Dorling Kindersley turns 40, Indian wing focuses on India!

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For forty years, readers all over the world have relied on DK to inform, entertain, and enrich their lives. This year DK India will mark this historic birthday by launching a series of titles especially for the Indian reader. To begin with, they are targeting children and will later move on to titles for adult as well, tells Aparna Sharma, MD, DK India in conversation with Varsha Verma. DK books are already well established in the market, recognised for their high quality content and design, and it seems like the right time to build on this success of DK’s international titles to produce books with India as focus, says Aparna Sharma, MD, DK India.

About DK…

Founded in 1974 by Christopher Dorling and Peter Kindersley as a packaging company for other publishers, DK launched its first titles in 1982 when it secured a deal to edit, design and produce a first-aid manual for voluntary aid societies in the UK. It has since grown into an internationally respected publisher of high quality, illustrated products and online resources across all areas of adult and children’s non-fiction – from natural history to travel, food and drink to family reference and even licensing books for Marvel, Lucas Film and Disney.

DK in India…then and now

In 1998, DK began operations in Delhi with a team of just 10 people. Led by Aparna Sharma, it now employs close to 300 people in its Noida office. “In the year 2000, it was taken over by Penguin but it works as an independent business while the sales and marketing is being handled by the Penguin Group. But now, since we are focusing on the Indian market, we have employed our own sales and marketing team as well,” shares Aparna.

“We are now growing and understanding India and are coming up with specific titles for India, which are either made specifically for India or are adapted for it,” she adds. After publishing their first local title last year Young Chefs with Vikas Khanna, in 2014, DK India has released a range of titles like Children’s Eyewitness Guide to Gandhi, 100 Indians Who Made History and

Find-It Delhi, a mini travel guide/activity book for children. “All these books are written in a light manner, with lot of trivia to engage children. Our book on Gandhi is very different in the sense that we have sourced some new information and pictures, which have either never been published or are not so common,” tells Aparna.

India-focused business plans…

DK India plans to publish six to eight titles for the local market each year, with special focus on the children’s segment to start with, expanding into new and emerging areas like lifestyle. “We are focused on children in a measured way. When we say children, we mean the age group of eight plus as this is a big area and children in this age group need to learn a lot. We will also come up with workbooks, reads, etc, as it will be an ages and stages programme, for which we are also partnering with licensors in UK and US. And we will always keep the curriculum in mind and use the right choice of words and number of words as per the age group,” explains Aparna.

“From time to time, we will take feedback from our distributors and customers and then build on the programme,” she shares. “We will later diversify into adult titles like lifestyle, general interest, cookery, gardening, sports, health, travel, natural history, birds of India, etc,” reveals Aparna.

DK India will also continue to play a key role in the company’s expanded global range of digital products that repurpose print content into new and emerging web-based, tablet-based, and mobile-based platforms.

“Other plans include the launch of an online knowledge website for children, scheduled for later this year. The website will support learning in home and school by covering every key subject area from Science to History. The roll-out will involve engaging with schools and students through quizes using DK content,” shares Aparna.

Custom publishing…

And DK India has other plans too…they are also eyeing different avenues and focusing on the bespoke publishing or the custom publishing for distribution or own use. “Almost 95 percent of own content is DK-owned, hence we have a vast depository of content, which we can use and give away for segments like tourism, medicine, wine-tasting, cheese-tasting, etc.” embarks Aparna.

On talent…

“There is lot of talent available in India but exposure is not much. They do not know how to stretch their boundaries of creativity while focusing on the information. Sometimes, the exposure to subject is not there. We keep training our team at DK Academy as an ongoing process. Our colleagues from UK are also engaged in this extensively,” tells Aparna.

Celebrating 40th anniversary…

DK India has always been committed to its green initiatives such as judicious re-use of paper, by encouraging practices such as double-sided printing and using recycled notebooks. “As part of the 40th anniversary celebrations to communities across the globe, DK India has planned to inculcate a tradition of caring for and enriching the quality of lives of the communities where their staff stay and work in. DK will work with local charities to help raise funds, spread awareness and allow staff to volunteer their time,” tells Aparna.

Future plans…

“For the next three years, we will put in our energies and see the impact in the local publishing segment. We have come up with a special pricing for the Indian market, which is 20-30% cheaper and most of the books would be priced between Rs 200-500, which is quite competitive and affordable. These books are produced without compromising on quality in content, paper, printing or the ethical values. We work with empanelled printers who use renewable sources,” tells Aparna.

“There is a lot of clutter in the children publishing segment but DK wants to stay distinct and be valued for its quality product,” concludes Aparna.

Teaching children why to recycle through a book

During the recently concluded Delhi Book Fair 2014, TERI Press, the publishing wing of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), released a book, Why Should I Recycle? authored by Aanchal Kumar Broca. This book launch was accompanied with panel discussion on “Children Literature to Increase Environmental Awareness-A Necessity” which was attended by NBT director Dr MA Sikandar; Latavidyanathan, former principal, Modern School Barakhamaba Road, New Delhi; Livleen, TERI -Environment Education and Awareness division; and Vishwajyoti Ghosh, eminent graphic illustrator & novelist.

The launch of the book was followed by a panel discussion. The discussions deliberated on several issues, including the lack of availability of environmental literature for children, creating interesting books on green issues for kids, National policy perspective on environment and children literature, environmental education and the role of schools. “We keep ourselves aligned with the changing needs of our readers”

– says Vani Mehra, CEO/editor-in-chief, Young Angels International.

Internet browsing has widened children horizon so much that it is a constant challenge to meet their fluctuating reading needs. “At Young Angels International, we keep abreast with the current publishing trends in children’s books which are completely governed by the kids – the targeted readers,” says Vani Mehra, CEO/editor-in-chief, Young Angels International.

“Our visits to International book fairs have helped us tremendously in interacting both with the buyers and other publishers. We are constantly studying the changing trends. For example we have recognised that bullying is one issue which needs to be addressed immediately. It is one of our focus and we will be shortly launching a series on it which will empower children to become bully-proof,” she shares.

Young Angels publish books which a parent can read aloud, along with their child. “These books are written with the intent to provide a bridge to conversation and understanding between the parents and children. These books are tools for creating a ‘we time’. We believe in delivering a strong concept in terms of the storyline being complimented by wonderful illustrations. Our books address the varied needs of preschoolers, beginning readers, older readers – 9 to 14 years old,” adds Vani.

Talking further, Vani shares, “Our books have an informal, well researched and interesting connect to academics in a fun way. We give importance to early learning and pre-literacy skills. We have special series focussing on the psychological and developmental stages of children. A lot of research goes behind the scenes. We give a lot of emphasis on unexplored aspects of the chosen topics. In a nutshell we keep ourselves aligned with the changing needs of our readers – the kids!”

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