SKG You are retiring in April 2014 after 40 years in publishing how you feel about it?
MS I feel I have done enough, on the other side I feel I am not ready for retirement and can do many more things. I have a small Finance Company, where we advise the small investors where to park / invest their money at a nominal fee of Rs 1000. Now from April 2014, I plan to take full time interest in increasing this business.
SKG When & how you joined CUP and before that you worked in OUP, Springer & British Council your memories you would like to share?
MS I joined M.Com in Gauhati University in 1972. There our professor during vacations said can you promote his books in schools of North East, I said why not, I worked very hard went to as many schools as possible and showed good results. The books were of OUP. They were impressed and called me to Delhi for training in the end of January 1973. Those were the student agitation days in Assam, they wanted me to join politics but one day I ran and came to Delhi for training. Had I not come to Delhi I would have joined Politics. OUP appointed me a Editorial representative for North East but sent me to Utter Pradesh for Hard Core Sales promotion. I went to schools for the prescription of the books in as many schools as possible. I remember once I went to Mizoram, Aizawl for the promotion and stayed in a hotel having no bathroom. It continued and we also got a project from Punjab government to produce Atlas in Gurmukhi.
In 1981 Mr N. K. Mehra started Springer - STM and wanted sales people and my friend Vinod Vasisht was there so I also applied and got a good offer from him and joined. I was there for 18 months.
British Council for the first time advertised a post for Books Officer from the trade, I applied and was selected. I gave them a moral commitment for minimum three years. At the World Book Fair 1984 a delegation of British publishers came and I took them to various distributors and publishers. Many asked for sales representatives and I referred my friends from the trade. On the last day CUP publisher said I need you, I told him that I can’t leave BC as I have a moral commitment for minimum three years, I thought that they will say ok but he said he was ready to wait, so after the completion in September 1985 I joined CUP as commission agent.
SKG Share with us your journey at CUP.
MS I knew the product and an experienced hand at marketing, the sales started picking up and so my commission.
In 1991 books imports was stopped by government of India. It was allowed only against fixed deposits, so that is reason we started Foundation Books with myself and my friend Vinod. In 1997 they took me full time employee of CUP. In 2002 Foundation Books became exclusive distributor. In 2006 CUP increased their stakes by acquiring 51% shares of Foundation Books and it became Cambridge University Press India (P) Ltd and appointed me as the Managing Director. Then they acquired 24% more and finally the balance 25% in 2013. In CUP India we used to publish around 60 new titles every year, 30 to be sold through the international branches of CUP and the balance for the Indian market. We grew from one mile stone to an other with the passage of time.
SKG You are the first Indian to be awarded Master of Arts from Wolfson College, CU and made its life long member. What it means, what are the privileges you enjoy apart from that it is a great honour?
MS This have been awarded in 2009 for rendering services to Cambridge University. There are not any privileges as such but it is really an honour.
SKG Can you explain Daisy and MAD (making a difference) programme which CUP India has signed ?
MS Daisy is an organisation for the visually impaired persons with H. O. in St. Xaviers, Mumbai. We give them free rights to reproduce books for the visually disadvantaged. MAD is an NGO in Cochin. We help them and are not a part of them. We provide the best books for English language learning and teaching at cost of free. Now they have started in Mumbai as well.
SKG You were the President of Association of Publishers in India (API) in 2003-2005. What is the work you did, which gives you satisfaction?
MS There were lot of problems and no body was ready to listen to us, in other associations, ministries. Under that circumstances to create an association of giants in the international publishing was a unique task in itself.
We formed the association and elected Mr Manzar Khan of OUP as its President in 2001 and I was elected the secretary. In 2003 I was elected as President. We had court cases to fight with FIP on IRRO issues. Thank God now everything is settled and we are the part of IRRO.
SKG You were the Chairman of publishing wing of CII, what you did under this?
MS CII were not serious so it folded.
SKG How piracy can be stopped in India & your case with DU?
MS Protect your intellectual property otherwise you are finished. We came to know that under the guidance of the University, the professors selected chapters from various books, grouped together and told students that they can get from a source. It was a clear case of piracy. When we came to know about it we contacted the professors they said who is going to buy your books when we can provide in just a few hundred rupees. We told them to sign an agreement with IRRO but they refused. We had no alternative except to file the case against Delhi. Now the matter is in court, the law will take its own course.
SKG On relationship with authors?
MS We have very cordial relations with our authors. I remember that we paid a royalty cheque of Rs 12,00000.00. The author came back to us saying by oversight your accountant has made a mistake while issuing the cheque by adding one extra zero. We said no sir it is all yours as royalty.
SKG What are your views on ebooks and royalty on ebooks?
MS Till now print books are still selling more. Sale of ebooks are very small part of the business. I hope you know that 300,000 ebooks were self published in US last year. Only 10-12 titles made their mark and authors were picked up by regular publishers. We spend extra time and money in creating ebooks. We pay the same royalty as in print books.
SKG What are your views on Digital v/s print books?
MS Digital books are coming. I feel till 2070 there is no threat to print books or may be more. Publishers should try to learn and adapt.
SKG What are your hobbies?
MS No hobbies. Work, work and work. I read a lot, except what we publish. I read lot of Newspapers which keeps me well informed.
SKG What you consider a Good Book?
MS Any book which sells is a good book. If it doesn’t sells it is not a good book.
SKG What are your views on Future of publishing ?
MS There is always a scope in content development. So go ahead and develop the authenticated content and protect it as well.
SKG What is your message to young publishing professionals?
MS Go digital to survive. One should function in both print and Digital.