Sterling Publishers
Vol. 3 No. 2 January 2009

ONE TO ONE - “I start my day with prayer and end it with prayer,” says Geeta Dharmarajan, founder and executive director of KATHA, in conversation with S. K. Ghai.

A ‘Celebration’ of books by children
Macmillan and Edurite tie up for education drive
HarperCollins eyes India’s growth potential
Pustak to be India’s prime online bookstore
Bahrisons start a bookstore in West Delhi
DC Books goes to UAE
Now a ‘Same-Sex’ section in bookshops
Indian Publishers help you make a date with 2009

Karachi Book Fair 2008
Intensive Course on Editing
Readers’ Write

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Dear Publishing Professionals,

The date 26/11 will go down in history as the day when India was held hostage by a group of fanatics whose sole aim was to spread fear and bloodshed in the country. The target was not malls or marketplaces; it was the elite and exclusive of the financial capital of the country — Mumbai. Foreign tourists and the affluent were handpicked in an attempt to make a worldwide impact. The massacre became India’s 9/11, maybe worse, as people kept vigil for over 60 hours and valiant men of the security forces battled to save innocent lives.

Innocent people were randomly attacked and left bewildered and bloodied on streets, at a railway station and in hotels. Politicians made speeches, offered compensations and resignations alike, ministries changed hands — a new law to deal with terrorism was introduced in a bid to pacify the public — but ground realities remain unchanged.

Candles and posters thronged the streets as the rage of a people spilled out blurring all boundaries of region and religion. Enough is enough was the message. The common man has been left under a constant shadow of terror where neither the India Gate nor the Gateway of India is secure anymore.

This has shaken the country’s economy and this effect is sure to be felt in the months to come. The publishing industry has also felt the repercussion. But it is time to move on, as Ratan Tata said, “We may have been knocked down, but will never be knocked out.”

Let us hope 2009 brings peace and better times for our country and the world.

“I start my day with prayer and end it with prayer,” says Geeta Dharmarajan, founder and executive director of KATHA, in conversation with S. K. Ghai.

Q. Share with us your journey from how you got involved in NGO work to becoming a successful publisher.
I belong to a middle class family and we are three sisters and a brother and lots of aunts and uncles and temples and riverine villages filled with stories apocryphal and immediate, imagined and real. When I was about 8 years old, my father took me to Higginbotham’s, Madras to reward me for a painful tooth extraction. He gave me ten rupees to buy any book I wished for. Ten whole rupees! I remember buying King Arthur’s Legends, my first book in English, and enjoying it immensely. Story and storytelling have always been important in my life for as long as I can remember. I remember going to the temple and listening to stories, practically every night. In 1970 I got married to Raju [K.Dharmarajan]. In 1977, he was posted in the Nilgiris. Being the wife of a District Collector, I was elected Director of Women’s Voluntary Services. Giving back to society was something I had learnt from my father and this just somehow seemed the right thing for me to do, too. Then, stints in publishing — with the India Today Group, with the Target magazine and Rosalind Wilson and at the University of Pennsylvania [USA] – brought me into publishing and design. After my return to Chennai in 1985, I was invited to be director, education for the Indian National Trust for Art, Culture and Heritage (INTACH) till 1987. One more transfer for Raju saw me back in Delhi and Katha began in our garage in 1988. I started with Tamasha! — a children’s story magazine. And soon I was running a library from our garage for children studying in the local government school. Katha was registered as a charitable society in 1989, serendipitously on September 8, World Literacy Day — thus giving the tone and culture to the organization and reiterating the mission goal: to enhance the joys of reading.

Q. You have three passions in life: being wife and mother, helping children gain an education, and publishing. How do you pursue them all with enthusiasm?
Anything that is interesting and fun to do becomes easy to do, right?

Q. Can you explain how all your activities revolve around STORY telling?
When story is everywhere around us — in the media, TV ticker tapes, gossip at the bus stand — it is not difficult to remember that most ancient civilizations spread their ideas and philosophy, what they lived by and for, through story. In India, I learnt everything worth remembering through story. And as a grownup, I cannot think of anything better than story to enhance the joys of reading! We are moving with great speed from an oral to a written tradition, but the means remain the same: story! In Katha, the story research and resource centre informs our publishing and education activities. In fact if we have 8000 children in the Katha Schools today and 9000 women associated in our activities, and if we have a very low single-digit dropout rate [compared to about 75% elsewhere], I would say, it is owing to the strength of story. And our pedagogy: story pedagogy®.

Q. When Katha was born you published a book a year. How many books are you doing now?
We started with the annual volume of Katha Prize Stories with translations from amongst 21 Indian languages. Our yearly output at the moment is 5 to 6 books for adults and 20 to 25 books for children, in English and in Hindi.

Q. You publish books in series. How many series do you have and how do you develop them?
Our series start with the Katha Prize Stories and include graded readers for children and young adults. We have an academic series — the studies in culture and translation series — Translating Partition/Caste/Desire/Power etc. We have a series of biographies including the Life and Times of Ismat Chughtai. We work with stories for children and adults.

Q. Most of the books you publish are compiled by unknown authors. How do you market these books?
Our authors are well known in the Indian languages and by publishing them in English, Katha has tried to give them and their stories the visibility they deserve and bring translations on par with Indian writing in English. Our annual anthology, containing prize winning stories from different Indian languages, is eagerly awaited by connoisseurs of literature.

Q. You give special attention to your covers and get them designed from well-known artists. How do you afford them?
Yes, our covers feature some of India’s best loved painters, including some of our most admired friends like Tyeb Mehta, Anjolie Ela Menon, Jatin Das. Most of the covers are designed by me, and since I’ve developed good relations with most of our best artists, they have become a part of the Katha family, and so the question of money does not arise; however, Katha does give love and respect — and a small honorarium.

Q. Katha being a successful NGO what do you think is the one factor which has contributed to your success?
Children, children and children! We provide our children with a joyful learning environment to grow and learn. Our alumni are now earning up to Rs. 200,000 per year! Last year they brought in 45 million rupees for their families. And our women earn about 4,000,000 per month. We have believed that when women earn, children get an opportunity to learn; and this has been the organization’s strength. We have driven our work on a single powerful idea, that children can help their communities get out of poverty through education. At the moment we have 8000 of our own children in Katha’s quality schools in Delhi and Arunachal Pradesh, besides the 70,000 children who are part of the Katha Reading Campaign. The Delhi Government invited Katha to help their 2.4 million children mission in 3000 schools by 2012 and bring greater reading skills to them and their 60,000 teachers.

Q. Are the books developed by KATHA used only by your schools or do others use them as well?
Katha Schools do not have textbooks. The children have storybooks that bolster their reading habits; and teachers create their own teaching/learning materials in maths, science and other traditional and nontraditional subjects. Normally, the Katha Schools use Katha’s storybooks. Katha’s books are also regularly used in a large number of other schools – government, non-profit and private schools.

Q. How was Katha successful in weaning away children from child labour and getting them enrolled into schools? Did you face any impediments?
I started a school in a large slum cluster in 1990. Today we have weaned more than 50,000 children away from labour. And more than 41,000 children since 2001 have earned computer certification from Katha InfoTech and eCom School. Over the last few years, our students have gone to college and are working in various places including IBM, Citibank, Delhi Government, Government of India etc., and supporting their families in sustainable ways! I have always believed that children stay with something that interests and feeds their natural sense of curiosity and desire to know their world. And this “inducement” is what has brought all our children into school and kept them with us so they pass the formal school leaving certificate exams. We believe in creating global citizens who can be at par with the world, not just adults struggling at the edge of poverty like their parents. And for this, quality is important. There were many difficulties, but none so special that they stopped me from doing what I knew I had to. And we had passionate, driven teachers — women from the communities we work in — and parents and elders who have helped make the journey pleasant and possible!

Q. You have done commendable work helping children and communities get out of poverty. How did this idea come to you and what was the driving force behind it?
If parents are living in poverty they will not send their children to schools. To enable the children to come to us, we work with the mothers and help them to earn a living. When mothers earn, children learn. The Katha staff and students took a pledge in 2000: No child in Katha will live in poverty. And believe it or not, collective action has led to mass collaborations and innovative, creative ways in which our families can live with dignity and decency.

Q. How and at what level are you working with the Government of Delhi?
After witnessing our track record, the Government of Delhi invited us to work in their 3000 schools. Initially, we have started work in 200 schools, plus 100 municipal corporation [MCD] schools. Our 500 - odd volunteers this year have been constantly working with students in these schools. In accordance with our agreement, we begin working with the children at the class three level and help build their vocabulary to 600 words — a Grade 3 reading level. I believe with this minimal skill, students should be able to scale to the next level with Katha. It has taken a lot of time to get things moving, but we got extremely good support from the CM of Delhi as well as from the Education Department people at various levels.

Q. What do you think will be the impact of globalization on the Indian publishing industry?
I feel that it will create a better distribution system for the industry and help it achieve better and higher standards. This will strengthen and consolidate the industry as a whole and having gained this collective strength, the Indian publishing industry will be unbeatable. Publishing is a creative field and will benefit from the borderless world created by globalization.

Q. Where would you like to see KATHA after 5 years?
We would like to touch 80 percent of children living in urban poverty in India; create books for them and help make a difference in their lives.

Q. Do you get time to read?
I love reading and do a lot of it — though not as much as I would like! — fiction, non-fiction and translations.

Q. How would you describe a good book?
It should keep me turning the pages, tell me a good story and have style. The Wah! feeling in a reader is important — for all stories worth the telling, I am told, were told in the Mahabharata! It should also be well designed so as to entice me to pick it up.

Q. What comprises your typical working day?
I start my day with prayer and end it with prayer. During the day I am a volunteer for Katha, doing as well as I can whatever is expected of me.

A ‘Celebration’ of books by children
November 2008 saw the coming together of children in Bookaroo — the country’s first ever literary fest for children. The fest received support from Britannia, DK Books, the British Council, the Sir Ratan Tata Trust, Hachette, the German Book Office and SpiceJet. It was also the joint effort of the founders and publishers who collected some seed money along with some personal contributions from well-wishers. The festival was spread over 4 days with two days at Sanskriti Anandgram and two days of Bookaroo in the City which took writers and illustrators of children’s books to municipal schools across the city. The festival received a great response both from kids as well as their families. Two days at Sanskriti Anandgram saw about 3000 kids (and parents) participating and Bookaroo in the City had eight special events in various schools. Some workshops like Picturoo — a display of works by known and emerging children’s books illustrators and Mathematwist were a great hit with the children. Children and teachers from a school in Sikkim were so delighted with the books by the authors and publishers represented at Bookaroo that they decided to send a delegation to the fest at their own cost! Let us hope that more such festivals become a part of our children’s lives.

Macmillan and Edurite tie up for education drive
In an attempt to make learning in the classroom interesting and interactive, Macmillan and Edurite have come together to offer high quality visual learning aids for schools in India.

Edurite Technologies, the Indian arm of TutorVista, will use its patented DigitALLy, while Macmillan Publishers India with its 116 years heritage of providing high quality educational materials in India, will be reaching DigitALLy to thousands of schools under its Macmillan School Support program.

Through this program teachers can impart education in the classroom using a combination of text, animations, videos and images projected on the screen.

HarperCollins eyes India’s growth potential
One of the world’s largest publishers HarperCollins sees India as the growth center for their publishing business. Victoria Bansley, the company’s global CEO said, “Business in India is growing at around 30 per cent per annum over the past three years.” The financial slowdown has not affected the growth of the company’s business largely because of India’s large young population. “Publishing would continue to grow in the country for times to come; but, for this the company is working to make books easily available at low prices,” Bansley said. She added that the company was interested in increasing its outlets to broaden its base to tap new readers. With the increase in the number of Indian authors in English and also the kind of achievements and recognition that they are enjoying presently, the impact of English readership has increased over the years thereby increasing the demand for books.

Pustak to be India’s prime online bookstore

Pustak plans to become the ‘Amazon for Indians’ to fill the void left by the online bookstore, Amazon.

Amazon currently dominates the online books business in the U.S. and Europe but does not look much interested in the Indian market. This has created a space for a startup and Pustak has stepped in to fill this vacuum. What makes Pustak stand out is the huge scope of finding books within their catalogue (over 12 million) and also their much boasted ‘free international shipping.’ The book prices too are competitive and can be preferred over other options available for Indians.

The business logic seems fairly simple. Taking inspiration from Amazon, Pustak has managed to create a huge database and whatever orders they receive, they use an established online bookstore (Amazon) to further place the order. After receiving the books at their end, they forward it to the actual customers.

Bahrisons start a bookstore in West Delhi
Mr Anuj Bahri the son of the founder, Balraj Bahri Malhotra is all set to open a branch of his legendary bookstore — Bahrisons — in Rajouri Garden, West Delhi. Though he considers this a big risk he adds, “Forty percent of this city’s population resides in the west and at least 50 percent of them are affluent and move in the Capital’s known social circles.” An internal survey conducted by the bookshop revealed that many visitors to the bookshop were from the west. “The Rajouri Garden store is a part of the first phase of Bahrisons expansion plan,” said Anuj.

DC Books goes to UAE
Source: The Hindu

DC Books, a leading publishing house from Kerala, has branched out to the Gulf by opening a showroom at Karama, Dubai. The showroom was inaugurated by renowned writer and President, Kerala Sahitya Academy, M. Mukundan.
“This is an initial step to reach out to the international community through retail operations, right division and co-publishing ventures,” a DC Books spokesperson said. The UAE business would focus on academic sales, corporate sales and FMCG outlets. The company also plans to buy and sell international rights to produce more books in Malayalam as well as Malayalam books in other world languages. Mango Books, DC’s own publication wing, has plans to publish international standard children’s books.

Now a ‘Same-Sex’ section in bookshops
Oxford Bookstore has decided to start a new Same-Sex section at their store. “Everyone wants a gay/lesbian book; they’re even bending standards in publishing,” said historian Saleem Kidwai during a discussion on queer publishing, suggesting that there was “tremendous scope” for queer publishing. Independent bookshops all over India have had a sexuality section, but the need for a same-sex section is being felt now to keep up with the increasing demand for such books. A separate section hopes to provide writers the assurance that a readership exists for queer books and also gives publishers an impetus to actually publish them.

Indian Publishers help you make a date with 2009
Some Indian publishers have decided to bring out their own annual diary planners this year. Penguin India’s Desk Companion features cartoons of R. K. Laxman while Divya Thakur’s range of Parrot diaries comes in three versions — Resourceful, Multi-tasker, and Doodler. Zubaan, an imprint of the NGO Kali for Women, like each year has followed its feminist theme and has brought out a diary featuring images of amateur women boxers by photojournalist Uzma Mohsin, including write-ups about them. The Management Planner 2009 of Hind Pocket Books contains stories of successful Indian entrepreneurs — small, medium, and a few big ones.

Karachi Book Fair 2008

The Karachi Book Fair held in December 2008 saw only three Indian publishers participate instead of the 28 who had registered. The three participants included Kashmir University (publication department), New Central Book Agency (Export division), and UBS.
This was the first time that Kashmir University was participating in any international book fair. The publications it displayed included books, journals and other research articles.

Intensive Course on Editing

The Institute of Book Publishing is organizing a 6-day Intensive Course on Editing from 3-10 June 2009 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, professionals and directors of major publishing houses. It aims at widening the understanding and knowledge about the publishing industry and is designed to update knowledge about the various aspects of editing. For further details visit:

Gaurav Shrinagesh
has been appointed as Managing Director of Random House India, after having held a number of senior positions in Bertelsmann AG — parent company to Random House Group. He will be responsible for the strategic development of the business and will lead all publishing, operational, sales and marketing functions. Gaurav will report to Brian Davies, Managing Director, Overseas Companies, the Random House Group UK and replaces Michael Moynahan who will be taking a new role at HarperCollins ANZ.

Dr Manish Arora has been chosen as the President of The Harvard Club of India. An advocate by profession and an internationally noted law book Publisher, Dr Arora has been elected as the President for a term of 2 years.

Renuka Chatterjee Senior VP, Osian Literary Agency is discontinuing with them and has joined Westland as an Editor.

Amrita Kumar, Editor at the Osian Literary Agency has been promoted to the post of Senior VP at the organisation.

Very informative and interesting for a new publisher like myself; by the way, where can I find the book Book Publishing: Principles & Practices by Dina N. Malhotra.
Tenzin Wangdi
Bhutan Observer Publisher
I am glad a journal of this stature exists and is published in India. It is refreshing and brings out the latest in the publishing industry.
Rajneesh Roy
Wolters Kluwer
I enjoy reading about the progress of publishing in India and about the innovations and developments in this field. Thank you for the newsletter.
Batul Ali
OUP, Pakistan
I really like the contents and look forward to receive it on a regular basis and I think every publisher should read it to update himself. Keep it up.
Manish Jain
BPB Publications
Is this newsletter only for publishers and book distributors of the metro towns? Why not publish news about publishers and suppliers of books from state capitals and other towns who are doing a fine job in contributing to the success of the book industry. It is a matter of regret if news articles from such suppliers and distributors are not published.
Deepak Ahuja
M/S. Books & Periodicals
Ed: We do not mind including such news but we do not receive any news from these places. We shall be glad to include news items sent by publishers and suppliers of state capitals and small towns provided they are relevant to our newsletter. We do not include news about book releases and book fairs held locally. If you have any news to share about the opening of a new bookshop or a new publishing house or are interested in giving news about publishing professionals you are most welcome to do so.

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