In Bras Basah Complex, every book store has its own story, its legacy and its own expertise, and Basheer Graphic Books is no different. Since its inception in 1992, Basheer has been the go-to place for all things creative. Its huge collection of titles specializes in niche areas such as design thinking, architecture, interior design and fashion.
Today, Mr Naseer is the second-generation owner and manager of Basheer Graphic Books. His father, Mr Basheer, founded the book store when the father-son duo sold magazines and books door-to-door, to advertising agencies in the Shenton Way area. The young Naseer would often follow his father around, and over time, the customers even gave him the nickname Basheer Jr.
Initially operating out of their home, they decided to set up shop in Bras Basah when their operations got larger, and their customer base grew. They decided to name the book store after Mr Basheer, as after operating without a formal name for so long, ‘Basheer’ had now become a brand that was synonymous with their products and services.
Initially, I thought that the setting up of it Bras Basah store would shift Basheer’s business model from door-to-door selling to brick and mortar. Fortunately for his customers, Basheer still performs door-to-door services till this day, covering not only marketing and architectural firms, but also design schools, where he would bring the books down to display and sell.
‘So why did you choose Bras Basah?’, I wondered. Mr Naseer shared that back then, the mix of businesses that were already operating in Bras Basah Complex – art suppliers, printing shops – were similar in nature to the books he was carrying, and thus would help to bring in the right customers. With the opportunity to capitalize on shoppers involved in fields of art or creative work that were already patronizing Bras Basah, the move was a no-brainer.
But alas, the business today is faced with strong headwinds from online book stores and the internet. Gone are the days when designers still had to take reference from physical books as the internet now provides information freely and conveniently. Online mega-book sellers like Amazon have also given Basheer a run for their money as they are able to sell the same book at a cheaper price. Factoring in the costs of the book, possible online discounts, and the time and effort needed to come down to his shop, Mr Naseer is able to see why customers would prefer to purchase their books off the net.
What then is the comparative advantage of Basheer Graphic Books?
On top relying on his base of loyal customers, Mr Naseer is trying to provide titles that are unavailable online. Sales of these items have proven to be much higher than the average book.
Overseas customers from regional areas are also helping him to sustain the business as certain titles that are sold online face difficulty entering these markets. These customers are willing to fly in and pay Basheer a visit just to procure a physical copy.
Back in its heyday, Mr Naseer operated branches in Bangkok, Malaysia, Jakarta and Hong Kong, but today all of them have closed. It was no longer economical to operate them. For me, I hope that the Basheer Graphic Books in Singapore will not leave us anytime soon.