Publicon 2018 highlights the rise of language publishing in India

After shedding lights on children’s writing on two previous editions, Publicon 2018, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (Ficci), held on 6 December 2018 in New Delhi focused on ‘publishing in Indian languages. The event saw the leaders of language publishing in India come together to discuss on diverse topics, such as publishing in Indian languages and translations; publishing in Indian languages; translating for children in Indian languages; artificial intelligence for translation of Indian languages; Hindi language publishing and impact of Bhasha on writing, among others.

12 Dec 2018 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

The event saw the leaders of language publishing in India come together to discuss diverse topics

During the welcome address, Sandip Somany, president-elect, Ficci and vice-chairman & managing director of HSIL, said that with the literacy rate at 74%, India has more than 900 million readers permeating the whole gamut of languages and regions with disparate reading needs and aspirations. This has opened up a wide opportunity for the publishing industry in India for content creation and dissemination. The print and digital publishing will both have to complement one another to meet the objectives of books and reading materials for all, he added.

He said the indulgence in localisation and language computing makes business sense for technology companies, platform makers, OEMs and online publishers. Quoting a Google and KPMG India report of April 2017, Somany said there were 234 million Indian language internet users in 2016 and only 175 million English users and the gap between the two groups is expected to grow. Nine out of 10 new internet users between 2016 and 2021 will use local languages, he added.

Talking about publishing in local languages, Somany said Hindi controls about 35% of the market, Malayalam 8%, Bengali 6%, Marathi 4%, and others 47%. “Thus, there is a huge opportunity for publishers to venture into publishing in these languages,” he added.

In his special address, Dr Kumar Vishwas, poet, author, performer and motivational speaker, advised publishers to confine themselves to the management of the book publishing business instead of regulating what needs to be read. He was speaking in the context of the several good authors facing rejection as their work did not appeal to a few who stood in judgement.

Dr Vishwas said that the readers were the link between publishers and writers and the onus of what is to be read should be left to the judgement of the readers. He said it is the responsibility of publishers to seek out creative writers who deal with contemporary issues.

Dr Vishwas said books and their authors bring about a semblance of balance in a society which is being deluged with news and interpretation that swings from creating hope to despair in the social order. Reading, he said, is not fading. In fact, it is only through books that the imagination of the reader gets free play and therefore the onus of creating ‘Kalpanasheelta' rests on independent publishers.

Ratnesh Jha, chair, Ficci publishing committee and managing director, Cambridge University Press, said there is a need for all segments of the publishing industry to come together in an organised manner and recognise the value of content creation. He advocated leveraging of technology to create value for the readers in local languages in view of the fact that the medium of instruction at the primary school level is largely in local languages.

Karthika VK, co-chair, Ficci publishing committee and publisher, Westland Publications, said publishers did not want to be gatekeepers but sought a role for themselves as facilitators. Language, she said, is not a barrier any more. This was evidenced by comments in local languages on conversations in the social media.

Other who spoke during the event were Dr K Sreenivasarao, secretary, Sahitya Akademi; Ravi DeeCee, CEO, DC Books; Sugata Ghosh, director – academic, Oxford University Press India; Yogesh Dashrath, country manager, India, Story Tel, Sweden AB; Dinesh Sinha, executive editor, Ratna Books; Manisha Chaudhry, director - publishing, Manan Books; Advaita Kala, author and columnist; Rituparna Ghosh, founder & story genie, Your Story Bag; Swaha Sahoo, head - Parag Initiatives, Tata Trust; Rajesh Khar, language editor, Pratham Books; Swaran Lata, HoD, language computing group, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India; Balendu Sharma, director, localization and accessibility, Microsoft; Leena Singh, head of publishing, Cambridge University Press; Amit Dubey, deputy chief technology officer, Tech Mahindra; Baldeo Bhai Sharma, chairman, National Book Trust, India; Surendra Sharma, renowned Hindi poet; Aditi Maheshwari, director- copyrights & translation, Vani Prakashan; Neeta Gupta, publisher, Yatra Books; Alind Maheshwari, director, Rajkamal Prakashan; Shailesh Bharatwasi, publisher, Hind Yugm; Lipika Bhushan, chief marketing consultant, MarketMyBook; Vineet Bajpai, author and CEO, Magnon Solutions and Magnon Interactive and Prachand Praveer, author, among others.