Anand Limaye, owner of IPW felt it was important that the sale of Marathi books compete with that of other regional languages. “There is a need to find new avenues while dealing with the issues that Marathi publishers face today. IPW in its 80 years of being would like to propose an initiative which will probably get developed into a white paper for the Marathi book publishing in India.”
Ramdas Bhatkal of Popular Prakashan chaired the discussion which identified fragmentation as one of the major concerns in publishing of books in Marathi language. “A major concern for Marathi publishers today is the distribution and reach of Marathi books to villages and mofussil towns. This can only be solved through by putting up a united front. There has to be a co-operative movement for books in Maharashtra and it’s about time we put a united front to deal with the various issues affecting us.”
1200 Marathi titles in a year
The discussion was attended by representatives of publishing houses in Marathi like: Ramdas Bhatkal of Popular Prakashan, Mouj Prakashan Gruh’s Sanjay Bhagwat, Granthali Prakashan’s Sudesh Hinglaspurkar, Navataa Book World’s Kirtikumar Shinde, Majesty Publishing House’s Ashok Kothavale, Samkalin Prakashak’s Anand Avdhani, Rohan Prakashan’s Pradeep Champanerkar, Manovikas Prakashan’s Arvind Patkar, Prakashan Vishwa’s Mohan Vaidya, Pooja Soft’s Madhav Shirvalkar, Book Ganga’s Sanjay Pethe and Gajanan Sabnis.
While sales of kadambaris (novels) and katha sangrahas (short-story collections) have declined significantly, Marathi experienced a boom in 1994-95 going from 800 titles per year to about 1,900 titles per year, but plateaued to 1,200 titles per year after that.
Bhatkal felt that the professional approach which asserted itself in Marathi publishing in the 1990s has become stagnant and it is one of the reasons why “we are where we stand today. For a business formerly conducted on faith, with interpersonal relations being more important, concepts like contract, royalty and payments came in much later,” said Bhatkal. “But the lack of monitoring and promoting Marathi literature has led to a stagnancy which needs to be handled.”
Outreach for Marathi books
Marathi publishers like Granthali, Mouj, Majesty raised concerns over the depleted sales of Marathi books all over Maharashtra. “The main challenge is reaching those living in the state’s interiors. In a Marathi populated city like Vidharbha, we have only two to three bookstores distributing Marathi literature. Even in a city like Mumbai we have only nine bookstores selling Marathi books. Reaching out to readers has become a challenge. Most people don’t even know the reputed authors who are writing in Marathi.”
At this point, Bhatkal exemplified Popular’s move of an alliance to set up Majestic Book Depot which became the largest selling joint for books published by Popular Prakashan. “Marathi publishing will have to play to its strengths. We will have to co-operate, be it supporting the publisher whose expertise lies in setting up a bookstore or the publisher who is skilled at representing Marathi literature at various book fairs, exhibitions and literary events.”
Pricing was another factor that was discussed at length as most readers of Marathi literature cannot afford expensive books. “Honestly speaking, cost-wise, Marathi books still cannot reach the bottom-end of the pyramid. Maybe a solution like collective paper purchase by all Marathi publishers, since paper incurs the single largest cost in production, can be looked at to reduce the pricing structure.”
Marathi book distributors and pricing
With changing habits of readers and a preference towards English language, some publishing houses have moved on to printing English books.
Ramu Ramanathan, group editor of Haymarket Media felt that this can be countered by making available English literature in Marathi. “There is a dearth of Marathi translations of major international works. Also, works of Jnanpith award winners in Marathi like Vishnu Khandekar, Kusumagraj and Vinda Karandikar are rarely available in other regional languages or English. These could be explored as new avenues while reaching out to an Indian and international reading audience with quality literary content.”
The role of government and the various associations like Federation of Indian Publishers, National Book Trust and Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Prakashak Sangh was criticised for impeding the growth of Marathi books.
Questions were also raised on the financial assistance required for the distribution and marketing of Marathi books. The solution that was put forward by Bhatkal consisted of each Marathi publishing house raising a corpus fund that could support common initiatives.
The concept of utilising Marathi e-books as one way to create wider reach was discussed with a focus on the complexities involved for the Marathi publisher to shift to this format.
A common theme that echoed at the end of the discussion was to persist with such an initiative on a regular basis.
80 years of India Printing Works
In 1928, two men working in the reputed press of Madam Maniben Cara at Babulnath revolted against the British government policy of deducting ten per cent from every employee’s salary and paying it to the government.
On March 1 1932, they founded India Printing Works. The two partners, the late Vishwanath Damodar alias Dadasaheb Limaye and Wamanrao alias Appasaheb Bambardekar, started the press with a meagre capital.
Senior Limaye, being a perfectionist, looked after the production, while Bambardekar, being business-minded, looked after sales and HR. A combination of meticulous acumen through hard work played wonders and the press (Once visited by Lord Macmillan) became one of the leading printing houses in India in a short span of time.
India Printing Works established the name for perfection, accuracy and punctuality with being a pioneer to invest in new technologies. The press started on a small scale in a 500 sq/ft unit, and gradually acquired half the portion of the ground floor of the same building measuring over 5,000 sq/ft where it is ably run under the leadership of Junior Limaye, Anand.
Today, India Printing Works is a name to reckon with for printing of books in Marathi language. Recently, it invested in digital printing to continue the company’s motto of providing all possible solutions even if it means providing 100 to 200 copies of the book in a single day.
The Panvel training institute
Anand Limaye is one of the visionaries in the Indian print industry who created an initiative for print education to generate trained manpower that can improve efficiency and the quality of print. This vision led to the foundation of a 52,000 sq/ft institute building at Panvel in Navi Mumbai for which Anand Limaye is the chairman.
The Rs 12-crore project taken up in two phases will be completed in the next four years. The institute offers three courses – MSBTE approved three year diploma in printing technology; Vocational Board approved one year certificate course; and a two year’ autonomous course for the employees of the printing industry. Once the first phase of the project is complete, the institute will initiate fresh courses. In the next ten years there will be 960 students who shall be trained.
Maharasthra Mudran Parishad (MMP) is creating a corpus fund with the support of its members and print industry. MMP is simultaneously approaching financial institutions for loan.
Limaye believes that though bank loans are available, “there are other ways to finance a cause such as this. I want to make an appeal for donating a small share of your income, say Rs 1,000 per year to the association for this noble cause of print education. We have received support from the BMPA in terms of funding the laboratory equipment.”
A one of its kind in India, the institute will be complete with shop floor, a hostel with gymnasium, a medical attendance section, basement parking, a museum, and with equipments that will be needed for the courses. There will be four labs for pre-press, press, post-press as well as digital for hands-on training.
Limaye whose heroes are Neil Armstrong and Yuri Gagarin, both cosmonauts whom he has had the good fortune to meet says, "It may be a small step for publishing but a huge step for printing and publishing in Maharashtra."