30 April 2018
A Literary Affair
When Arti Mirchandani entered the family business 16 years ago, the second-generation bookseller already had plenty of experience selling books: she grew up spending summer holidays working in the shop Bookazine, which her family started in Hong Kong in 1985. Ms Mirchandani, along with her mother and sister today form the core management team, operating eight locations across Hong Kong.
“My parents passed on their love for books to my sister and me,” said Ms Mirchandani. “We grew up around books, and conversations at family gatherings always centered around publishers and bestsellers. It seemed only natural that I join the family business.”
Bookazine’s first shop opened in Wan Chai, followed closely by a store in Central, where the flagship Prince’s Building location remains today. The Central bookstore, along with the business’ other locations, have also become centres for community events and activities: from book launches by local and international authors, including Hong Kong’s last governor, Chris Patten, as well as Bookazine’s own children’s festival, which takes place this year on 12 May.
“As a Hong Kong-born company, we see it as our responsibility to champion Hong Kong writers and artists,” Ms Mirchandani said. “We support various community initiatives, from programmes that encourage reading, such as the Golden Dragon Books Awards, Kids4Kids initiatives, the HK Young Writers Awards, The Standard Story Writers Competition, as well as in-store programmes, such as the Summer Reading Challenge. Three years ago, we also launched The Children’s Bookfest to bring the community together for a fun day celebrating children’s books.”
Last March, Bookazine opened its newest location at Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong, defying the trend of bookstore closures. Over the years, Bookazine has also expanded its offerings, adding items, including cards and stationery, toys, sweets and gifts alongside books and magazines.
Ms Mirchandani also saw an opportunity to grow the business through two new brands: Partytime and Sweet World. Partytime was launched in November 2014 to provide a one-stop party-planning retail solution. With five locations and an online boutique, the business is thriving.
“The idea was born from me struggling to organise the perfect party for my daughter and work at the same time,” Ms Mirchandani said. “We wanted to create a one-stop destination where you could find everything you need for a party under one roof. The goal is to offer high-quality, but affordable partyware.”
Last year, a third brand was added to the business, this time featuring chocolates and confectionery from around the world. “From our travels, my sister and I discovered some of the best chocolate and confectionery,” Ms Mirchandani said. “We wanted to share this with our customers, so began our journey meeting artisanal sweet makers from all around the world. In the end, we found so many wonderful products, we decided to open a new concept store.”
Championing Local Brands
Even with the addition of two brands, Ms Mirchandani believes there is still room to grow, especially through e-commerce.
“We are looking to revamp our online shop as this has been in the background while we focused on our retail presence,” Ms Mirchandani said. “We have very active social media pages and we do get some traction there.”
She is also keen to continue supporting local writers and businesses, an initiative she said is an important part of Bookazine’s brand identity. Events with local and international authors are often well-attended, while the company supports other made-in-Hong Kong businesses and entrepreneurs.
“Often, we are the first to take a chance on new products and heavily promote these brands through all our marketing channels,” Ms Mirchandani said. “We are proud that many women entrepreneurs, from artists merchandising their paintings, to [owners of] stationery, gift brands and chocolatiers, have grown their businesses through launching with us.”