Having crossed silver, gold, and diamond, Asian Trading Corporation (ATC) will celebrate this year its platinum anniversary. Seventy years of thriving, meaningful existence! Everything the soul needs and other rare books make ATC unique
When the eyes of faith are looking for a bookstore in Bangalore, nine out of ten times, the selected destination is an ATC outlet. Many of its books point readers, no matter what their age, to look for help in their lives from the Bible, or from inspirational books on the life of saints or even ordinary human beings who have overcome adversity. Also a wide selection of self help and popular best-sellers including those by Chetan Bhagat, John Maxwell, Shiv Khera, Robin Sharma, et al. That is why ATC which actually stands for Asian Trading Corporation has, in recent times, developed synonyms like All To Christ and Any Time Comfort.
ATC is Bangalore’s most loved and respected Catholic bookshop – at St Anthony’s Friary Church on Hosur Road. (The two other outlets are St Mary's Town and Paalanaa Bhavana at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre in Benson Town).
Some may ask, “Why go to a bookstore when you can buy online?” It may take less time to get on the computer and click “purchase” than it does to walk to a shop and browse around, (getting the tingly feel of other books until you find your own) … but there is something lost doing all that book buying online. Those who have regular bouts of acute bookstore nostalgia will remember ATC at Brigade Road (opposite St. Joseph’s College) for over three decades (from 1968 to 2001). Those were the days that ATC satisfied a chunk of the English-speaking bookworm community’s craving a new read. Familiar faces would smile conspiratorially as they met at the bookshop and exchanged notes about the latest thrill or blessing – or even halo! – a particular book had afforded and acquired for them. There are no smiles online, only clicks and pings.
Nigel Fernandes, the current proprietor, was not even born when ATC was founded by Fredrick Pais in 1946. Pais had started the store to stock helpful books for the Catholic Church. Little did he dream that one day this ‘little book store’ would turn into one of India’s major Christian book dealers providing spiritual nourishment to Seminaries, Convents, monasteries, Religious Houses, Educational Institutions, laity and wherever books draw souls to God. It is the center that publishes YouCat – Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is the second highest selling book after the Bible in the international Catholic world. To a young generation that delights in ‘Hi Man!’ and ‘Hey dude!’ lingo, YouCat has content fitting youth understanding like a glove. Equally priceless are ATC’s popular ecumenical books – a host of them from authors R.C. Sproul, to James K.A.Smith, most books of Pope Francis, and Pope Benedict XVI’s The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood only recently shelved as ecumenical.
Even Nigel Fernandes would have been totally unaware of the divine plan when after his post graduation and MBA in Financial analytics, he’d begun work to fulfill big dreams in the Corporate world. Meanwhile, from being any old bookstore, ATC in the 50, 60s, 70s and 80s became THE bookshop making a difference to lives.
In 1994, Nigel came into the picture. Many thought this was a foolhardy career move for Nigel as his MBA in Finance could have enabled him a high-flying job in any corporate empire. But Nigel took up the position as a divine calling, along with wife Brenda, who also rolled up her sleeves to put in heart and soul to save ATC that today continues to shine more than brightly than ever, for the glory of God alone.
Well, we know that God is debtor to no man, and Nigel’s sacrifice received its reward through a rich harvest. National turned international, and soon because of ATC’s amazing distribution network, international bestsellers running into high dollar cover prices are being reproduced in India by ATC for a fraction of the price, usually Rs 200 to Rs 300. Often Indians living or shopping in Singapore, Malaysia,Philippines and Dubai get excited to come across ATC’s brand and logo in several bookshops. It gives them a warm, sudden glimpse of “home." Till today, that is the response. In the past few years, Indian books have flooded the global market, and ATC is a front-runner among those providing books to other countries.
The book The Gospel According to Saint John by Michael Fallon was always a good seller but suddenly, it became a best seller. In November 2012, the office of THE EXAMINER in Bombay was gutted in a fire, burnt out completely. When the Editor and his team went to assess the damage, most of the books and Bibles were charred except one book in a corner of one of the display shelves. It was The Gospel According to Saint John. Some of the edges were slightly frizzled by the flames but otherwise it was intact, not a page was burnt. The cover too remained inexplicably unsullied depicting the image of a majestic Jesus, with Apostle John resting his head close to the heart of Jesus. An unscathed book amid a raging fire. An ATC publication.Many wanted a copy of the book after THE EXAMINER published the ‘evidence’ in a much-discussed Cover story.