At a time when book reading is becoming a dwindling activity, with some of the new generation book stores either fighting for survival or dead already, it is heartwarming to see the age-old Higginbothams continuing to thrive and grow.
Today, we see it dotting many railway stations and take great pride in calling in one of India’s own homebred brands. But did you that the first book store ever came up way back in 1844 on Mount Road in Madras? The founder, Abel Joshua Higginbotham had tried his hand at being a seaman but found the life too taxing and found work managing a bookstore run by Methodist missionaries. It was here he discovered his love for books. He recognised that he had the skill to talk about books and the resourcefulness to track down rare, in-demand works.
But in 1944, they decided to shut this down as it was turning out to be losing proposition. They asked whether Joshua would be interested in buying the books. He bought all of them and moved to a small, almost shed like place on Mount Road and set up his own first shop. Soon word spread about his knowledge and treasure trove of books. In the 1860s, substantial renovations were made to the store by John Law, a well-regarded builder and architect. In 1875, Higginbotham and Co. were made bookseller and stationery supplier to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) when he visited India.
In 1949, the Amalgamation group took over Higginbothams and it now thrives under its fold. Today, 174 years later, it is heartening to know that this small piece of Indian history continues to live on.
Yes, Higginbothams is quintessentially Indian!