Blossom at 22: How Bengaluru’s iconic bookstore is still in full bloom

A cultural landmark, Bengaluru’s iconic Blossom Book House in Church Street has stayed afloat for 22 years.

ByFathima Ashraf

Published Feb 01, 2024 | 12:00 PMUpdatedFeb 01, 2024 | 1:33 PM

Mayi Gowda started Blossom Book House in 2002 with just 1500 books. (

It’s 3 pm on a Wednesday in Bengaluru. While one might expect a post-lunch lull in any shop, much less a bookstore, Blossom Book House at Church Street has at least 200-250 customers. And Mayi Gowda, the owner has no time for a breather. At one moment you can see him dealing with vendors, the next, he is at the billing counter talking to customers or suggesting books to people. 

One can see clearly how this establishment runs solely on his shoulders that you feel almost guilty for disturbing him during his busy schedule. But Gowda doesn’t show any displeasure. After politely asking me if I can hang around for 10 minutes, he promises to be back soon.

It’s not my first time at Blossoms. But every time, I’m here I’m intrigued by its charm and ability to make people from all corners of the world feel at home. 

Books — from newly released, rare, reprinted to ones that have been resold, exchanged, passed down — they are all here. The yellowing pages, dog-eared books, handwritten notes in the margins – not just every nook and corner but it seems each book here has a story to tell.

The beloved bookstore recently turned 22. “Too bad we have been occupied with a lot of work, we couldn’t do anything for the anniversary. Let’s see, we will do something big for the 25th year,” Gowda says hopefully. 

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Home for books and booklovers

On any given day, there are at least 500-600 customers at Blossom. On weekends, it goes up to 1500 and more. For Gowda, who started his business from selling second-hand books at the pavement of MG Road, it still feels like a dream.

On any given day, there is at least 500-600 customers at Blossom. (South First/ Fathima)

On any given day, there are at least 500-600 customers at Blossom. (South First/ Fathima Ashraf)

“I came to Bengaluru with the dream of becoming an engineer. My father, however, couldn’t afford it. He gave me ₹300 and asked me to do whatever I wished to pursue. Just be a good man, he had told me,” shares Gowda, who hails from a small village near Mysuru.

After his diploma, he did land a corporate job but soon realised it wasn’t for him.

“I was always into books and reading. So I started out by selling second-hand books and slowly found my calling in it. I had the habit of collecting all the good books that I come across and keeping them in my room. So when I decided to start a store, I started with those,” he shares.

The first store he opened, a 200 sq. ft. space, had just 1500 books, most of which was from his personal collection. A year and a half later, he opened another one in Brigade Road, which Gowda says was a turning point for the brand.

“The new space really established Blossom Book House. There were a lot of moving customers in that area. We also got a lot of media coverage.”

The fact that Blossom opened in Bengaluru has played a part in the store’s success, Gowda admits.

“Bengaluru has a lot of readers. The location of the store is also such that it attracts a lot of cosmopolitan people as well as tourists. People who are visiting Bengaluru make it a point to visit Brigade Road,” he shares.

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Not an easy ride

With three outlets in the city, Blossom is now a brand that’s synonymous with Bengaluru. For many, no trip to the city is complete without a visit here. But to get here, Gowda says, wasn’t that easy.

There are over 5 lakh books at Blossom. (South First/ Fathima Ashraf)

There are over 5 lakh books at Blossom. (South First/ Fathima Ashraf)

“We struggled a lot to get established as a bookstore,” Gowda recalls.

“It looks easy now. But we have gone through a lot. Whenever we went to a publisher or a distributor as a small business without any investment, they never gave us any importance. They wouldn’t give us credit or let us return the books,” he shares.

Now, things have all changed and the people in the industry who were there back then, feel bad for treating us that way, he adds.

“Everyone comes to us now,” Gowda smiles.

At this juncture, the bookstore is so famous that he gets calls from across India asking if he wants to purchase books – old, new or rare.

“Now I have very good contacts outside of Bengaluru. Mumbai is one of the main places to get rare books. People reach out sending pics asking if we want them. Now there is a network across the country,” he shares.

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Secret of success

Blossom houses over five lakh books now, all of which have been curated over the last 22 years. For Gowda, it’s a part of the job to stay updated on new releases across the world.

“We get the list from publishers so we are updated about all the book releases in the next 6 months,” Gowda says.

One main reason for Blossom’s success is the subsidized pricing. And how does it work for them logistically? “It’s simple, we are focusing on the quantity of the books that are sold. When we sell at a lower price, we sell more,” Gowda tells us.

Another attraction here is that people can resell their old books here for half the price, in exchange for store credit.

“While we get new books from the publishers, the second hand books come from customers or libraries that are closing down. When the used books come, we clean the pages and use gum to stick it together. Before going to the racks, we make sure it’s not damaged,” he adds.

The secret to success, Gowda says, is promptness. And also, transparency.

“You have to be very prompt with your customers in any business. You should also be transparent about what you are offering. Here, we put a sticker of Blossom price, next to the actual price. So people know that they are not being cheated and that the book’s worth buying. There are stores that don’t put a price on books and say a random figure at the billing. We don’t do that here,” he informs.

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Saved by the Gen Z

Even during the Covid-19 lockdown, when the store remained shut, people would send orders through WhatsApp and Gowda would mail them the books.

“The first lockdown was confusing for all. But soon, we managed to stay occupied even though the store was only partially opened,” shares Gowda, adding that post-covid, the sales have skyrocketed. There has been over 30-40 percent increase in the business compared to pre-covid times. And it’s been steady ever since.

“People started reading more. That’s also when the Gen Z started picking up reading,” he adds.

“Take a look around, you can see that most of the customers here are Gen Z. So books that appeal to them are selling more. Frankly speaking, they have been our saviours for the last one and a half years. Earlier, our customers were mostly software professionals and some older people. Now, it looks like Gen Z are reading more than anyone. It’s good to see this change,” he points out.

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Future is safe

Gowda is optimistic about the future of print and by extension, the bookstore.

“People are back at bookstores. Only 5-10 percent are buying books online. People want this experience– of browsing through, discovering new titles and authors and also meeting people.”

He adds, “Not only do people make friends here, I know at least 7 couples who have met here and ended up getting married.” (laughs)

That said, there are no plans to expand further.

“It’s very difficult to maintain multiple stores. For this kind of business, personal presence is important. So all week, every day, I’m here and around doing everything from training the staff to managing social media. It’s hard to be everywhere all the time,” he shares.

Even while recounting accomplishments, a part of him is still in disbelief. But the whole of him is content.

“I never thought I would open a bookstore. This is what they call destiny! Look from where to where I have reached. I’m very happy now,” says Gowda with his eyes gleaming.

The 200 sq ft book house has indeed blossomed, proving what one man can build out of nothing. The place where books — new, old, used and rare –go to find a home continues to be a home for readers of all generations.

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