Tekkatte Narayan Shanbhag
|Birth||1925, Mangalore, Dakshina Kannada district, Mysore division, India|
|Death||27 February 2009, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India (aged 84 years)|
Tekkatte Narayan Shanbhag was an Indian scholar, bookseller and the founder of Strand Book Stores, credited with efforts in transforming bookselling into a personal experience, prompting renowned writer, Kushwant Singh, to call Strand, on a BBC show, as the only personal book shop in India. He was honoured by the Government of India in 2003 with Padma Shri, the fourth highest Indian civilian award.
Thekkatte Narayan Shanbhag was born in 1925 in Thekkate, a hamlet near Mangalore, in the South Indian state of Karnataka to a wealthy grocer. However, family fortunes turned for the worse with the death of his father when Shanbhag was aged just over two and he had a difficult childhood. Unable to pay for the school fees, he appeared for and passed a scholarship examination which paid for his further school education. Later, he took up a part time job and joined St. Xavier's College, Mumbai where he completed his graduate studies.
With a passion for books, he started his career in 1948 by opening a small kiosk to sell books at the Strand Cinema, Mumbai, a cinema showing mostly Hollywood movies. After the initial struggles, business began to pick up and Shanbhag moved the book shop in 1953 to more spacious in Fort, Mumbai. He was reported to have interacted with the customers on a personal level and several dignitaries such as Sir Ambalal Sarabhai, Mirza Ismail, then Diwan of Mysore, T. T. Krishnamachari, Y. B. Chavan and Jawaharlal Nehru were known to have become his customers. He was known to be first bookseller in India to break the Net Book Agreement of 1900 by offering 20 percent discount over the published prices and allowed customers to have unhindered browsing at his shops. The experience is reported to have expanded his customer base which included A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, J. R. D. Tata, Khushwant Singh, V. S. Naipaul, Soli Sorabjee, N. R. Narayana Murthy, Nani Palkhivala, G. D. Birla, Keshub Mahindra and Azim Premji.
Shanbhag died, aged 85, at his residence at Pedder Road, Mumbai on 27 February 2009. He is survived by his wife, Asha and two children, both pursuing careers in book publishing. His son, Arun, is the chief executive officer of Rising Book Company, USA and his daughter, Vidya, looks after Strand business in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Mysore, Hyderabad and Pune, as well as two campus stores at Infosys Bengaluru and Wipro Bengaluru. She is also involved with the book festivals conducted by the store.
Awards and recognitions
The Government of India honoured him with the civilian award of Padma Shri in 2003. In 2006, he received Netaji Subash Chandra Bose National Award. Face to Face with Indian Publishing Professionals, a book by S. K. Ghai, has dedicated a chapter on Shanbhag.