“Book distribution is a never ending learning process”

shares Allwyn Pais, Head-Business Development, India Book Distributors (Bombay) Ltd, in conversation with All About Book Publishing.

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Allwyn Pais, Head-Business Development, India Book Distributors (Bombay) Ltd
Allwyn Pais, Head-Business Development, India Book Distributors (Bombay) Ltd

India Book Distributors (IBD) is one of the reputed and leading book distributors in India. Allwyn Pais, Head-Business Development, India Book Distributors (Bombay) Ltd, started his career in book distribution 34 years back as a humble Sales Rep. at Rupa and Co. “I worked hard and learnt all the minute details of book distribution. I started my own company Amit Book Corporation with branches in Mumbai and Delhi, but had to close it down due to high expenses after running successfully for 10 years. Later, I opted for a dream job at India’s top most distribution company ‘India Book Distributors’ (IBD). The work culture at IBD is phenomenal as one gets to learn a lot. Book distribution is a never ending learning process and no one can claim to be an expert. There is always a lot to learn,” he says.

Changing scenario of industry…

“Last 10 years have been pretty tough, but that is what I have noticed throughout my career. Many distributors had to close and bookshops were also shut, perhaps due to rising costs or competition from online. This new generation started spending more time on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, etc. But, big authors coming out with incredible list of titles and fantastic ideas coming from publishers and retailers have kept this amazing trade graph rising. Nothing can replace books,” he shares.

Impact of social media on book trade…

“No doubt social media took away lot of book readers but it also added business to our trade. Many authors have a big fan following on social media and this network gets converted into business. The books that they write become instant bestsellers and sell like hot cakes,” he shares.

What more does this trade offers?

“This industry also allows you an opportunity to meet a lot of celebrities. It allows you to travel to exotic places which other trade wouldn’t,” he shares.

“Besides, the book industry is like “One small family.” We receive a lot of support from publishers. Returns that we receive from the booksellers are generously accepted by publishers. Booksellers also promote the books aggressively to make sure the trade always has their flags up. The publishers, retailers, authors, editors, printers, transporters and finally the people working in the distribution sector work tirelessly to ensure the book industry grows as we still have a lot to achieve,” adds Allwyn.

Challenges in distribution…

“Like any other industry, we too had a share of ups and downs. Rentals and other expenses are always mounting up. IBD being a highly professional company and absolutely passionate about books have accepted these challenges and moved forward without any complaints. During these turbulent times, one book by Robert Schuller always comes to my mind ‘Tough time never last but tough people do,’” tells Allwyn.

Current Covid crisis…

“This crisis doesn’t seem to be ending. However, we are very optimistic. Like any other bad year, we will get over with this too. Retail has suffered the maximum. The fear of Covid has made readers think twice before entering a bookshop. Malls have shut, airports have far less passengers, our sales have suffered. The returns from the bookshops have increased while our monthly expenses are still the same. All this has certainly affected our company and the industry. One good point, however, is that Covid also made people read as they could get a lot of information through books,” he adds.

Road ahead to recovery…

“Just like other industries, we too believe in ‘Ache din aayenge’. Since the book trade is a noble profession, we can only think about a positive approach and growth. We know that the growth of a nation is built on the books the citizen read. We have a lot of politicians, industrialists, film stars, cricketers, professionals and other celebrities who want to write and are also avid readers. I guess the demand for books will never reduce. This will help us to recover and keep our lamps burning. A little extra effort and willpower will help us sail through this critical period,” shares Allwyn optimistically.

On IBD…

“We distribute books on all genres like Fiction, Non-fiction, Architecture, Biographies, Autobiographies, Cookery, Fashion, Management, Self- help, Spirituality etc. Presently, Children’s books contribute 30% of our sales. We distribute our books to all good bookshops at airports, 5 star hotels, malls, tourist spots, and standalone bookshops. Our books are also exhibited at corporates and schools,” he shares.

“We distribute both national and international publishers, which include international publishers like Penguin Random House, Hachette, Pan Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Bloomsbury, Scholastic, etc. and national publishers like Westland, Manjul, Om Books, Speaking Tiger, Embassy Books, Popular Prakashan, Srishti, etc. We get to learn various skills from different publishers. Each have their own views and selling abilities, which are absolutely productive and encouraging,” he adds.

“To improve sales, we have a lot of healthy discussions with booksellers and publishers. The display of books at retail outlets, book fairs, author signing events, literature festivals, institutional exhibitions, etc are organised at regular intervals. We may not have the budget that the film industry have to promote their films, but we certainly don’t leave any stone unturned to promote books and book reading culture,” he adds.

Competition from online sales…

“I believe that the real reader is the one who smells the book before buying. This is exactly what happens at bookshops. The spectacular body language and sparkling face is visible when the buyer finds the book at the shelf. The author’s achievement is unimaginable when he or she locates their product (book) on the bookshelf. The collection, the feel, the aura that a bookshop carries can put any online store miles behind. We may have challenges from online but bookshops will be there and that will keep us kicking and happy,” he says.

On language publishing…

“We also offer books in Indian languages, of which Manjul is a wonderful example. They produce all bestselling authors in different Indian languages. Besides all big international publishers also come out with the Indian language edition and we are more than happy stocking and distributing them. We also distribute bestselling books from vernacular language translated in English. At IBD, we don’t miss opportunity to stock and distribute any book that is selling,” he says.

On a concluding note…

“We want the culture of bookselling and book reading to flourish in India. Books are the barometer to the progress of a country and the Govt. should support us by giving some subsidy in rentals, electricity, transportation. We should also be allowed to have book fairs and exhibitions at prominent places free of cost. Most importantly, strict actions should be taken on pirated book suppliers. Covid or no covid, we would request the Govt to consider books under essential service as the future of academic students depend on books,” concludes Allwyn.

We want the culture of bookselling and book reading to flourish in India. Books are the barometer to the progress of a country and the Govt. should support us by giving some subsidy in rentals, electricity, transportation.

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