“The next 10 years will be driven by content”

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shares Kapish Mehra, MD, Rupa Publications, in conversation with Smita Dwivedi.

Rupa Publications, one of the premier publishing houses of India, recently completed its 80 years of being in good books of bibliophile. The journey began eighty years ago, when an enterprising young man, D Mehra, managed to impress an English bookseller by his salesmanship and became his representative. Since then, there has been no looking back.

Today Rupa needs no introduction, and to start with, we asked how it feels to be in a business for so long and Kapish Mehra, MD, Rupa Publications, added, “It’s been a special journey so far, being in a business for such a long time. We are happy that we are still able to follow the dream of our founder to reach out to every reader without any strings attached. While we have come a long way, that enterprising spirit has remained a constant, and the company has creatively and strategically expanded the scope of publishing in India to emerge as India’s largest independent publishing house, registering robust year-on-year top line growth over the years, at a level unparalleled in the publishing industry.”

A house of bestsellers!

Rupa has a long list of celebrated authors, who all are more than happy to be part of this banner. It is no wonder it’s the House of Bestsellers. On asking about the secret of such a wonderful author-publisher association, Kapish smiled and said that our authors would be better person to reply this, and with a pride of having long list of bestselling authors, he added, “Author-publishers association is always mutual. I think our belief in Indian authors has made us so special. We have ‘welcome to the family’ attitude and our mission is always to take our author/book to next level.”

The list of authors includes Natwar Singh, Bimal Jalan, APJ Abdul Kalam Ronnie Screwvala’s Wytze Keuning, Acharya Kripalani, LK Advani, JRD Tata, Maharani Gayatri Devi and Mark Tully to name a few. It continues to publish some of the country’s biggest writers most notably Chetan Bhagat, the No. 1 bestselling novelist in India. His latest novel, Half Girlfriend and his just released work of non-fiction, Making India Awesome have had the largest ever print run, where English language trade publishing in India is concerned. As Chetan says, “I am what I am because of Rupa Publications. They were the first people to have believed in me and, after more than a decade, remain my publisher. Together we have a mission to make India read, and we are still as enthusiastic about it as ever.”

Another notable bestselling author has been Varun Agarwal with his How I Braved Anu Aunty And Co-founded a Million Dollar Company. Other popular writers on Rupa’s list include Samrat Upadhyay, Nitasha Kaul (who was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize for her debut novel Residue), Siddhartha Gigoo (nominated for the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize), Gulzar, Ruskin Bond, Kavita Kané, Damodar Mauzo, Anuja Chandramouli and Madhuri Banerjee.

Branching out!

In 2012, the company launched Red Turtle, the premier children’s imprint which has brought out beautifully illustrated and designed books and in 2015, Rupa Publications celebrated India’s business and entrepreneurial spirit by launching its business imprint, Maven. Constantly pushing the boundaries of possibilities to leverage the best for its books and its authors, Rupa Publications has reddened the rules of publishing by understanding and seizing the opportunity of the middle of the pyramid of the 400 million inhabiting ‘middle’ India.

On asking about company’s future plans he added, “Rupa has been pioneering in its attempt to reach this untapped audience— by packaging good content with affordable pricing and extended distribution—and this is evident not only in its core frontlist but also in terms of sales of regional language rights. Our reputation has enhanced by launching initiatives at regular intervals like pitching paperbacks to live up to its motto of providing affordable books that is the reason we foray in cities like Bilaspur, Gorakhpur, Jodhpur, Jabalpur, Indore, Karnal, Patiala among others to tap the English knowing people, has paid dividends with sales growing rapidly.”

Rupa has done fairly well in overseas market as well. Now company aims to increase the footfall and go beyond mere presence overseas by targeting delivery of books within 24 hours. And, never sitting on its laurels, Rupa Publications is now focusing on how it can leverage the digital space, and is readying to exploit the opportunities arising from the digitisation of content made possible by the advances in hard technology over the last ten years.

On a concluding note!

Kapish expressed his delight at crossing the 80-year milestone, and said “Breaking new ground has been our constant focus, and we will continue to do so in the days, months and years to come so as to contribute to the growth of the industry and provide an enhanced reading experience for all.

I think the ultimate maxim across the 80 years of our existence –– successful existence –– has been the belief to serve the readers by providing them quality books at affordable prices. The last 10 years were driven by technology. The next 10 will be driven by content. Publishing remains just one spoke of the wheel.”

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