“The greatest sense of achievement is to see people grow with the company”


shares Aarti David, VP Publishing, SAGE India, in conversation with All About Book Publishing. Aarti David is VP Publishing at SAGE India. In this role, she heads Marketing and jointly handles Books Commissioning. Marketing at SAGE is unique in many ways since it handles various verticals in one, which include Traditional marketing for the various product lines (books, journals and digital products), PR and publicity, Web solutions and Design. As head of Commissioning, she oversees all the streams they publish in. These currently are SAGE (Academic books), SAGE Texts (Textbook publishing program), SAGE Response (Business and Management Books), SAGE Select (Non-fiction), SAGE AdvantEDGE (educational resources program), SAGE Vistaar (South Asian rights program). Besides these, she is also responsible for managing their joint imprints with Yoda, Popular Prakashan, Stree, Samya and Vitasta. Leaders not only do the right thing, they help others do the right things by directing them, setting up a vision and mapping out the plan to achieve it. They help to attain team goals by inspiring and encouraging the people involved. How do leaders achieve it, finds All About Book Publishing, in conversation with Aarti David, VP Publishing at SAGE India. Excerpts.

AABP: What do you like most about your work?

Aarti: For me, my work is not a job. It’s my passion. It’s been 13 years and yet I remain as excited as a beginner.

Marketing is all about creativity and innovation and leadership is all about motivation and direction. They are both trailblazers in a way. One presents a new perspective of looking at things and the other provides a vision and nurtures growth. As a marketer, you get to explore and expand your horizons by dabbling with something new all the time. Being able to find innovative ways in which to promote our products and also grow the brand remain my key motivators.

In my role as head of books commissioning, I have entered a new phase of my career. Books commissioning is different at SAGE. We straddle multiple and diverse streams and it is important that each stream is successful. The world of publishing has changed and all around we see a constant struggle to keep up. The time spent in marketing has come handy in being able to provide direction to the books publishing program. As a team leader, the skills I learnt in setting up one of the largest marketing departments in any publishing house in the country, help me streamline, focus and develop the commissioning team. I am grateful for the trust SAGE’s board has placed in me.

To me, the greatest sense of achievement is to see people grow with the company. I saw it earlier in marketing and I am happy to see it sprout in commissioning too. The leaders of tomorrow need to be nurtured and to me, this is the greatest learning of my career and the greatest joy when I see it bearing fruit.

AABP: As a leader, you believe in…?

Aarti: I believe in empowering my team to take decisions and providing the support when they need it. I trust them to do the right thing. Commitment and hard work are only halfway there, passion and the belief to go that extra mile is what gets them to deliver their best. I have also learnt that a leader has to be a solutions provider and not just have the ability to resolve the ‘here and now’. The leader needs to be able to coach, mentor and review these skills with the team. He/she needs to provide support where needed and most of all make each team member develop their skills to outperform their objectives.

AABP: How do you motivate your team?

Aarti: Motivation is difficult to define precisely. Each team member is an individual. To me the best motivation is self-belief. The belief is not restricted to delivery but believing that the intent of the work one does is for a greater purpose. When an individual sees the pieces fit together and their own contribution to the final outcome, there can be no better motivator. I also push them out of their comfort zone and help them think laterally. Instead of directly providing solutions, I try to make sure they walk the path to finding their own solutions; this ensures they are engaged completely and feel responsible too.

AABP: What are the challenges you face?

Aarti: The greatest challenge I face is to make people move from a conformist mind-set to an entrepreneurial mind-set. Add to this, the fact that publishing isn’t a course taught anywhere in a comprehensive manner. The result is that people joining the industry come with ‘I need to do enough to keep my job’ mind-set. At SAGE, we provide an opportunity for everyone to learn. But to change their attitude to the job remains the biggest challenge. Currently I have to manage rather large portfolios (Marketing and Commissioning). The teams are diverse and their needs too are different. Time management is a challenge. In addition, as a member of the Senior Management of the company I am expected to contribute to the overall planning and growth of the company. I am learning to switch gears effortlessly between all these expectations but that still remains a challenge.

AABP: Who are your target audience?

Aarti: SAGE established itself as an academic and reference publisher. Today we straddle many additional streams and thus additional audiences. Academics and librarians still remain at the core of our business. Our fledgling textbooks program, targets students at the UG/PG level. SAGE Bhasha targets Hindi and Marathi speaking markets. Professionals are serviced through books curated under SAGE Response and the discerning reader gets his fill with SAGE Select.

AABP: Which is your favourite movie, book and hobby?

Aarti: My favourite movie is Kung Fu Panda (all parts); favourite book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner; while my favourite hobbies include reading, writing poetry, solving word puzzles and listening to music.

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