Sterling Publishers
Vol. 2 No. 4 March 2008
ONE TO ONE - Interview with Mr. Arvind Kumar
18th New Delhi World Book Fair
Print gets bigger inspite of net
MBD group to provide customised e-content
Publishers search net for manuscripts
Mills and boon to create titles by Indian authors
TERI press organises a green publishing workshop
Intensive course on editing
Asian Books turns over a new ‘Page’
Kolkata Book Fair from march 1-10, 2008
Kitab festival in Mumbai
Paragon buys Funtastic publishing group in Australia
IPA Congress 2008
Asian Publishing Convention
Lahore International Book Fair
Sri Lankan books in print on the net
Gift a book to a child
Institutions get a 4-million dollar grant
FIP Awards for distinguished publishers
and booksellers


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Dear Publishing Professionals,

The month of February saw the holding of the 18th New Delhi World Book Fair, considered to be the second largest in the world after the Frankfurt Book Fair.

With the cricket fever being at its highest pitch, the publishers did not leave it behind either. A cricket match was played between the Indian and foreign publishers on 3rd February and the foreigners won. This match was organised by Jaypee Brothers – a commendable initiative.

This month I interviewed the one and only publishing professional of its kind, who started his career by joining the family publishing business, which he ran for 19 years after which he joined National Book Trust, an autonomous organization as Director and was with them for almost a decade. Following this long stint he then joined a multinational, Scholastic – the biggest Children’s publisher in the world and spent 8 years there. He was the one responsible for setting up their India office. Thereafter, he started his own setup under the imprint of Arvind Kumar Publishers. I do not think we have another publishing professional of his kind amongst us. Arvind, keep smiling and enjoying the life as it comes your way!

I took my job and the mission very seriously. To focus on my work, I practiced the Gandhian principle of self-denial.

Q. What made you leave the cushy Scholastic job to start your own?
During my 8-year stint at Scholastic India, I completed the basic task of setting up the company, creating relationships with more than 5000 schools all over the country and refining the model of school book clubs and school book fairs. After accomplishing this, I felt that the company no longer required the leadership of a pioneer and instead could now be managed by professional managers. I decided to move on, though I am still connected with Scholastic Inc., as a business associate but not an employee. In the last couple of years, besides our independent publishing, we have introduced 88 Scholastic titles in Indian languages. We published these against firm orders without building any inventory.

Q. From Auto Engineering in Czechoslovakia to Publishing in India – two professions which are poles apart! Any specific reason for the shift?
My father was a visionary, a great publisher, yet he wanted me to set up a big automobile service center. After completing graduation, I completed a course in auto engineering from Czechoslovakia. However, my mind was in publishing and I wrote to my father about my preference. I spent a few months assembling medimobiles (ambulances) in Germany, and then went to Britain for further studies. I also took up a job for making a living. This helped me to study cost accountancy and management. I also tried my hand at a mail order bookshop before I returned to India in 1968, to join my father’s publishing house.

Q. How did you handle Radhakrishna Prakashan and what direction did it get under you?
A. The canvas was small in the family publishing house. We published literary works, textbooks and children’s books in Hindi. We were also a vendor to the Library of Congress Office for Hindi books. Yet, due to the nature of the business, we were largely dependent on the Universities for textbook prescription and government departments for bulk purchases. I was successful, yet not happy with the corruption that was creeping in the textbook prescription as well as the government purchases. Initially, my reaction was to discontinue our dealings with the Universities. After a few years, I found myself at crossroads – I had two choices; either to join the corrupt practices or to fight them. I decided to FIGHT and attacked corruption and the corrupt officials through our house journal, Samayik Sahitya, posted every month to eight thousand addresses. While it attracted attention of the media and the government, it also fuelled opposition to me. Despite this, I contested the election for the position of President, Akhil Bharatiya Hindi Prakashak Sangh (All India Association of Hindi Publishers) and got 51% votes (the other two candidates shared the remaining 49%).

Q. How was your journey in publishing till you joined as Director, NBT?
As the President, I served on the National Book Development Council, and when the Council constituted a five-member working group to formulate a National Book Policy, the leaders of the industry recommended my name. Other members of the working group were Kanti Choudhury, K. S. Duggal, Dr D. P. Pattanayak and Kala Thairani (member-secretary). We spent a year going around the country, meeting with authors, educationists, intellectuals, librarians, publishers and others with a stake in books and reading. This enhanced my interest in book promotion and I agreed to take up the challenge of directing the National Book Trust, India. Another reason for this shift was to do something positive rather than to continue the bitter campaign against corruption. Nevertheless, my distracters tried blocking my appointment, and I had to wait for 13 months before the cabinet committee for appointments headed by the Prime Minister, approved my name for the position.

Q. I think you were the first Director of NBT who came from publishing but you were not very friendly with publishers at that time. Any reason?
No, I was not unfriendly. I distanced myself from everybody and everything because I took my job and the mission very seriously. To focus on my work, I practiced the Gandhian principle of self-denial and this helped me through the most difficult phases of my nine-and-half-year long tenure with the NBT.

Q. When you look back at your days in NBT, how would your describe them?
Most satisfying. My colleagues, especially the junior staff, rallied around me and I was able to channelise their time and energy for positive thinking and constructive work. I reciprocated their affection and respect and the rest is history. I still cherish a very special bond with the NBT staff.

Q. Do cross-cultural marriages work? Why do you think they fail?
I cannot say they do not work. Even my new partner, Arundhati is from a different region. Things did not go right with my former wife because apart from being immature, we could not maintain the right balance between parenting, work, and relationship. I regret that the relationship suffered.

Q. Do you keep in touch with your first family and children?
Yes, we do and meet practically every week. The best part is that Arundhati and my former wife have become great friends.

Q. How and when did Scholastic select you?
It all happened due to my search of quality books for children. As Director NBT, I organised seminars with Asian and African speakers at Frankfurt in two consecutive book fairs. I was not aware that Dr Carol Sakoian from Scholastic Inc., also attended these. She met with me and over a period consulted me about the prospects of doing business in India. Meanwhile, my involvement with children’s literature grew when UNESCO invited me to speak on ’Co-publishing’ at UNESCO, Paris and at book fairs in Nairobi and Harare. Later, APNET gave me the unique honour of attending their reflection and planning meeting, as the only non-African publishing professional, at a game reserve in Kenya. Seeing that I was trying to involve inter-governmental agencies for producing better books for children of the South, Carol suggested that I could try doing it the Scholastic way and invited me to visit Scholastic in New York.

Scholastic, the company mission, the committed staff and the way they promoted books and reading impressed me. Most of all, I was overwhelmed by the sincerity and generosity of Mr D. R. Robinson, the Chairman, President and CEO. Not wanting to lose the opportunity of making my dream come true, I agreed to move on from

Q. How would you describe your experience of dealing with MNCs?
Scholastic was a company with a difference; a company with a heart. Scholastic developed books with tremendous love and respect for children. It was always a pleasure calling on and interacting with Mr Robinson. He is so kind that even now he gives us ample time to meet with him whenever we visit the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Q. Now that you are a publisher yourself and are also friends with other publishers, NGOs and literary consultants, how are you handling such diverse areas simultaneously?
I see no conflict. On the other hand, I find it more rewarding because I firmly believe that partnerships are crucial for publishing success.

Q. Your future plans for Arvind Kumar Publishers and A&A Consultants?
More books; still better books. We are on the right path but need to raise the level of our operations.

Q. You have a strong network of friends and professionals and love to travel. Is this true?
I enjoy traveling for adventure and vacation, but not otherwise. Our business partners are kind. They do not make us visit them for clinching deals. I have honourable professional friends; I do not indulge in the give-and-take that “networking” entails.

Q. You share a close relationship with some well-known authors. Share some of the experiences you had with them.
I am close to many authors and have pleasant memories of long relationships with them. Some of them we have published, but some we have not had the opportunity to publish. One such person is Krishna Sobti. She is our friend, but has not chosen us as her publisher. In our independent publishing, we are also very particular about our contractual obligations.

Q. I understand that you wanted to participate in the recently held World Book Fair; why didn’t you?
In fact, we missed the last date of applying for the stall. When I requested a NBT official to help find us space, Arundhati felt that it would be difficult for us to devote eleven days for the event. And that closed the chapter.

Q. Anything that you liked or missed at the WBF?
I liked the fair for the large number of exhibitors and the hundreds and thousands of books they offered. Since I visited the fair only for business meetings, there was nothing that I found missing.

Q. Do you see any change in the general reading habits/interests?
Dropping very rapidly, especially in Indian languages. Nobody seems to care that the languages are languishing.

Q. You started your career with Hindi publishing and now after 18 years you have again come back to publishing; any reason?
I was exposed to publishing from the age of four and this is the only world I know and love. I re-entered independent publishing because we wanted to publish what we truly like. For example, we have recently published a book Fair Play by Munro Leaf that I first read at the age of nine. We intend bringing it out in all Indian (non-English) languages. It is a book that every child should read and every school and library should possess.

Q. How would you describe a good book?
Difficult question. My long association with publishing has honed my skills and I know a good book when I come across one. To me, a good book should bring commercial success as well as mental satisfaction.

Q. Are you writing your memoirs?
No, never. If I ever write, it will be with a touch of humour and sadness on the self-centered society we are creating.

Q. Which role do you enjoy the most: being a publisher, an administrator, or a literary consultant?
Indeed a publisher, of quality books.
The day I was born in this country, this country was also born in me.
I can feel it running through my guts when I am angry.
And throbbing through my views when I am glad.
I am India and India is me.
Starting today, I have decided that I will not point fingers at any one anymore.
Instead, those fingers will be pointed at me.
I am the system that does not work.
I am the pothole on the road that does not get filled.
I am the bridge that does not get built.
Everything that’s wrong in this country starts with me.
And will soon end with me.
I am India and India is ME.

18th New Delhi World Book Fair
The 18th New Delhi World Book Fair came to a close on 10th February 2008. The 9-day-long fair saw over 1343 participants from 23 countries including 41 foreign participants, a significant increase from the last fair where only 1200 participants from 17 countries were present. Though the fair included participants from 14 languages, English language publishers were the most dominant. Of the total 14 languages, 815 publishers belonged to the English category, Hindi had 376 publishers, Urdu 35, Sanskrit 23, Malayalam 16, Bengali 11, Punjabi 7, Tamil 6, Marathi and Kannada 3 each, Gujarati and Assamese 2 each and finally Telugu had 1 publisher.

Spread over 45,500 square meters and in 13 halls of Pragati Maidan, the New Delhi World Book Fair is the largest event of its kind in the Afro-Asian region and next only to Frankfurt. Approximately 12 lakh visitors visited the fair. Trade delegations from the UK, Germany and China were present along with trade visitors from the Afro-Asian world, who made the fair a success and this year the trade being better than the earlier years.

Russia, being the guest of honour country, had 80 publishers and 30 writers attending the event. While there were activities and competitions for children, the Russian pavilion also demonstrated the rich heritage of their traditional craftsmanship and organised a number of literary events and exhibitions.

Many other publishing activities were held, both before and during the fair. The 9th National Convention of Indian Publishers and an International Convention of STM and Educational Publishers were held from 30th January to 1st February 2008. During the fair, a Seminar on National Knowledge Commission: A Futuristic View by the Afro-Asian Book Council was held on 5th February. Also an International Seminar on Future Direction of Print and Publishing for Export Awareness was organised by CAPEXIL.

The Children’s pavilion too organised several events. National Book Trust (NBT) and National Bal Bhawan brought out the publication of a daily bulletin/newsletter by Children and Bal Bharti Public School, Ghaziabad organised a Book Review Workshop.

The Youth Pavilion organised daily programmes by the hour as well as holding a talk – Books that have influenced me and organising a programme – Meet the Journalist.

In homage to the Father of the Nation from the world of publishing and books, the promoters organised an exhibition of works on and by the Mahatma titled ‘Gandhi – in words and deeds’ and also had a special screening of documentaries each day on Gandhiji.

The Norwegian Prime Minister, H. E. Mr. Jens Stoltenberg visited the fair and released a Hindi translation of a collection of Norwegian Short Stories at the stall of Vani Prakashan. He also visited the Norwegian stall at the fair.

The Prime Minister Sh. Manmohan Singh, in his message said, he hoped that the fair would carry forward successfully the endeavour to create a learning society.

Print gets bigger inspite of net
About 10 million Indians use English as their first language. The figures for the Indian publishing industry are nebulous, but estimates suggest sales of Rs 7,500 crore – between 40% and 45% of which is English publishing. Of this, school and higher education books account for Rs 2,300 to Rs 2,700 crore (about 25% to 35%) while general publishing is in the range of Rs 800 crore (about 12%).

The industry is growing at between 10% and 15% annually. Around 16,000 publishers in India publish 75,000 titles and exports have grown from 3,300 lakh in 1991 to approximately Rs 38,000 lakh in 2006-07.

Rough estimates put the Indian outsourcing story in the organised sector at around $440 million (in 2006). This is set to cross the $1 billion mark by 2010. The organised sector currently employs around 30,000 people and is set to cross the 80,000 mark by 2010.


MBD group to provide customised e-content
The MBD Group has decided to invest Rs 100 crore (US$25 million) within the next three years to enable the development of customised educational e-content for schools, corporate houses and those preparing for competitive examinations.

Monica Malhotra Kandhari, senior director of MBD Group said, “Cyberspace is the new gateway for delivering education and our effort is to capture it, to push our educational contents.”

“We have already invested nearly Rs 30 crore in the last eight months and would invest an additional Rs 100 crore within the next three years. We have also signed an agreement with IBM, Singapore for providing technical services in executing the project. From a product-based company, we are re-inventing ourselves as a service company,” she added.

Publishers search net for manuscripts
Publishers are now going online in search of new and diverse writers. Authors yearning to have their works read and published, now no longer have to wait for the publishers to contact them. Help has arrived for them in the shape of a website called, started by 31-year-old Vikram Singh Chauhan. The site boasts of tie-ups with publishing houses like Random House India, Hay House, HarperCollins, Roli Books and Hachette Book Publishing along with numerous other smaller publishers. Of the total 150 books put up on the website, 20 authors have already been contacted offline by various publishing houses.

Mills and boon to create titles by Indian authors
The $450 million Canadian company which owns the 100-year-old Mills and Boon imprint, the leading purveyors of women’s romantic fiction and which set shop recently in India, plans to print 10 titles a month and wants to create titles for Indians by Indians with stories set in India. Their 1300 authors include people such as US army colonels and Egyptian doctors; so why not Indians now. With almost 60% of the Indian population in the age bracket of 15 to 35 years, Mills and Boon with Indianised titles and stories should read and sell equally well.

TERI press organises a green publishing workshop
TERI Press, the publishing arm of TERI is organizing a workshop titled – Pathways to Green Publishing: a stakeholders’ dialogue on ecological and sustainable publishing practices, on 5th April 2008 at Le Meridien, New Delhi. For further details contact:

Ambika Shankar, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
or Roshini Sengupta, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit the site

Intensive course on editing
The Institute of Book Publishing is organising a 6-day Intensive Course on Editing from 4-11 June 2008 at the India International Center, New Delhi. This is the only course of its kind in Asia and Africa with a course faculty including academicians, editors and directors of major publishing houses. It aims at widening the understanding and knowledge about the publishing industry and is designed to give practical and update knowledge about the various aspects of editing. For further details visit:

Asian Books turns over a new ‘Page’
Avi Jagasia, son of Kamal Jagasia of Asian Books has entered the retail market by opening a new bookshop – Pages in Sector 18, Noida. The bookshop will have all the usual sections with a focus on children’s books.

Kolkata Book Fair from march 1-10, 2008
This time the Government of West Bengal has taken upon itself to organize the Kolkata Book Fair at Yuva Bharti Krirangan at Salt Lake. The Publishers and Booksellers guild has clarified that it has nothing to do with the fair being organised by the West Bengal government.

The shifting of the venue from Maidan to Yuva Bharti Krirangan this year, has CPM head, Prakash Karat upset – not as Comrade Karat but as Publisher Karat. He is the Managing Director of the publishing group, Leftword and was due to formally launch his book, Uncle Sam’s Nuclear Cabin at the Kolkata Book Fair; but the launch, due to the change in venue, is now uncertain.

Kitab festival in Mumbai
After the Jaipur Literary Festival, it was the turn of Mumbai to organize the Kitab Festival from February 22- 24, 2008. This festival was held in Mumbai for the second consecutive year, though things did not turn out as planned. Its founder, Pablo Ganguli admitted to being “too ambitious” and said that Kitab 2008 fell well short of being perfect. Amid the chaos the festival limped on, but with no funds for publicity and hastily assembled sessions, ran to nearly empty rooms. “I don’t know what will happen next year,” said a harried Ganguli.

Paragon buys Funtastic publishing group in Australia
Parragon Publishing Ltd., a global private limited company based in the UK with a strong presence in Australia, has bought the publishing business of Funtastic Ltd., Australia after the business was assessed as not fit with the long term strategic direction of the Funtastic Group. Mark Scott, Publishing Director, Funtastic Group has accepted the position of International Sales and Licensing Director with Parragon, Australia. For more information on Funtastic, visit the website at

IPA Congress 2008
The 28th IPA publishers congress will be held in Seoul from 12-15 May 2008. Hosted by the Korean Publishers Association, the congress will offer a unique insight into Korean Publishing and look into the publishing trends in Asia and beyond. Also attend Seoul Book Fair from 14-19 May for detail visit

Asian Publishing Convention
The second Asian Publishing convention will be held in Singapore. The event is set for August 14-15 2008 for details visit

Lahore International Book Fair

After the peaceful elections in Pakistan, the postponed Lahore Book Fair is being held from 28th February to 4th March 2008.

Courtesy: Mr Vijithyapa
Sri Lankan books in print on the net
The Book Publishers Association is creating their own website wherein all the books published in Sri Lanka will be listed. They are going to charge US$ 0.25 (Rs 35/-) per title. The books will be in Tamil, Sinhalese and English.

Gift a book to a child
The Publishers and Book Sellers Association is celebrating the New Year from 12th to 17th April 2008 by gifting a book to a child. This commendable effort by the association is in its third successive year.

Institutions get a 4-million dollar grant
The Educational Department, Government of Sri Lanka gave 400 million rupees (US$ 4 million) to institutions and schools to buy books during the Colombo Book Fair. The government is increasing the grant every year. From a 100 million in 2006 the grant increased to 400 million in 2007.

FIP Awards for distinguished publishers and booksellers
FIP honoured distinguished publishers and booksellers by awarding them at their 9th National Convention of Indian Publishers on 31st January and 1st February 2008.

The Awardee publishers include: Shri Pitambar Mishra, Vidyapuri, Cuttack; Shri Sudhanshu Dey, Dey’s Publishing House, Kolkata; Shri Dileep Ganesh Majgaonkar, Rajhans Prakashan, Pune; Narmadha Pathippagam, Chennai; Shri Jayachandran, C.I.C.C. Book House, Ernakulam; Barkataki Company, Jorhat; Shri Manubhai Shah, Gurjar Grantha Ratna Karyalaya, Ahmedabad; Shri Mohammad Yunus, idara Isha’at E-Diniyat Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, Shri Arun Maheshwari, Vani Prakashan, New Delhi; and Shri Rajan Mehra, Rupa & Co., New Delhi.

The Awardee booksellers include: Shri N. E. Manohar, TBS Publishers’ Distributors Pvt. Ltd., Kozhikode; Shri Ashok Kothavale, Majestic Book Depot, Thane (West); M/S Bookworm, New Delhi; M/S Sapna Book House, Bangalore; Nalanda Book and Record Shop, Mumbai; Shri Ashwani Kapoor, Harbans Book Depot, Amritsar; Shri Ganesh Patra, Katha-o-Kahani Booksellers Pvt. Ltd., Kolkata; Shri Lovdev Batheja, Lovdev & Sons, New Delhi; Shri Jayantbhai Meghani, Prasar, Bhavnagar; Shri Om Prakash Arora, Capital Book Depot, Chandigarh.

Jogendranath Sen (1930-2008)

Jogendranath Sen, father of Amitabha Sen, Managing Director of New Central Book Agency (P) Ltd., Kolkata left for his heavenly abode on 18th February 2008.

May his soul rest in peace.
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