GenX in Publishing!
Innovative ideas…new perspective…fresh energy…that is what a GenX professional brings. AABP met such three professionals who have carved a mark for themselves.
Kapil & Priya Kapoor
Since inception nearly 40 years ago, Roli Books has consistently identified bold themes relating to India and its heritage and commissioned the best talent to collaborate to produce high quality books that are treasures in themselves. With a strong focus on quality, design and innovation, their books have travelled the world and found a home amongst the best publishers and bookshops. They continue to be inspired by India’s incredibly rich past and have some of the greatest creative minds of the country as their authors. Successfully straddling tradition and modernity, their books carry the substance of an academic or expert’s scholarship but are accessible to a wide, non-specialist readership. By choosing to remain a mid-sized publishing house, they have the privilege of being guided by their passions – an idea that binds their small but dedicated team. It is with this spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that they ventured beyond printed books. Today they conceptualise, design, and produce a line of high quality gift and stationery products that are sold through their very own concept stores CMYK and also throughout the world.
Fresh energies synergised…
Kapil joined the family business in 2003, after completing his studies from London School of Economics. “It was the time when I made up my mind to join the publishing business. So, I did a post graduation course in publishing from Columbia University, wherein industry experts gave insights into the world of publishing. I even worked for Phaidon Press, a publishing house in London for around a year and half, where I got hands-on training in editorial, sales and production,” he shares.
While, Priya joined the company in 2004 after completing her studies from London. She also worked with Routledge and Indian Express for some time. “Publishing always interested me. I wanted to do something with the written word. And books was a natural progression for me,” she shares.
On asking about how the duo adapted their learnings from London in India, Priya replies, “The point was not just to replicate the things that were done in London, but to pick what was best suited to our company. We invested in systems for seamless integration and created systems which would last.”
While, Kapil shares that he really liked the fact that in London, they were very obsessive about their brand image. “They went into meticulous detail and didn’t ignore even the minutest thing. It was enlightening and I have tried to instill this discipline into my work. Besides, there were so many things that were not happening in India, for example, innovative way of marketing books. We started these things in India and got good response,” he adds.
Though there is a lot of cross-over between their roles, but broadly speaking, Kapil looks after the marketing, sales and new businesses like gift and stationery, while Priya takes care of publishing, design and retail expansion.
Market then and now…
“The market was at the beginning of the massive growth cycle we have witnessed. It was actually a clean slate. There was a lot we could do. Today, there is much more maturity, and we have learnt a lot in the last 13 years,” tells Kapil.
“Challenges are a part of learning curve. Deadlines are missed, sometimes books which are really close to our hearts, do not do well, which is disappointing. But, that is a part of publishing,” shares Priya.
While, Kapil adds, “The retail market is challenging, big retail stores have shut down and online portals have come up. Our retail partners have gone through a lot of changes and there is the trickle-down effect on all publishers. But, now things are moving towards direct to consumers. And that is our main focus”
On reading habits…
On asking about whether reading has come down, Kapil replies, “Reading has not come down. There are many more books being published, lots of very high quality content from a variety of publishers, and this has helped the market overall…there’s a lot happening in the industry. Also, the medium for content will keep changing. Today, there are ebooks; tomorrow audio books might become even bigger. But, these are not a threat to print versions. Infact, our ebook sales is just 4-5% of our total sales.”
“Digital is just another medium. We don’t fear the digital world; we try and use it to best serve our company. Our content must decide the medium and not the other way round,” he adds.
Best thing about publishing…
“The best thing about my job is that no two days are same. Every day is exciting – you never know where you could stumble upon an idea for your next book… you meet the best minds across the board and this enriches your own experience,” points out Priya.
While, Kapil feels that the best thing for him is the creative freedom it allows as there are no boundaries. “We meet the most amazing people every day who have spent years working on a particular subject that they are so passionate about. Infact, every book educates me, and I’m learning something new on a daily basis. What more could I ask for? ” he adds.
In September 2009, Roli Books launched its first retail venture – the CMYK bookstore in New Delhi.
The bookshop is dedicated solely to books relating art, design, photography and architecture filling an important void in the market. Today, it is an important cultural hub in the Capital,” tells Kapil. They also have two stores in Mumbai, one in Chennai and three in Jaipur.
“Besides, we have also diversified into non-book items, such as gifts & stationery, which are a spin off from our books, for example, iphone covers, coasters, bags and diaries with beautiful artwork printed on it. The central product remains the books, but we now have different mediums through which we can disseminate content to reach new audiences,” adds Priya.
“Our opportunities as a publisher are not restricted to just publishing books, we are open to other formats as we are actually gatekeepers of great content,” says Kapil.
On a concluding note…
“Despite the challenges faced by the publishing industry, we find ourselves in a position where we have the greatest archive of content, and access to amazing new talent – with such an asset the sky is the limit, and we are trying to be innovative and redfine the traditional definiton of a publishing company.” says Kapil. To which, Priya adds, “It is an important industry to believe in. At Roli Books, we are inspired by our rich heritage of art, architecture, craft and style and it is this that we want to bring to our readers.”
managing director, New Age International
Established in 1966, New Age International Publishers is one of the market leaders in educational books, offering school, professional and college level textbooks in various streams. Their current book list includes 3500+ titles mainly in STM, which have earned the trust of educationists and students alike.
Saumya Gupta disclosed, “In fact my grandfather started the business in 1947, with a bookstore named Laxmi Kitab Ghar in Sonepat, Haryana. Gradually he shifted to publishing and in the 1970s, this business was divided into three companies – Saraswati House, Laxmi Publications and Laxmi Kitab Ghar. In 1966, New Age was established as Wiley Eastern Ltd. In the mid-1990s, the name of the company was changed to New Age International Publishers. In 2003, our Chairman R K Gupta acquired the company.”
Saumya joined the family business in 1998, then took a break of three years to pursue an MBA in publishing from New York, USA and worked for Thomson Learning (now Cengage Learning) in upstate New York. “He fully joined the company in 2003 and has been instrumental in inking agreements with many leading international publishers like Springer, Barrons, Princeton University Press, etc, to publish their books for the Indian subcontinent market at affordable prices. He has also sold translation and reprint rights to various publishers across the globe.
“The vision of the company has remained the same,” he elaborated adding, “We publish quality education books for students at affordable prices. At present, we are an integrated publishing group, that publishes books from kindergarten to higher education (post graduate level).”
Talking about the challenges in the industry, he shared, “Though improvements have been there in terms of quality of content and printing, the market is still the same with problems of delayed payments or sometimes no payments.Moreover, the system in the company was not up to the mark when I joined. Since then we have improved our Management Information Systems (MIS) tremendously, with up-to-date software resulting in remarkable control over inventory management.”
Discussing the major happenings in the industry over the last five years, Saumya feels that the higher education market is going down because of pirated online e-books, photocopy, lack of funds in institutes for books and many seats in engineering and management courses lying vacant.
Talking about their new initiatives, Saumya further mentioned, “While in children education segment (from Classes I-VIII) the market is growing exponentially, and we ventured into this segment three years back. In the coming years, we will publish books in all the major subjects in this segment. We are also building a platform to sell e-books and looking at providing multimedia content with our children books. We have recently opened an office, with a warehouse and marketing team, at Nairobi in Kenya for eastern African region, which is now a growing market. We also have an office in London, which we started a few years back.”
To keep abreast with the latest trends in the industry, New Age participates in all major international book fairs like London Book Fair, Frankfurt Book Fair, etc.