“My aim is to create awareness of Indian publishing”

says Ray McLennan, Managing Director, Motilal UK Books of India, who shares his endeavour to get Indian published books into the world book trade system. They have distribution agreements with over 560 Indian Publishers, totalling well over 750 imprints and around 100,000 titles.

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Indian books are quite popular worldwide. One of the distributors responsible for distributing Indian books to world book trade is Motilal UK Books of India. Here, Ray McLennan, Managing Director, Motilal UK Books of India, England shares his views on Indian publishing industry and its popularity worldwide. Excerpts.

Indian books in world book trade…

“Things have never been better for sales of Indian publishers and authors than they are now, and it is increasing all the time. Our very existence as a company specialising in Indian publishing, selling to the world book trade, is proof of a very good and solid scope for Indian publishing now and in the future. India’s competitive production prices gives it an advantage, and we find we sell titles on every subject imaginable. Indology and religious titles are very popular world wide, so is fiction, tourist books, and titles for the international school system,” tells Ray.
“The quality of the English language books from India is now world class, and we have an effective modern distribution system to solve logistic problems. Online selling is holding many times more Indian stock than the bookshops ever did, and over 9000 Indian published titles sold 1 copy or more in the UK in 2018,” he adds.

International distribution for Indian publishers…

“In 2014, we sold 8,000 books a month while in 2018, we sold around 15,000 books a month world wide. We buy everything from India through our own company operating as Ray’s Books of India Pvt Ltd and maximising the percentage of procurement is the main target for us. We never want to go below 95%,” he shares. “Over the past 25 years I have built up a network of essential trade customers, covering all the Book trade in the UK and Europe. Today, we have regular customers in every part of the English speaking world. We cater to online sellers, the university library suppliers, wholesalers, bookshops and specialist outlets.”

“We have distribution contracts with over 700 Indian publishers, covering around 2000 im-prints. Over the past 20-25 years,we have listed over 100,000 Indian published titles, in English, but of course many have gone out of print over the years. We have around 30,000 titles selling on Amazon in the USA and in the UK, and are adding 300-400 titles every month,” he adds.

Their USP…

Ray McLennan, MD, Motilal UK Books of India

“We have a good reputation as the India experts, able to find everything needed, giving the quickest service, credit facility and offering full returns facility. It takes time, but we are gradually adding new customers every year. My aim is to create more awareness of Indian publications,” tells Ray.

“But, our main selling point is our efficient service. We do not sell to retail buyers at all. We give efficient western standard service to all the trade,our main advantage London being the international publishing centre,” he adds.
“Since publishers do not have a budget for advertising, or even marketing resources like leaflets, etc, we list all the books and send to them to our principal customers, who are big players in the market. This way, we get an idea of which books are selling and only hold stock of titles that are selling more than 5 copies a month. We have 16,000 titles in our UK stock, which covers around 35% of all orders, and we airfreight twice a week whatever is ordered. Our biggest customers like Amazon, also hold stock of all titles selling well,” he adds.

The challenge…

“The English language book trade is the most sophisticated in the world, and that trade demands accurate price and availability information. However, getting accurate information on print or out of print books in India is a big challenge and that requires a lot more attention from all publishers. Gradually, we have built up very good records of what is available and not available but it can still be improved a lot,” tells Ray.

On Indian languages…

“For our International audience, there is very little demand for any Indian language title. Those that do sell are Hindi editions of titles like Autobiography of a Yogi, the Harry Potter books, The Secret, and the odd Amish title. We sell maybe 5 Hindi books in a month. I hold stock of 6 major Indian languages, but we are now giving them away to make room for books that do sell,” he adds.

On popular genres…

“Religious books are very popular — Hinduism and Vedanta studies from various ashrams, Buddhism, Qurans, etc. Also popular are books on yoga, Ayurveda and self help. The next biggest genre would currently be Secondary school titles, compulsory reading titles on the UK and USA curriculum for example. Academic titles covering Computer studies, Engineering, medicine, etc are popular and of course Fiction is responsible for over 50% of all UK book sales,” tells Ray.

On maintaining stocks…

“We hold stock of what sells, and sometimes returns give us an excess of a title so we drop the price until they are all gone. We keep a record of all stock on our computer system, and keep a record of our core stock titles,” tells Ray.

On book fairs…

“I have been exhibiting at the London Book Fair every year for 25 years now and it is essential for meeting our customers and Indian publishers. I also attend the New Delhi World Book Fair to meet all the publishers, and pick up their catalogues. However many major publishers are not exhibiting there lately, so I am reviewing that each year. I wish the New Delhi World Book Fair has one day for book trade only, so that distributors and publishers can deal with bookshop and online sellers, authors, designers, printers, and international trade publishers, etc. This year I attended the New York Book expo as well, which is important because we are trying to increase India’s publishing presence in North America,” concludes Ray.

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