Understanding through Information, Peace through Understanding!
The responsibility for national security does not rest solely with the armed forces, para-military forces and the police; it also extends to all citizens of the country. Pentagon Press has been trying to create this awareness through its publications on defence and national security. Here, Rajan Arya, Managing Partner, Pentagon Press LLP, shares his journey and contribution to the publishing industry, in conversation with Varsha Verma.
Pentagon Press, founded in 1999, has established itself as a leading publisher of academic books on various subjects such as Defence and Strategic Studies, International Relations, Political Science, Military History, Cyber Warfare, and Terrorism. The publishing house has received prestigious awards, the latest one being the Award of Excellence for outstanding performance in Defence and Security Publications given by the Hon. Minister MSME, Shri Kalraj Mishra.
The publishing house has been relentlessly working on its mission to empower and encourage writings on issues of National Security to bring out in-depth analyses for a better understanding of these issues. Some excerpts of the views of Rajan Arya, Managing Partner, Pentagon Press, on how the industry has changed over the years and it has adapted to new technology and concepts are given below.
AABP: How has the journey been so far?
Rajan: It feels as if it was just yesterday when I started Pentagon. I dreamt of a vision of an independent publishing house, a self-sufficient publishing company—an entity that dares to dream big and takes the lead in discussions on defence, security studies, international relations, and foreign policy. It was with a mission to empower people and create a platform for high-quality publications that helps to build a strong and stable India.
Earlier, I used to publish books on Management, IT, Nanotechnology, Energy and Environment. The Kargil War was a major turning point in the journey of Pentagon Press which led us to publish books to spread awareness on the various facets and aspects of National Security and encourage a culture of strategic thinking in India.
AABP: What have been your significant contributions to the book publishing industry?
Rajan: I do not believe in making grand claims as I always believe that the BEST is yet to come. Moreover, I believe in the Gita that teaches Karmanya vadhikarasya ma faheshukadacha, which enjoins a person to perform his/her duties, and not bother about the results, whatever that may be, that will surely follow. I do not consider myself to be the cause of the results of my activities.
This concept and belief were embedded in me by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who is one of the best-seller authors on our list. In 2009, I met him at his Rajaji Marg residence in Delhi regarding the presentation of a book (BHAGWAD GITA and MANAGEMENT). We were really astonished by his in-depth knowledge of the Gita. What moved me was his expounding on its core philosophy. Since that day, I try to follow the teachings of the Gita as faithfully as I can. You will see other forms of the same teaching in current literature that echo the same philosophy. It is on the basis of them that we run Pentagon. For example, we have strict ethical policies for conducting business. It helps us to get work done swiftly, efficiently and effectively without fanfare. Most importantly, these teachings keep us grounded.
AABP: Being a veteran in the industry, what changes have you seen in book publishing?
Rajan: Back in the 90s, when I was a young publisher, printing technology was not easily accessible; we didn’t have the Internet. Obviously, now we have far superior technology, for example, easy tools to reach a global audience. The industry has adopted the e-commerce ecosystem, similarity index software, digital marketing tools, etc. However, in terms of academic books, the core mantra has mostly remained the same. The content was always king, and it will remain so no matter how visually appealing or well-designed the end product, a book or e-book platform or a website may be. It is the content itself – the book’s intrinsic value –that ultimately determines its impact. Indeed marketing and promotion are required to effectively reach the intended audience and optimise a book’s visibility. Ultimately, the quality, relevance, and usefulness of the content can make or break a publishing house.
AABP: How the publishing world is impacted by digital challenge and how will Pentagon embrace it?
Rajan: Today everybody knows about AI and the transformation it is bringing in all domains; its impact on publishing cannot be ignored. The recent covid pandemic accelerated the growth of digital technology. So better embrace the change.
We were lucky to have Dr K. Subramanyam, N. N. Vohra, Dr Santhanam, Shri Shakti Sinha and Dr Amiya Chandra –as our Mentors in the early years. They were behind shaping the idea of a dedicated list of academic book publications on defence, security studies, international relations, foreign policy, etc. Their guidance and support steered us in a steady direction and clear non-commercial ambition. We never considered digital or any other developing technology as a challenge but as an opportunity. If an academic book is well-written and of high quality, it naturally attracts a niche audience without the need for excessive promotion. Our challenge is to find a niche big enough to support an academic publication.
Many of these mentors to whom we owe everything, are not among us any more, but we continue to have a publishing board comprised of stalwarts. We vigorously review all the content we produce. We have created our own niche, a group of dedicated readers and authors who are part of the Pentagon family. They will decide the way they want to accept or interact with our content.
Small publishers not controlled by foreign entities are more agile. They can change their direction, processes, and medium of delivery quickly to match the speed of the market. No matter what the medium is, digital or otherwise, small dedicated publishers with a clear ambition can rise above adversity and become catalysts for change.
AABP: What are your views on the future of printed books?
Rajan: Printing is a way of delivering content. Printed books have sentimental value for me as they are FROZEN THOUGHTS ON PAPER; I like to read hard copies, the same way our ancestors liked to read handwritten manuscripts. However, as a publisher, I am not worried about the medium of content delivery. We will keep evolving with time.
As an industry, publishing could adapt to changes quickly. We will see significant changes in the next five years. Open Access will be the new reality in academic publishing among other changes. The emergence of AI – the natural language processing ability to generate unique content that resembles human interaction – will play a key role in how and what we publish.
Rajan is the Founder and the Managing Partner of Pentagon Press LLP, celebrating its 25th anniversary next year. Rajan is a publishing veteran, popularly known in the industry for philanthropic works. He has received the Best Publishers Award three times.