Ramesh K Mittal, chairman, CAPEXIL in conversation with AABP editors Shweta Khurana and Varsha Verma, shares the various initiatives taken by CAPEXIL for the benefit of the Indian publishing industry and stresses upon the changes required in the industry.

Ramesh K Mittal, chairman, CAPEXIL I hope that government helps to consolidate the industry. The publishing industry gives direct and indirect employment to many skilled and unskilled people. Indian publishing industry is in sync
with the dream vision of ‘Make in India’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi."

Ramesh K Mittal has been shouldering the responsibilities as Chairman of Books, Publications and Printing Panel of CAPEXIL since October 2011 and Chairman/President of CAPEXIL since 2015. Under his valuable guidance and support, the book publication industry has been growing and Indian publishers have made an indelible mark at major international book fairs as well.

Mittal has been instrumental in representing the publishing industry and fighting for the rights of the industry. In conversation with AABP, he focuses on the various initiatives he has undertaken during his tenure at CAPEXIL. Excerpts.

Inclusion of various allied products under Capexil

E-Books and E-Journals happen to be the products of the day. These are neither services nor softwares but independent products. “I have been impressing upon the Govt. to recognise them at par with printed books and journals and route their exports under CAPEXIL,” he shares.

“Besides, content creation, content editing/finalising, book data creation and other print support and activities like books/brochures designing, books layouts, etc are services but purely associated with books & knowledge. My request to the Govt. has been to recognise these services and attach them to Books and Journals under CAPEXIL’s canopy rather than these continuing to remain as unorganized services,” he adds.

MEIS benefits for Category ‘C’ countries

In the existing EXIM Policy, under MEIS Scheme Rewards, on the FOB Value of exports realized in respect of items in Chapter 49 against Printed Books are 3% and 2% on Journals and Periodicals on export to countries in categories A & B whereas it is nil on export to countries in Category C. “Notable countries missing out for incentives are some of the neighbouring countries namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc. Nearly 10% of our export of printed books has been to these countries. These markets are quite competitive. Publishers/exporters from India have created a niche in these markets with aggressive marketing and competitive pricing strategies. There is always a threat of books getting re-printed in these countries if our prices are not commensurating with the market. It is important to remain as competitive as possible. I have been following up with the Govt. to consider MEIS benefits for this category in the Mid-Term Review of Foreign Trade Policy, which is expected to be released soon,” he adds.

Export of books by post

A number of book buyers are individuals and libraries who prefer to buy a couple of books at a time. The postage costs were escalated a few years back and there was a reduction in the weight of a book packet from 5 Kg to 2 Kg. “This has adversely affected the publishers and individual buyers. We have been requesting that the Government may give relief to the exporters of books by post by reconsidering the postal rates,” says Mittal.

Reduction in documentation & banking costs for small value shipments

Another important point Mittal shares is that since a major segment of books is exported as small value consignments, the requirement of export documentation and banking costs should be reduced. “Right now, the documentation for such shipments is similar to those for a large/high value shipment and the banking cost is the same whether you receive a small value money transfer or a huge sum. Submission of documents for EDPMS clearance by the banks and the charges thereon cost a lot in terms of manpower and banking. I have been following-up with the Govt. to reduce or dispense with certain documentation/formalities upto a fixed value of a consignment; say upto $2000 or so,” he adds.

“Besides, banks do not recognise payments even by a parent organization of an educational institution or through a credit card of or a money transfer by an individual associated with an organization (importer). Banks ask for confirmatory letters for such payments from the buyers which are extremely awkward and derogating. This matter is regularly being taken up at different forums. Govt. should allow recognised exporters, who are members of a Council, to receive such remittances on their personal declaration on letterheads,” he says.

Challenges concerning shipments of books to Pakistan by rail

Pakistan is a good market for Indian publishers but Samjhauta Express goes to Lahore only twice in a week with extremely limited boggies carrying cargo. “At the beginning of a new academic session in Pakistan, a huge load of books is sent by rail via Amritsar but the consignments are held up at Amritsar train station for want of space on the train. Requests have been made to the Govt. from time to time to treat books as perishable commodity on such occasions so that we do not loose market if the books do not reach institutions/students well in time,” he tells.

Hassles in obtaining ISBN

International Standard Book Number is the product number allocated to each book/edition by which that particular book/title is recognized world over. Ministry of Human Resource Development holds the authority from the International ISBN Agency in the UK to allocate these numbers to the publishers. This was being done manually and had been functioning pretty well. “Last year, the Hon’ble Minister of Human Resource Development inaugurated the online system for providing these numbers to the publishers. Instead of its smooth functioning, there are lot of hassles in getting these numbers for the new books/editions which are in the process of being published. Since the buyers world over don’t import books without the ISBN, it is becoming a hindrance in export. This matter has been taken up through Ministry of Commerce & Industry as well,” he explains.

Hindrances in the promotional programmes of the Govt.

MDA: Market Development Assistance (MDA) has been a very important assistance, especially to small and growing exporters who could participate in approved book fairs and understand/develop their international contacts. “Govt. has been providing some assistance to cover some part of their expenditure in respect of booth charges and airfare. This scheme no longer exists from the current year. CAPEXIL has been trying its best to request the Govt. to reconsider about it for the sake of small & medium exporting community,” tells Mittal.

MAI (Market Access Initiative): Under this scheme, CAPEXIL Book Division conducted a good number of events successfully during the past few years. “However, the Govt. now insists on organizing such events together with other Councils stressing upon the two or three councils to take at least 40 or 50 exporters each; thus expecting exhibitor strength of at least 80-100 or even more to an event. Since this kind of a multi-council cooperation is not possible in regard to book fairs, no book event has been sanctioned in the current financial year despite best efforts,” tells Mittal. It is notable to mention that in the past few years, CAPEXIL has participated at various international book fairs like Abu Dhabi Book Fair, Sharjah Book Fair, London Book Fair, Frankfurt Book Fair, Gualdera Book Fair, Sao Paulo Book Fair, Nigeria Book Fair, Ghana Book Fair, Beijing Book Fair, etc. They have also tried their best to participate at book fairs like those in Bangkok, America, Tokyo, Myanmar, Manila, Paris, Cape Town, etc. “We could not participate at these book fairs due to lower turnaround of members or lesser government support,” shares Mittal.

RBSM/BSM (Reverse Buyer – Seller Meet): “In the book trade, RBSMs were held where CAPEXIL invited a maximum of 20 importers and arranged one to one meetings with about 60 exporters. This model was working well. Of late, the Govt. changed its stand and expects 50 or more importers and correspondingly 150-200 exporters. Since this again is impossible and may not be result oriented, no RBSM event applied for by the Book Division got approved during the recent years. Buyer – Seller Meets abroad also could not be arranged due to such issues only, he says.

EPCG: Some book printers are facing problems while importing goods under EPCG scheme. The EPCG scheme allows third-party export if necessary declaration is made at the time of shipment. “But, the government is not agreeing to such exports despite the presence of that provision. If a printer has imported a machine of Rs. 5 crore under the scheme and saved on duty and agreed to fulfil the required export obligation equivalent to six times of duty saved on capital goods, to be fulfilled in six years reckoned from date of issue of authorisation, there shouldn’t be any problem in getting the benefits. But, that’s not happening at the moment,” explains Mittal as a matter of fact.

Other initiatives…

CAPEXIL has also joined hands with Afro Asian Book Council and conducted various seminars for the betterment of the industry. An active participant at the New Delhi World Book Fair in New Delhi, CAPEXIL also conducts seminars at the show. More recently, they conducted a seminar on GST for the benefit of the publishers.

On a concluding note…

On asking about his tenure at CAPEXIL, Ramesh mentions that he has got constant support and guidance from past chairmen of Books & Publications Panel. “I have also been blessed with immense support and co-operation from other members of the Panel,” he adds.

“I hope that government helps to consolidate the industry. The publishing industry gives direct and indirect employment to many skilled and unskilled people. Indian publishing industry is in sync with the dream vision of ‘Make in India’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Further, due to numerous overseas visits of the Prime Minister, the popularity of Indian culture has increased and books are the window to Indian culture, history and true India. The Indian publishing industry also helps in PM’s vision of Digital India and Skilling India as books are the tools for education,” concludes Mittal on a positive note.



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