“India needs another international fair and Chennai is expected to gain ground soon”

Shares Senthil Nathan, International Partnership Consultant and publishing industry expert for the debut Chennai International Book Fair in conversation with AABP.

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Chennai is all set to host the first ’Chennai International Book Fair (CIBF),’ from January 16-18, 2023. Janani Rajeswari S speaks to Senthil Nathan, International Partnership Consultant and publishing industry expert for the fair, in an exclusive interview, about the upcoming event.

AABP: What was the idea behind CIBF?

Senthil: India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and Tamil Nadu is among the fastest-growing economies in India. This has already made Chennai an international city in the world of global business. Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Thiru M. K Stalin wants to transform Chennai into a truly global hub. Recently,the city successfully hosted the world chess championship. CIBF is yet another attempt by the government to make a special place for Tamil Nadu and Tamil literature in the world.

One of the core areas of the government is education and Tamil Nadu is witnessing a big change in the field of the book business. Today the state conducts around 35 fairs in a year.

The senior officials and people from the publishing industry wanted the 46-year-old Chennai Book Fair to become an international one. I was also part of the delegation sent by the government, headed by Elamhabavath IAS, the Director of Public Libraries, to the recently concluded Frankfurt Book Fair to learn the know-how of conducting an international fair. I also visited ‘Sharjah International Book Fair,’ which helped us connect with various industry leaders from across different countries. Interestingly, Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi, Minister of School Education of Tamil Nadu led a delegation of around 70 government school children to the recently concluded Sharjah International Book Fair.

AABP: Tell us about the team organising the Chennai International Book Fair?

Senthil: The event is organised by the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation, under the Ministry of School Education partnering with The Book sellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI).

AABP: How is CIBF different

from the annual Chennai Book Fair?
Senthil: Both the regular Chennai Book Festival and CIBF fairs have distinct identities. The regular fair will run for more than two weeks but the CIBF will run for three days. They are co-events of the same mega event. The regular book fair is one of the largest B2C events in Asia. However, CIBF is a B2B fair that has made copyright and industry as the core. The three-day event will include an international pavilion (stalls and exhibits), a publishing conference, Rights Hub (Copyrights Trade) and author meetings. There will
be another speciality: we will have two guests of honour for our fair. One, a country, and another, a state in India.

AABP: Share some information about the rights event?

Senthil Nathan

Senthil: It will be a meeting place for various copyright buyers and sellers from across the globe. Also, Tamil Nadu government announced generous translation grants to translate Tamil works into at least 30 languages this year. This will trigger the sales of Tamil publishers. It will attract global publishers. Also, the next-generation publishers can meet copyright agents and acquire the rights to the latest books without waiting too long. This will connect Tamil readers with the contemporary world. This will also improve the quality of publishing.

AABP: How do you think this international event is going to benefit the publishing industry?

Senthil: Tamil publishing already has good global presence with strong publishing communities in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore. CIBF will pave way to connect with more Tamil readers and small publishers across various countries. Like any international fair, copyrights sales, translation grants and bulk book sales will definitely benefit publishers, authors, translators and eventually readers.

AABP: Organising an international event is a challenge indeed. Tell us about the journey so far.

Senthil: Organising the event is less complex than selling the event. The international publishing community feels that the event is being organised at very short notice. CIBF has been planned in a short time, while you need at least a year to plan such a grand event. Well-established fairs and pre-fixed calendars determine greater participation. But we felt that we needed to make a start somewhere. We have decided to start with a small but significant number of participants. Many felt that India needs more than one international fair, and Chennai is expected to gain ground soon.
We have set up a call centre-type team in Chennai to connect with global publishers. We have invited publishing houses across various Indian states to participate in the event. We used almost every catalogue we collected in the international fairs, and have reached more than 5000 publishers from 60 countries across Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe. The fair will also showcase the latest technology related to book publishing and digital printing and so on.

AABP: What is your idea of ‘An International book fair’? What can people expect at the Chennai International book fair?

Senthil: I believe that it is more of an exchange of cultures and creative trends through the book trade. Culture and trade go hand-in-hand. Also, it’s an opportunity for publishers, authors, and translators, rights agents to carry forward their mission in unison.

AABP: How do you plan to take this initiative forward in the coming years?

Senthil: The State Government will form a system to conduct this event annually. There will also be other programs throughout the year. We have also requested the government to send Tamil delegations to the international fairs to set up collective stands. The translation grants offered by the government will certainly be a catalyst in attracting publishers from other states and countries. Yes, we also expect to grow in scale and quality with every passing year.

 

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