Books
Shobha says that brick and mortar stores like Walden can no longer compete with online retailers, unless they scale back.
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Every time a new Harry Potter book released, a sprawling bookstore in Hyderabad’s Begumpet area saw long lines right from 6 am. For most kids living in and around the heart of the city, this bookstore was their Disneyland, their summer holiday escape. Walden’s Begumpet store has been an integral part of many children’s growing-up years in Hyderabad in the past three decades. But as Walden nears its 29th birthday, its main branch in Begumpet will down its shutters for the final time. 

Located right next to the Chief Minister’s Camp office, Walden is situated in prime realty, something it has paid the price for. “Walden Bookstore at Greenlands Road Begumpet, after a very successful stint of nearly three decades, is no longer viable due to several reasons, including online selling, traffic conditions, and the change in book reading habit,” the store said in a statement.

The bookstore was started by a couple – Shobha and Ram Prasad – on June 28, 1990. Listing the reasons why the store is shutting down, Shobha says, “Online stores, the traffic issue, the flyover, the road expansion where we lost all our parking, the shifting of the airport... Located near the beginning of a major flyover, the area constantly sees heavy traffic, and with parking being lost, access to the store became difficult.”

“Before the airport shifted, a lot of people would drop in before going to the airport,” she adds. The store is a mere 3 km away from the city’s Begumpet airport, which was the main airport before it was shifted in 2008. 

Shobha says that brick and mortar stores like Walden can no longer compete with online retailers, unless they scale back. “There is no rhyme or reason for the discounts offered online – why do they suddenly give 30 or 40%? We can't do that. We just cannot function if we do that,” she says.

“There were no malls when we opened. This was probably one of the biggest stores at the time,” she recalls. However, over the years, they’ve had to scale back in a big way and change the items they stock. “We reduced greeting cards over the years because they were not selling much anymore. We had a huge section at one point and during major events like New Year and Christmas, we used to sell an incredible number of greeting cards, which is not the case anymore,” says Shobha.

While a plethora of reasons may have steadily chipped away at the store’s business, it has been a part of one of the biggest moments of 90s kids – the release of Harry Potter books. 

“On days that the Harry Potter books released, we used to have people waiting in line outside by 6 am. There would be a line since then, as the books would come only that morning. They would not supply it the previous day as that was the rule. They would not give it to anybody. Our store would be one of the first to get it. Harry Potter was a very big event for us,” Shobha says.

Many of the store’s loyal customers are bidding adieu to the store with a heavy heart. Actor Lakshmi Manchu said, “We as kids spent most of my summer holidays in Hyderabad at Walden. One of my all time favs even now. So many beautiful memories.”

Going forward, Shobha says that the other two branches of the store in Banjara Hills and Gachibowli are functioning well, and will continue to do so because of their children’s section. “We will now focus on the other two branches -- we are operating those well but their scale is smaller, so we are able to sustain those,” Shobha says. 

The store doesn’t have a definitive last date, but has now begun moving its stock to its other two branches.