PROFILE

SALEEM HUSSAIN

COLUMN

FOR THE RECORD

SOCIETY

GREENING OF PAKISTAN'S COUNTRYSIDE

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

DATA MINING

 
SALEEM HUSSAIN
.


By SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Aug 30 - Sep 05, 2004
.

 

 

 

 

SALEEM HUSSAIN is the CEO of Liberty Books. He has been part of Liberty Books since its inception. Being a family business, Hussain took over the bookstore legacy from his father and today, the Liberty Books stores stand as one of the prestigious bookstores in the country. Hussain is passionate about books and the reading habit. The aim of Liberty Books is to inculcate and develop the reading habit something that has been adversely affected with the advent of the electronic media and the Internet. Starting from a small store on M.A. Jinnah Road, Liberty Books outlets are now located across the city. The stores have been renowned to carry an extensive variety of books on all subjects.

PAGE: How did Liberty Books come into being?

HUSSAIN: Liberty Books has been in the business for well over three decades, evolving from a humble beginning on a street off M.A. Jinnah Road to a household name in Karachi having a retail presence with 10 stores covering all major shopping malls and leading five star hotels. Liberty Books primarily gained recognition due to being the exclusive distributor of a wide range of magazine subscriptions which cover some of the leading international magazines such as Newsweek, The Economist, Readers Digest and National Geographic amongst hundreds others. Beyond Karachi, Liberty's online business has worked as the virtual store since year 2000 when the website first went up. In this short span of time libertybooks.com has generated an online business which is more than any other online business in the country. We have ensured that the website is user-friendly and navigation and searching for books and magazines is simple.

 

 

PAGE: Are there any other local online book stores?

HUSSAIN: Although there some publishers as well as a few shopping sites that are offering online book sales in the country, libertybooks.com has the distinction of being the first and the best website that features a vast choice of books and leading international magazines that can be purchased online in Pak Rupees.

PAGE: What led Liberty Books to form an online bookstore?

HUSSAIN: Previously, the company had been toying with the idea of having a web presence for a while. The success of amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com were good enough motivating reasons to explore this business platform in the Pakistan. For Liberty Books the online presence was a window of opportunity. The company believed from the outset that it had a commodity which is perhaps the most favorite product sold and bought online throughout the world, namely, books & magazines. Libertybooks.com sells more books online than any other website in the country. With daily updates, online discounts and offers, there are over 200 magazines subscriptions and about 3,000 book titles available at any given time.

PAGE: When was the online store established?

HUSSAIN: While the website went up in the year 2000, the facility of online payment in Pak Rupees was introduced in October last year in association with Citibank. Online shopping is still a relatively novel concept in Pakistan. Many shoppers are wary of buying online. But the word is slowly traveling about 100% secured websites and also about local currency transactions such as the Liberty Books site. On www.libertybooks.com the company works with Citibank utilizing its online payment infrastructure which is as safe as using a credit card at your local grocery store.

PAGE: How much business does the website generate?

HUSSAIN: Website business currently forms a very small portion of the total business volume of Liberty Books. We are very satisfied with the growth in the customer and shopper traffic on our website. Online shopping is a concept that is still new in Pakistan but we have been witnessing interesting trends. Majority of online sales (in Pak Rupees) come from cities outside Karachi as Liberty Books is currently primarily a Karachi-based retail network of book stores. We find it very encouraging as we can now reach other cities online and don't have to make colossal investments to set up retail stores. Moreover, in order to encourage our online customers we undertake periodic campaigns where extensive discounts are extended. As a standard practice libertybooks.com offers free delivery anywhere in Pakistan for books and magazines ordered online. The website has also introduced pre-ordering facility which is not available at its retail stores at this stage but only offered online.

PAGE: Does Liberty Books plan to explore other avenues to promote book reading?

HUSSAIN: The response has been tremendous and the company plans to keep introducing interesting and economical propositions for its fast increasing online and store level customer base. Our aim is to make reading the good habit that it deserves to be and we hope to introduce platforms in the future that will facilitate such developments.