“We need a larger reading and book buying population”

Opines Priya Kapoor, Director, Roli Books, who feels that there is great
talent in India and no dearth of subjects to write about. But, we need more readers, libraries and institutional sales.


Roli Books was founded by Pramod Kapoor in 1978. He saw a gap in the Indian publishing industry and was determined to establish Roli Books as the premier art and illustrated publisher in the country. Quality has been their cornerstone – in production, design or content. The company is now run by the second generation of the family, Priya and Kapil Kapoor, and has over 50 members of staff across three offices in India. “We have a backlist of over 900 books and publish 25-30 books across various genres including fiction, non-fiction and art & illustrated books,” tells Priya Kapoor, Director, Roli Books.

On Indian writers…

“Our tradition of literature is rich, diverse and across different Indian languages. Recently we have seen an increase in translations, making these writers more accessible to a wider audience. Today, writers are confident and are no longer writing only keeping the international audience in mind,” tells Priya.
“There is great talent in India and no dearth of subjects to write about. However, the audience for books needs to grow. Readership in India needs to grow for the entire eco-system of publishing to benefit,” she tells.

On encouraging the habit of reading…
“Parents should read to children, buy them books and take them to libraries and bookshops. Moreover as children get older and the pressures of academics mount, they should be encouraged to read for pleasure and beyond their prescribed reading. Reading opens up a world of imagination for children. Equip them with the right skills and exposure and make future readers out of them,” says Priya.

“At CMYK Delhi we have partnered with Swati and Venky of Eureka who understood the importance of nurturing children when they are young. They also run the successful Bookaroo (a literature festival for children) which is very successful,” she adds.

On books and genres…
“Indians love to read non-fiction. There is never a dull moment in this country; there are so many topics to write about. Readers want to educate and inform themselves and make sense of their world. I really enjoyed Sonia Faleiro’s The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing—a powerful and beautifully written book. Similarly, writers are also expressing themselves in both mass market as well as literary awards,”
she adds.

On the origins of Roli Books…

Priya Kapoor
Priya Kapoor

“My father found that there was a lot of talent here in terms of writers and photographers. But since these books were expensive to produce, there were few Indian publishers taking them on. The first book my father published was a travel book on Rajasthan. Back then all our books were printed in Singapore, but of course print technology has improved greatly in India and now we print all our books locally. He started selling them aboard as he visited a lot of book fairs internationally and tied up with publishers and distributors. In fact, he was one of the early pioneers in creating that bridge and taking India abroad with quality books and authors,” tells Priya

Challenges in publishing…

The publishing industry needs more support and encouragement from the government. “I feel that is a big disservice because in terms of soft power, there is so much we can do because English is one of our languages which connect us to the world. There are so many fantastic writers, photographers, publishers, who need to be promoted on a government or institutional level,” she says.

“At micro level, distribution, lack of bookshops and visibility for our books is a problem as well. Imagine if they were good quality bookshops in smaller towns, the kind of discoverability there would be for books,” she adds. “Besides, within the industry we don’t have enough meeting points. We did come together during the pandemic to find ways to lobby the government when books were deemed as non-essentials items. That kind of effort needs to be more.”

On CMYK chain of bookstores…

“We started CMYK 11 years ago, because there are not enough bookshops catering to the kind of books we publish and distribute. So, we decided to open a chain of bookstores dedicated to this. Currently, we have two standalone and a few shop-in-shops around the country,” she shares.

Print vs. digital…

“People reading in any format is ideal. As publishers we should be ensure our books are available on all platforms– e-book, audio book, rights for movies, etc it is one way of bringing attention back to an author, a book or a story. At the heart of it all remains the story,” says Priya.

Online sales…

“Online sales grew drastically during the pandemic for obvious reasons. And while I also wear a hat as a bookshop owner, I am happy that our books now reach all available post codes in the remotest parts of the country because of online retailers. This kind of reach is a game changer for writers and publishers, especially as the number of bookshops outside of metro cities and a select few other cities are dismal,” says Priya.

Innovations during pandemic…

Some of their initiatives during pandemic included a series with Newslaundry on the media; Roli Books x NDTV debate series called India Debates; and a series on Mental health with The India Health Collective.

On social media…

“Social media is necessary to most businesses today. It helps us reach our readers directly and to create awareness about our books and authors in real time. This makes it very important even if it’s difficult to quantify how much of it translates into actual busines,” tells Priya

Major milestones…

In 2016, Pramod Kapoor was awarded the ‘Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) for his contribution towards producing books that have changed the landscape of Indian publishing and to promoting India’s tangible and intangible heritage within the country and abroad while in 2021, Pandemonium: The Great Indian Banking Tragedy by Tamal Bandyopadhyay won Tata Literature Live! Award in Best Business Book category. Besides, their books have won many prestigious awards like FIP Awards, The Publishing Next Industry Awards, Gourmand Book Awards, ICMA Book Awards and Pix Prato Awards.

What more do you wish?

“As a publisher, I wish to bridge a direct relationship with our readers, improving our digital marketing presence, a more robust website and publishing more books in a year,” concludes Priya.

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