In 1983, my father asked me to help run his business, thus began my education in selling books, in particular, those that deal with arts, design, photography, fashion, film, advertising and architecture.
My father grew his business by focusing on his clients and understanding their needs. In the early days, he would go to architecture firms, design companies, advertising agencies directly to sell books. He built personal relationships with his clients, gathered feedbacks about professional trends from them, and asked about the titles they wanted to read.
In 1993, I took over the business. We have always kept a shop here in Bras Basah Complex but I moved the shop to our current location in the same building.
As our business grew, we set up branches outside Singapore – in Jakarta, KL, Bangkok, and Hong Kong. Basheer Graphic Books has made it to several lists of the world’s leading independent bookshops. We have tourists come in to look around and buy a book, as if the place is a Singapore attraction.
The bookselling trade is changing quickly. People get a lot of information from the internet, and many people read digital publications.
Today, we only maintain two branches, one in Singapore and the other in KL. To maintain our advantage, we carry titles that other bookstores don’t; we also publish some books ourselves.
To keep updated on the developments in the trade, I attend the major book fairs around the world and visit important bookshops during those trips. At the moment, fashion books are doing well. It is a dynamic sector where many new and exciting things are happening.
After more than two decades in this business, the greatest reward I get is seeing our long-time customers walk in. I remember most of them as students or young workers struggling in their careers, and now they are established architects, interior designers, filmmakers, and advertising executives. They find their way back here to look for inspiration from where their dreams started.