- LIFCO: the little flower has blossomed
Chennai-based Lifco Publishers has become a household name, thanks to the dedication, commitment, meticulous planning of Varadachary Krishnaswamy Sarma, a legendary, a colossus in the Tamil Nadu publishing industry. Here’s a brief about the journey of LIFCO by D Ramalingam. Lifco Publishers was recently in news for releasing a book Lyrical Journey – Bhava Sahitya Saram, which contained 30 padams, hymns, devotional songs along with Tamil text and their word-to-word meanings and explanations in English. The book release function was attended by who’s who of the industry and was well-received. Such high profile book releases are part and parcel of Lifco. The publisher once released a Postal Manual, wherein they invited the post master general and 137 post masters from Madras postal zones!
Varadachary Krishnaswamy Sarma (1908-1979) founded the Little Flower Company in 1929 to publish books to help students and general public. With his natural abilities, Sarma had many firsts to his credit. He is the founder of Publishers' and Booksellers' Association of India in 1931 and was the first to publish a book on physical education. In 1940s and 1950s, Lifco notes on subjects for school and college students with the brand 'Minerva' were very popular. To keep up the interest in seasonal notes, these contained important text pages.
The urge for religion being great, Lifco brought out a Tamil commentary on Kalidasa's Raghuvamsa, followed by popular couplets by Tiruvalluvar called Tirukural containing moral instructions for common people (1330 of them), which was among the 64 booklets published at four annas each (25 paise). Rajaji was invited for the function. Two lakh copies of Tirukural were sold. Raghuvamsa was released on 1953. Since then, there has been no looking back.
His eldest son TNC Varadan took over as the managing director of the company in 1979. The Lifco story cannot be completed without the mention of Sarma's manager, his right hand man, V Venkatesa Ayyar. Well versed in shorthand and typewriting, he knew three languages (English, Tamil and Sanskrit). He could give Sangeetha Upanyasam (Music Discourse) as well. The duo, the founder and the manager, were known as Rama-Lakshmana in publishing circle.
Four-five years back, Little Flower Company was rechristened as Lifco Publishers Pvt Ltd. Their show room in T Nagar, situated at the headquarters is visited by a stream of visitors from 9.00 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. Their books are available any time at leading book stores in India and abroad, besides railway book stalls across the country. In its new avatar, Lifco updates its website (www.lifcobooks.com) continuously, and runs an online magazine.
Popularity and affordability
The religious books from Lifco are available at economical price range of Rs. 4 to Rs. 320. For example, Srimad Bhagavad Gita is available at Rs 50, while Valmiki Ramayana (two volumes) is available for Rs 150. The core titles are about 150, the books are serially numbered for easy identification.
Likewise, Lifco's Great Little Books are useful for students. Some of the popular titles include Appropriate Prepositions, A Guide to Spelling, Tips to Success, Guide to Debating, The Student’s Manual, Lord Chesterfield's Letters, Self Help, etc.
But, the bestsellers have been Lifco dictionaries, English-English-Tamil (Mega Rs 370, Great Rs 220, Little Rs 110, and Tiny Rs 40).The dictionaries in English-English-Telugu and Hindi-Tamil are also available in different formats. Besides, Sahasranama Series are equally popular.
Right from the beginning, Lifco had made arrangements with Higginbothams for sale at their shops in cities as well as in railway stalls. Further, Lifco has branches in all important cities in India and abroad.
Unassumingly, the little flower has grown into a nurtured family tree.
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