Lord of Books in Kozhikode

Balakrishna Marar at his office in Kozhikode

Some real life business lessons are far greater than any top degree in management. N.E.Balakrishna Marar, a self-made man in the book publishing sector is one of the fine role models for every aspiring entrepreneur.

How could Marar, a school drop-out from 6th standard due to financial constraints, succeed in a challenging business is a story of dedication and hard work.

Marar is hailing from Kannavam, Thodikkalam in Kannur district. He came to Kozhikode in search for a livelihood in 1947.However, once he settled in Kozhikode with his passionate business, book selling, he never looked back. The city is now Marar’s place and Calicut’s cultural entity turns its full circle only with his presence.

Marar is a Lord of books and sometimes even ready to break all records in the book publishing history in the world. And, this down to earth personality is an inspiring model for all generations.

Marar entered into the book-selling field almost empty-handed. He worked throughout his life amid many tribulations. His humble beginning, the TBS (Touring Book Stall) now is one of the biggest book publishers and distributors in Kerala.

He worked in various roles like newspaper seller and door to door book distributor in Kozhikode city. In the beginning, he visited many houses to sell his books. After few years he owned a bicycle to carry his books.

Marar had a painful childhood. He lost his father when he was one and half year.

marar1

N.E. Balakrishna Marar at his TBS showroom in Kozhikode. Photo: Rajagopal

However, his mother Madhavi Warasiar’s moral lessons and advises influenced Marar’s character.

His mother would always warn against telling lies or annoying others.Also,she nurtured  great human values like truthfulness,open-mindedness and mercy.

Marar recollects the changes that took place in Calicut,when speaking to the CNM at his office.

Marar entered into this field as simply as a book seller walking long distances and sells book at a time when there was not much scope in this industry.

Still, he tried to sell good books in and around the city outskirts. Kerala’s top class writers like M.T.Vasudevan Nair was some of Marar’s touring book customers.

He was persuading people into the world of literature and reading. Slowly, a cultural activity was originating in the trade city, popular for its black pepper and wood industry.

When he approached Prof.R.Ramachandran, then a teacher at Malabar Christian College, he offered all available support to Marar.

K.P.Vareed Master was then headmaster of Malabar Christian College School. He asked Marar to supply few books for their school library. He also said that a bill would be submitted along with the books. Marar thought of a bill book, then only!

But Marar had no shop, those days and he asked Prof.R.Ramachandran how could he  give title to his business. The professor suggested, “Name it ‘Touring Book Stall’!”

After many years’ struggles to survive in the field, Marar never felt disappointed. He tried to make obstacles as opportunities. He rented a small shop with 20 square feet at Sweet Meat Street (Mittayi Theruvu (Sweet Meat street), Kozhikode) and continued his passionate business to next level. There were only eight books  in the beginning.The total cost of those books was Rs.10.

His second book shop became a reality at Second Gate in 1962.

Later years, he realised that his hard work and dedication bore fruit and he stood at his own legs. Gradually, Marar started publishing some books in Malayalam apart from his book distribution.

image credit:Sam Luce

image credit:Sam Luce

In 1988, Marar opened his multi-storied Poorna Publications at Muthalakkulam(GH Road).It is one of the biggest book stores in the city.

Later years the agency grew to new heights.

Poorna has published around 6,000 books till date. The most notable thing is that 99 percent of today’s top Malayalam writers’ books were published through TBS.

“We are ready to distribute books published anywhere in the world, utilising e-commerce opportunity.

Good books have good readers. But the disappointing thing is that here we don’t have competitive writers equivalent to the old generation.”-says Marar.

“The whole creative efforts have been in a stagnant situation.”

“We had some cream writers, film makers, lyricists and musicians. What is today’s state?”-he asks.

Now a day, many translated versions of English novels are being sold in large number.

Academic books and other self-help publications are also moving fast.

Marar is a sharp social observer too. He reads the change in our society and shares his views.”

“We are losing sincere humaneness and love. Actually, we are nothing when we meet as many as great people across the globe.”

“One can enjoy life, change according to times. However, never forget basic human values and never be that much luxurious.”

image credit:booksmart

image credit:booksmart

Today this shop is the top destination for school, college and professional students, their parents, teachers etc.

And, undoubtedly this is a holy place for book lovers, budding and established writers in Kozhikode. This building is not enough to Marar now if more and more categories of books are finding place at this shop from all small and big publishers in the world.

Marar, a travel crazy fellow has visited almost all continents in search of his never ending enthusiasm to study and acquire book publishing industry .

Marar says that he had observed all top publishers in London and Moscow and longed to have similar shops to run a good business.

Marar’s wife Saroja was very supportive to her husband’s efforts to begin a book business.

Marar’s son N.E Manohar and his wife Priya look after the book shop- cum educational mart .Marar’s daughter Dr.Anitha is settled in England with her husband Dr.Sethu Madhavan.

“Don’t hurt anyone. Never feel enmity towards anybody. Try to be best.” These are the slogans of Marar.

His autobiography, ‘Kannerinte Madhuryam’ (Sweetness of tears) tells such life philosophies to its readers.

Marar turns 85 in coming September.

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