Beaven Tapureta Own Correspondent
MODEL Educational Suppliers, established in the early 1990s, is one of many leading booksellers in Zimbabwe aggressively affected by the coronavirus, especially during this time of nationwide lockdown.
With its niche in the education sector, the bookshop has suffered depressed business as schools have been closed in order to curb the spread of the virus.
Some of the disciplines which the bookshop covers include civil and mechanical engineering, electronics and electrical engineering, computer education, commerce, agriculture, medicine as well as humanities. What’s more, it stocks different kinds of stationery and children’s reading materials.
In an interview, Justin Sidic Manja, a manager at Model Educational Suppliers said their objective as a bookshop is to avail affordable educational books to some learning institutions around the country but this objective cannot be met now due to the lockdown.
“The lockdown has had some negative effects almost on all business entities around the country and we have not been spared. Remember we had a total shutdown from late March to mid-April thus we could not manage to offer any service whatsoever to our customers,” he said.
The customers, on the other hand, had to immediately suspend any business with the bookshops as they shifted attention to the other necessities when the Government introduced the lockdown. And Manja, being part of the society he serves, could watch people busy hunting for some much-needed basic commodities and spending most of their time locked at home except on a few occasions where they would go out to look for food supplies.
“Definitely during such a difficult period you cannot expect someone to spend a lot of money buying stationery or some textbooks, although education is fairly important,” he said.
Apart from supplying academic books to different educational institutions in Zimbabwe, Model Educational Suppliers also sells engineering drawing equipment as well as fashion, art and design items to some learning institutions.
They sell sporting equipment especially this time of the year, and this again, Manja said, is a damaged business opportunity.
“We usually sell sports equipment during this time of the year, unfortunately this time around the pandemic has done the damage,” said Manja.
In times of hardships like these, business all over the world has gone virtual, including the book community. The internet has become the global ‘office mall’ where every kind of business is now taking place.
Manja, a holder of BA in Islamic Law, from Medina University in Saudi Arabia, said the idea to digitise their bookshop started late last year but they hope to turn the idea into action in the near future.
“We considered digitising our bookshop late last year so as to reach out to our customers using internet though we are yet to kick start that project. Hopefully, we will do so in the near future. Definitely making use of technology especially in such times of hardships is the way forward.
“We can pluck a leaf from Amazon who have exceptionally done very well in terms of business during the Covid-19 era. Their success has been mainly attributed to the way they operate, which is technologically driven,” he said.
To fellow booksellers in Zimbabwe who have been affected by the closure of educational institutions, he offered words of encouragement and said they should be united, share some ideas and help the less-established booksellers around the country so that they can keep on going.
He said that can be done through giving them some special discounts whenever they make some purchases.
“Again, let’s support each other during this trying period and let’s make use of technology in running our businesses,” said Manja.
Indeed, the time for planning for a successful future of bookselling business and the whole book sector in Zimbabwe is now, not tomorrow!