Sterling Publishers
Vol. 6 No. 3-4, February-March 2012
ONE TO ONE with A S Chowdhury, Managing Director, Goodwill Books International and Chowdhury Export House
  S K Ghai in conversation with NOTJUSTINPUBLISHING
  Amazon setting up office in India
  Two Indian publishers win $5.9 million Ethopian contracts
  Stay in touch with news and latest developments to assure a long life
Dear Publishing Professionals,  

The 20th New Delhi World Book Fair will be held in the last week of February. The memories are still fresh in my mind of the first World Book Fair which was held in Janpath where now the Shangri-La Hotel stands. The drill is the same: it starts on Saturday and ends next Sunday. Nothing has changed much except the size of the fair which has practically increased tenfold. I hope this time there will be more international participants and importers to justify it’s name, i.e., it is an international event. I came to know that perhaps it is possible to make it an annual event from 2014 onwards. It will be good for the industry if this can happen as it is the only event which is held after two years otherwise all international book fairs are held annually. I hope the international publishing industry will take it seriously then and put it on their annual calender for participation. Moreover, the sales in India are still growing as against in other parts of the world. Let’s hope National Book Trust announces the dates of 2014, 2015 book fair at the inauguration of the fair.

Recently I listened to Mr Jawhar Sircar, Secretary, Ministry of Culture, at the AGM of FIP where he elaborated on the efforts of the ministry to help the publishing industry and improving the reading habits of the people. He said a central scheme to fund organisation of and participation in book fairs, exhibitions and publishing events has been introduced. The objective behind this scheme is to popularise Indian culture, and encourage more people to buy and read books. Focused on non-profit organisations and small publishers, the scheme is open to varsities, book trade bodies and trusts which have been registered and functioning for at least three years. While the ministry would finance 75 per cent of the cost, up to a ceiling of Rs. 10 lakhs per event, the beneficiary needs to prove that it can afford the remainder 25 per cent and should preferably have prior experience in the field. While the advertisement for availing the scheme would be made once a year, the application can be submitted any time with a recommendation from any of the national or state Akademis and government cultural bodies.

He also said that the National Library, Kolkata,is trying it’s best to open the book packets it has received from the publishers and put their data online. If it is done, it will certainly help the industry. I feel both these steps of the ministry will be welcomed by everyone.

I interviewed Mr A S Chowdhury of Chowdhury Export House for One to One. He rose from a low level to become a leading merchant exporter in the country.


with A S Chowdhury, Managing Director, Goodwill Books International and Chowdhury Export House

Q. At 78, you are still very active in business, travel quite often, enjoy life and keep yourself in a happy mood always. What are the reasons?

Ans. I lead a very disciplined life. I exercise daily by walking for about 4km and have my breakfast at 6 a.m., irrespective of whether it is a Sunday or a holiday, or whether I am in India or abroad. I am strictly vegetarian and avoid overeating. I believe in doing one’s own work as much as possible and not keeping any expectations from anyone whatsoever. At the same time, I am not at all egoistic and try to remain calm.

Q. I learnt that you had a humble start and saw a lot of difficulties in the early years of your life. Share some memories with us.

Ans. I started working at the age of 13, when I migrated from Pakistan, by selling fruits and other things on streets, although there was no financial burden on me or my family, but just to keep myself busy before joining the new academic session of the school which was to begin 6 months after I started working. This helped me a lot in developing confidence and ability for doing any type of work.

Q. You shifted from Hotel Janpath to Indian Airlines and then to National Productivity Council (NPC) before actually coming to publishing. Any reasons?

Ans. After completing B.Com (Hons) and National Diploma in Commerce and Business Administration, I joined as an accountant in Hotel Janpath, selected out of a total of 273 candidates for the job. I shifted to Indian Airlines for better opportunities and better prospects, and again, for the same reasons, to NPC.

Q. What was the motivation to come to publishing?

Ans. The aim of my life was to start a restaurant but while I was working at NPC in Bombay in the year 1961, I started compiling a book on jokes which I gave to my uncle Mr. Dev Raj Verma of Kiran Publications, and it became a big hit. This gave me the confidence to go ahead with another book on the same subject. When I went to offer the same to my uncle, he offered me the same amount of Rs. 400 for full copyright as he had done for the first book. But I demanded Rs. 1000 which he refused. At this, I decided to publish it on my own and this way I came into the publishing business.

Q. In 1970s, you advertised a lot in the print media. What was the experience like?

Ans. I gave full page advertisements in Indian Express, Illustrated Weekly of India and some other papers for launching a new magazine named Career Events – Passport for Success for the students appearing in competitive examinations. Despite the best writers, good marketing strategy, and the best of salesmanship, the magazine flopped and I ran into heavy losses.

Q. Which was your first destination when you started exporting books and how did it go?

Ans. I started exporting books to Thailand in 1970, which even today is not an English-speaking market, and procured very small orders.

Q. Which export market are you concentrating on and what is your USP?

Ans. In my initial years in export, I confined myself mostly to South-East Asian markets, which I am maintaining till today, though we do export to some other countries outside this region also.

Q. You distribute other publishers’ books in the export market. Do you experience any hindrances?

Ans. We export books of more than 200 publishers and do face a number of difficulties. Sometimes the publishers do not supply enough promotional material or deliver the goods well in time resulting in the delay of supplies and sometimes lose the order altogether.

Q. What are the reasons for the increase in the export of books and how can it increase further?

Ans. There is no second opinion that the quality of Indian books is one of the best in the world today and that is the reason why the exports are increasing day by day. It can increase further if publishers and the government implement the following steps:
a) Publishers should provide sufficient promotional material to the exporters;
b) Publishers should undertake foreign visits to promote their books. Their efforts should be complementary rather than competitive;
c) Publishers should improve their bindings; and
d) The government needs to give more subsidies to the exporters in respect of export incentives, MDAs, etc. as the export of books is still not as advanced as in other countries.

Q. Do you think CAPEXIL is performing its role well? What more do you expect from it?

Ans. I would like to congratulate Capexil for the excellent co-operation it has been extending to the exporters, particularly in the last 3-4 years, and they can do a little more by trying to participate in as many international book fairs as possible, and helping the exporters by providing MDA as at present the assistance provided is not sufficient in view of the heavy rentals and travelling expenses.

Q. What is your relationship with various Publishing and Booksellers Associations?

Ans. I have always been active in almost all the federations and associations associated with the publishing industry which include Federation of Indian Publishers, Federation of Publishers and Booksellers Association of India, Delhi State Booksellers and Publishers Association, and Federation of Educational Publishers and have great respect for all the associations and would always be glad to do every possible thing for publishing and export.

Q. You have been the Election Officer of FPBA a number of times. Why do they always select you and do you enjoy working for it?

Ans. Till today I have been Election Officer for 14 times in DSBPA, FPBAI and Federation of Educational Publishers, and I am proud to say that on a couple of occasions I was able to persuade the other candidates to withdraw where there was neck to neck competition and all the 14 elections resulted into unanimous decisions.

Q. You have been honoured by various publishing bodies. What all awards have been conferred to you? Which one is the most dear to you?

Ans. I have been honoured with the following awards:
1. Outstanding Contribution to Book Industry from DSBPA 1998
2. Distinguished services from FEPI 1999
3. Jampur Ratan from Jampur Welfare Association 2000
4. Export Promotion Award from FEPI 2000
5. Best Exporter of the Year from DSBPA 2001
6. Certificate of Merit from Capexil 2001-2002
7. Best Exporter Award from FPBAI 2002-2003
8. Certificate of Merit from Capexil 2003-2004
9. Lifetime Achievement Award from FPBAI 2009
10. 50 years in Book Industry Award FPBAI 2010
In addition, I have received several awards from charitable associations and the most cherished award is the lifetime achievement award from FPBAI and Jampur Ratan from Jampur Welfare Association.

Q. How have you divided the work between your sons and yourself?

Ans. My younger son, Mr. Rajneesh Chowdhury, runs two publishing houses, namely Goodwill Publishing House and Young Learner Publications, and is also a partner with me in Chowdhury Export House and Goodwill Books International. On the other hand, my elder son, Mr.Amber Raj Chowdhury, runs two publishing houses – Academic India Publishers and Angel Publishing House – and is involved in the exports as well.

Q. Do you love travelling?

Ans. Even now I have to travel for about a week or 10 days in a month. Although these are all business trips, I enjoy every visit irrespective of the fact whether I get business or not since they keep me fit and disciplined.

Q. What do you like to read?

Ans. I do not get much time but I read newspapers and magazines.

Q. What do you think defines a good book?

Ans. Every book is a good book just like any film is a good film as long as it gives you something or the other to learn and enjoy and it all depends on the individual how he or she takes it.

Q. What is your message to the young publishing professionals?

Ans. They need to work hard and be patient as there are plenty of opportunities in the industry which are not being fully availed by the trade.

Q. What is your message for a happy and healthy life?

Ans. In this modern, fast-moving world we all are living under great stress – stress related to business, family, health and so on.
It is impossible to avoid stress completely but we certainly can lessen it to a great extent by observing the following principles:
1. Peace at any price is cheap. Any sacrifice made for it is worth it and one should not feel any humiliation in anyway.
2. Ego and anger are very dangerous for man; they destroy families, they destroy businesses, in fact they destroy everything and result into nothing except tension, pressure and ill-health.
3. Always avoid expectations, particularly, from your own family members – son, daughter, grandchildren or even your husband or wife – because expectations, when not fulfilled, create havoc on your brain leading to hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes and even heart attack.
4. Try to put your best foot forward in business, family or whatever you do and even if the results are not very positive, you will still be happy because you have done your best.
5. Try to make others happy as much as you can. Your happiness will come automatically because the blessings of those people will be so strong and powerful that the Almighty will be forced to give you all the happiness.
6. Try to donate as much as possible and remember that this is the only credit you will carry with you after you leave this world.
7. Clear all your debts, whether personal or professional, well in time before it is too late in life.
8. Try to help others as much as you can, particularly your maids, servants and drivers, who serve you day and night and are rather closer to you than your own relatives.
9. Always try to be independent, doing as much as you can on your own – this will make things simpler and easier for you.
10. Do not consider yourself too intelligent. Always listen to others patiently before coming to any conclusion.
11. Always remember that man moves towards death the day he is born. This will help you to follow the righteous path.


S K GHAI in Conversation with NJP

Amazon setting up office in India is setting up its first fulfillment centre in India as the world’s largest internet retailer tries to break into the world’s second most populous country. The fulfillment centre will be based in Mumbai. Amazon already has fulfillment centres in China, Germany, Japan, USA and UK. Last year they launched a country specific site in Spain as well.

Two Indian publishers win $5.9 million Ethopian contracts

Two Indian publishers – Repro Printers (estd. 1984), Mumbai, and Pitambra Books (estd. 2001), Jhansi – were among 19 international printing companies that responded to an Ethopian Education Ministry tender to print textbooks in six disciplines: mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, civics and ethics. All bidders passed the technical evaluation stage, which included assessing the capacity of the printers and their ability to supply the books with the specified cover page and weight of the paper. Eventually, only the two Indian companies were selected for the order for 5 million textbooks. The textbooks are expected to arrive in June, 2012. The two companies will be delivering the books to 31 locations across Ethopia.
(IANS, Jan 5, 2012)

Stay in touch with news and latest developments to assure a long life

If you want to live long and healthy, make sure that you read a newspaper everyday, watch the TV bulletin or stay in touch with the latest developments with the industry that you are in. A new study by Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome has found that people who keep themselves abreast of current affairs are more health-conscious, and as a result they tend to live longer. However, past researches have often suggested that media can have a negative impact on health.
(PTI, Jan 22, 2012)


I have often expressed my view that David Davidar knows more about book publishing than anyone else in the world. I know this from personal experience when he was appointed by Penguin-Viking International to open the branch in Delhi. Aveek Sarkar, who had bought 42 % of the shares, appointed me as his nominee. For many months I met David every morning and discussed the merits of the manuscripts sent to us. If there was anything objectionable, David made it a point to discuss it with the author and suggest changes. He did this with my Delhi: A Novel. I accepted his advice and added an introductory chapter. It made it to the top of the India’s bestsellers list for a few weeks. He spent more time with Vikram Seth in his A Suitable Boy. It made it to the top of the world’s bestseller lists. David’s merit was recognised and he was elevated to the top post. He and his wife Rachna moved to Toronto and set up their home. They had no intention of returning to India. But after a couple of years, David fell victim to envy and racial prejudice. Both man and wife returned to Delhi and have made their home in Gurgaon. He has set up his own publishing house Aleph. It is different from his earlier ventures. He has to find talent and nurture it to creativity. I asked him what progress he had made in locating talent, he replied: “I have already got over 30 would-be writers on my list. Undoubtedly, more would be coming.” Though not sanguine, I wish him good luck.
Khuswant Singh, Hindustan Times, Jan 22, 2012



It is important that book-reading is nurtured in every family. Books are no less than ancestral property.
APJ Abdul Kalam, Former President of India, Jan 9, 2012

Self-publishing is exactly what it sounds like. It is what happens when a writer leaves the literary agent and the publisher out of the picture and sells his writing directly to his readers.
R Rishi Raote, Business Standard, New Delhi, Jan 7, 2012

Publishing work is not an easy task. Whenever one faced a serious problem, reading a book would help in providing solutions.
Nalli Kuppusami Chetti, Industrialist, The Hindu, Chennai, Jan 6, 2012

Publishers must cut back on publishing PhD thesis despite the temptation of a fast buck. Let scholars work out their fortunes in the lecture halls.
Ravi Vyas, The Telegraph, Kolkata, Dec 23, 2011

Print runs are still increasing even as interest is growing in digital publishing. The simultaneity of the non-simultaneous is nowhere more evident than here in India – and this is true of both the current state of publishing and looking forward.
Juergen Boos, President of the Frankfurt Book Fair, The Econonic Times, New Delhi, Dec 13, 2011

Comic books have reached mobile devices and connected cellphone games have as many as 2.5 million downloads in two years. Comics have been made into movies and are now being made into graphic novels.
Sayoni Basu, Publisher, ACK Media, The Economic Times, New Delhi, Dec 13, 2011


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