“Blessed to be in the noble profession of publishing”

says Amar Verma, Chairman, Star Publications Pvt Ltd, in conversation with Varsha Verma. Here, he shares more about his journey as a publisher and how important is the role of a publisher in knowledge dissemination.

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Amar Verma, Chairman, Star Publications Pvt Ltd
Amar Verma, Chairman, Star Publications Pvt Ltd

Star Publications Pvt Ltd was established in 1957 with a dedication to promote Indian books in India and outside India at a small shop in old Delhi. Prior to Star Publications, the group had a bookshop in Multan on a very low scale, offering textbooks for schools. In 1975, the Star group was divided and two separate entities were formed —Star Publications and Diamond Books.

Quality books at low prices…

“To make books available at low prices, we started a series of low priced Star Pocket Books in Hindi and Urdu, and within a period of just a few years, we brought out over 1,000 titles under this series,” tells Amar Varma, Star Publications Pvt Ltd, who has been associated with the family business after he graduated in 1956. “We published books of well-known authors like Sahil Ludhianvi, Dinkar, Amrita Pritam and Gulshan Nanda. Gulshan became a very good fried of mine and we published 40 of his books, selling as many as 5 lac copies at one point of time,” shares Varma proudly. “We published 200 titles in Urdu and 450 titles in Hindi.”

Expanding horizons…

“Star also entered into overseas market by persuading libraries and booksellers in some countries to procure and promote Indian books, specially in Indian languages, for their regular readers, and offered them several special services for simplifying their procedures,”he adds.

“This was way back in 1962 when American Library of Congress started their activities in India. We had started supplying Punjabi books through Punjabi Pustak Bhandhar. We approached the American Library of Congress for supplying them books in Punjabi. Soon, we stated offering them books in three languages – Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu. We still supply them books in these three languages,” shares Varma.

Star opened a very large showroom in the heart of New Delhi and Old Delhi under the name of Hindi Book Centre, with the exclusive purpose to make publications from all over India available under one roof, and today this showroom is the only Hindi book distributing centre in whole of Northern India.

Dictionaries’ galore and more…

Star has brought out a series of bilingual dictionaries in more than 50 languages of Asia, East Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and today these dictionaries are popular and available at almost all bookshops of the world. They also offer picture dictionaries, cookery books, books on yoga, etc.

Another first to their credit is publication of large print books in Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and Gujarati for old or people with low vision. “We also introduced talking books for the first time in India, which were very popular,” adds Varma. Gradually, Star also came up with story books for children in Hindi and English languages.

Star catalogues…

“We also bring out catalogues of books in various languages and of various subjects in Roman scripture, and has a very long mailing list to mail such catalogues free of charge,” tells Varma.

Business abroad…

Star has also opened showroom in London (U.K.) in 2001 with a determination to promote and make available Indian publications in Europe at very reasonable prices. It has also opened an associate office in New York (USA) to keep a very close connection with libraries and institutions in USA and Canada.

“We also publish books on Hindu rituals for people who would like to know more about our culture. These books are doing good as the production quality is good and they are very attractive,” he shares.

“Star has the privilege of serving most prominent libraries of the world like US Library of Congress in Washington DC (USA), British Library London (U.K.), State Library of Germany, Shastri Indo – Canadian Institute in Canada, and many more such institutions all over the world,” he shares.

Printing unit…

Star started a printing and binding unit Star Print O Bind in 1995 with a purpose to print and supply to the leading publishers of various countries, books of their specifications, at very low cost, and today this unit is offering printing services at the lowest possible cost to such publishers.

Giving back to the industry…

Star has been playing a very prominent role through its Directors and the Chairman by being in various Associations and Federation of Booksellers and Publishers, and the chairman Amar Varma was the Chairman of Export Marketing Council of Federation of Indian Publishers.

Book fairs and more…

STAR participates in most of the International Bookfairs and also organizes from time to time, special exhibitions of Indian Books in countries like China, Japan, Mauritius, South Africa, Australia, London etc. “I had been a regular participant at Frankfurt Book Fair for 20 years and got many new ideas from there. Infact, I started supplying books to prison libraries in Holland after meeting the concerned person in Frankfurt Book Fair, which was a good experience,” tells Varma.

“In 1982, I went to University of Beijing and displayed 1000-1200 titles there, which was a huge success. Infact, we were the first publisher to be invited by National Library of China. Many titles of Gulshan Nanda were translated in Chinese,” adds Varma.

On publishing industry…

“Publishing is a good business and if your attitude is good, it pays you in the end,” says the 82-year-old publisher Amar Varma. “It may not look like a lucrative business, but it is an inspiration for new generation that books can promote culture. Print media will always remain and there is a lot one can do. One just has to think and innovate and look for newer areas.”

“I am very proud to be a publisher as no other business can offer an opportunity to meet the litterateurs and open-minded people. It is a knowledge industry and publishing is a profession, not a business,” concludes Varma.

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