Wednesday, January 30, 2013

CEO Roundtable - 'India: An International Market'

As more and more international players are entering the Indian market, partnering with Indian media houses or setting up complete new offices in the country, the question might arise as to how the Indian market can stay independent while working alongside the international players at the same time. What has happened in the last years and how will the market react to these new developments? Are the internationals strengthening their powers in the Indian market with setting up their own businesses and leaving their joint venture partners? These and other questions form the basis of this discussion which is going to lead the way forward.

To take on the issues and find a way forward for the publishing market the movers of the industry from across the globe have come forward to participate and innovate.

At the CEO Roundtable we had Roberto Banchik Rothschild, Director General, Random House Mondadori, Mexio; Urvashi Butalia, Publisher, Zubaan, India; Juergen Boos, President, Frankfurt Book Fair, Germany; Richard Charkin, Executive Director, Bloomsbury, UK; Judith Curr, Publisher, Atria Books (imprint Simon & Schuster NYC), USA; Manish Purohit, Chief Executive, Popular Prakashan Private Limited India; Bipin Shah, Managing Director and Publisher, Mapin India, India and P.M Sukumar, CEO of Harper Collins India, India moderated by Naresh Khanna, Publisher, Indian Printer and Publisher, India.

The discussion begins with Naresh shedding some light on the previous forums held by the same entity. He mentioned how the forum brought together publishers from China and the middle-east countries.

‘It was a great platform’, he says ‘for the Indian publishers to interact with the international publishers on home ground. German Book Office (GBO) has persisted in coming up with a formulae for what GBO thought was the way forward in the Indian publishing industry. This roundtable is another opportunity to update ourselves on what’s been happening in the Indian and also the international publishing industry.’

The discussion begins on topics pertaining to the international and the Indian publishing industry.

Judith Curr begins by letting us in on the philosophy that drove her team at Atria books.

‘We started with the idea where books could grow and flourish. We wanted books that had intention. We wanted to find readers for our authors’ she says.

The philosophy has paid off she says and they have done some amazing work. She also lets us in on how a total of 129,000 copies of ‘The Secret’ were sold in India in 5 different Indian languages.

‘Border can be crossed both ways’, she says.

Bipin Shah ventures into the discussion by reiterating the great work done by the Mughals in the past in terms of literature, preserving and creating treasure troves of books. ‘Today, unfortunately we seem to have lost out on that.’

‘India is the undisputed promised land for the English language publishing industry’ he says.

He goes on to state the major issue gripping the Indian publishing industry. He says there is not only a lcak of trained personnel for the publishing industry but the distribution system too seems to be in shambles.

‘Online stores created new sales avenues but they also created problems by allowing the focus to linger on the best-sellers. This has hindered quality content’ he says.

‘You go to a book store and end up buying books you never thought existed’, he continues.

There is a need for quality in every respect- editorial process, organizational ability and marketing are prime necessities today of the Indian market.

‘40 book stores have disappeared over the last two years. Three airport book shops have shout shop. It’s scary to imagine that we may not be able to find the books we want.’

He further goes to state how the regional language market in India has a lot to offer in terms of content and yet it remains largely unexplored.

He suggests that cues could be taken from the journey that the English television channels that launched in India and how they adopted to the market here which is unlike any other in the world.

Richard Charkin in invited into the discussion and he says ‘Territorial issues are irrelevant in the publishing market.’

He goes on list down from his own experiences with the publishing industry and the various issues and advantages that it holds.

WISDEN he reveals which released its 150th issue has never missed its timely publishing, come what may. They also released WISDEN India for the Indian market.

Urvashi begins by talking of her experience at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) this year. She goes on to reveal how there are 23 local schools that have been running outreach programs, collaborating with authors to speak at their schools. Students from other schools as well have been lobbying the authors at the festival to come and speak at their schools.

She reveals she is enthused as well as in despair watching the publishing scene.

‘The privilege that English language enjoys marginalizes Indian languages’, she feels.

She goes on to speak on the unrealistic monetary advances to authors that aren’t earned back. She says except for Chetan Bhagat in India there’s hardly any that justify the advances. The resources for the Indian publishers are also limited.

The heavy cost of distribution hardly leaves enough to meet the other book-publishing process costs. Partnering with other publishing houses like Penguin is good but the logo of Penguin is so famous that her company’s logo gets lost and there’s hardly any traction.
She also goes on to reveal the infringement of copyrights by amazon where they converted books published under her company suddenly found their way on the site without any intimation.

The way forward she believes is in sharing resources and helping each other through collaborations and partnerships.

The moderator puts forward a question to her, ‘Is the issue access to capital or professionalism?’

‘A bit of both’, replies Urvashi. She feels that a publishing house has to let go of some of it’s independence to the source the capital flows from.

Manish Purohit goes on to speak about the grand opportunities that the Indian market provides. Being a nation of mostly youngsters and the education rate gradually increasing, he feels the market will only grow.

Also there are a lot of cell phone and internet users which is growing still in great leaps. This he feels will help the international, Indian and the independent publishing houses.

‘Collaboration can only make two small enterprises big’, he believes. He urges the audience to embrace the digital.

Roberto goes on speak of his experience in the Latin American market.

‘If independent means language and content then I would say its good’ he says addressing the woes of independent publishing houses.

Juergen begins by iterating the need for local talent to understand any market as in terms of local partners or employees who understand the local market.

Distribution issues he feels need to be addressed and that it is a common issue in most parts.

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