of several writer communities and bookish groups across social media, I have been hearing so much about Ajay and the impact he's been making through his work at Kunzum Books in terms of fostering a space for art, culture and the love of reading

#literarycommunity #books #kunzum #joyofreading #authorinterview #askanauthor

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@Ramya
Ramya V
@Ramya · 0:12

1. Inspiration behind the name Kunzum and the journey so far.

So, Ajay, could you share with us the inspiration behind the name Kunzum and the journey of how Kunzum evolved into the creative space that it is today?
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@Kunzum
Ajay Jain
@Kunzum · 3:56

@Ramya

And then I figured, okay, I want to be really traveling to get away from whatever was bothering me in life and to justify it, I said, okay, I want to be a travel writer. So in 2007, the summer of 2007, I sat in my car, I hit the road, and I went to this region called Spitty, and I went from here to Manali
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@Ramya
Ramya V
@Ramya · 0:41

2. Your thoughts on the prevailing belief that reading culture is on the decline..

Ever since we started discussing about the idea of an interview on Swell. I've been meaning to ask you this question, Ajay. And I think you would be the perfect person to answer this. It seems to be a prevailing belief, particularly after the pandemic, that bookshops are shutting down and book sales are on the decline. Would you agree with that? Also, according to you, what role can brick and mortar bookstores like Kunzam play in rekindling or revitalizing the reading culture in today's digital age?
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@Kunzum
Ajay Jain
@Kunzum · 4:38

@Ramya

We were at the World Book Fair a few months ago and we were actually managing the Complete Penguin Stall and the Rush. We saw people of all age groups, people of all backgrounds were there. They were thronging, they were buying books like they were going out of fashion or something. And they were carrying bag loads of books out. So which is such a heartening experience
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@Ramya
Ramya V
@Ramya · 0:43

3. Independent bookstores and the challenges they face - How have you been navigating them?

I must admit that the journey of Kunzum from initially being a travel cafe to being a chain of bookstores today that seeks to promote a culture of reading and nurturing a community of book lovers, is nothing short of phenomenal. But I'm sure it would have been a journey fraught with challenges, especially independent bookstores I know often face challenges in competing with larger chains and online retailers. So how do you navigate these challenges and maintain the unique identity of Kunzum books?
@Kunzum
Ajay Jain
@Kunzum · 4:25

@Ramya

But coming to the challenges that we face, how did we overcome that? Personally, I was fully aware of what we are going to be up against. We are going to be up against some big chains like Crossword who are omnipresent. We are going to be up against independent bookstores, which have a legacy of running into 40, 50, 70 years, and who have a thriving customer base. And the biggest challenge of them all is inward, Amazon, right?
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@Ramya
Ramya V
@Ramya · 0:44

4. Role of literary communities and initiatives by Kunzum

Thank you, Ajay. So it's a given that literary communities play a vital role in fostering the love of reading. Could you perhaps talk about some initiatives that Kunzum has undertaken to support and strengthen such communities? I do know that you recently hosted the Bookselling Reimagined Conference that brought together a star list of publishers, publicists writers and industry experts to talk about expanding readership and marketing books more effectively. Perhaps you could talk a bit more about the event and maybe about other initiatives you have on your roadmap
@Kunzum
Ajay Jain
@Kunzum · 3:55

@Ramya

And that's why we called it a community of communities. So for us it's a very conscious and a very dedicated endeavor to build different communities around different interest groups. Talking about bookselling, reimagined, that was more of a B, two B initiative where we got everybody who has a stake in book publishing together, which included publishers like Harper, Penguin, Pan, Macmillan, you name it. All the big publishers and small publishers too, independent ones too
@Ramya
Ramya V
@Ramya · 0:30

5. Your vision for Kunzum?

I think this brings me to my last question, Ajay. But before that, I'd like to thank you for taking the time out and being here on Swell and sharing Kunzum's inspiring journey with us. It's been great having you here, and we hope to invite you back onto Swell for more such interesting conversations. So, yeah, here goes. What is your grand vision for Kunzum's expansion in India?
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@Kunzum
Ajay Jain
@Kunzum · 2:07

@Ramya

And the more bookstores we have, the more of a force multiplier it would be for us. But after we designed the first few stores, we realized that what we are really building here are just not places of commerce, but we are building places of culture and art. And to kind of really expand that and replicate that, to kind of take that ethos to other locations is not easy
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