Pune publisher Sunil Mehta dies at 56

By 13 Jan 2022

Sunil Mehta, managing director, Mehta Publishing House, and a former executive of the Marathi Publishers’ Association, passed away on 12 January. He was 56. Mehta was undergoing treatment at a private hospital for the last 10 days. He is survived by his father, wife, sister and two children.

Sunil Mehta, managing director, Mehta Publishing House

Acknowledged as a prominent personality in the world of Marathi publishing, Mehta gave the industry a new impetus by aligning SOPs on par with the international publishing world.

Founded in 1976 by Mehta’s father, Anil, Pune-based Mehta Publishing House publishes more than 150 new titles and 300 reprints each year and has an active backlist of over 4,500 titles. Known for its strong fiction and narrative nonfiction list, Mehta Publishing House publishes across virtually every genre including biography, travel, business, politics, history, religion and philosophy, lifestyle, cookery, health and fitness, sports and leisure, and even children’s books.

Sunil Mehta, who joined Mehta Publishing House in 1986, was the first to successfully implement eBooks in Marathi. More than one-and-a-half thousand books of Mehta Publishing House have been made available in the eBook format," Sanjeev Velankar said.

Apart from being the trendsetters of business policies on matters such as credit terms, under Mehta’s leadership, Mehta Publishing House was acknowledged as the pioneers in devising advertising and creative marketing policies to popularise new and existing books of the publishing house.

Having started with the publishing of only Marathi titles, Mehta had the vision to begin publishing Marathi translations of books from all genres, from various Indian languages like Bengali, Hindi, Kannada and Gujarati and English. Apart from these, Mehta Publishing House has also published the English as well as Marathi translations of original writings in Korean and Japanese. In addition, Mehta Publishing House now has a formidable presence on social networking sites while their books are available for sale on most online retailers.

He was instrumental in bringing to Marathi the works of many international authors like Jeffrey Archer, Michael Creighton, Frederick Forsyth, Robin Cook, Alistair McLean, John Grisham, Ian Fleming, Dan Brown, Deborah Ellis, Lee Child and Jhumpa Lahiri, apart from Taslima Nasreen, Sudha Murthy, Arun Shourie, Khushwant Singh, and Chetan Bhagat. He also brought the works of writers like SL Bhairappa, Shivram Karantha, Gulzar, Arundhati Roy, and Osho, to Marathi readers.

In Marathi, the list includes renowned authors such as VS Khandekar, Ranjit Desai, Anand Yadav, Vishwas Patil, Shivaji Sawant, VP Kale, Shankar Patil, DM Mirasdar, Vyankatesh Madgulkar, Shanta Shelke and VS Walimbe.

Mehta was perhaps one of the earliest and youngest publishers within the Marathi publishing fraternity to venture into eBook publishing while diversifying into the English books segment. He was the only publisher selected to represent the Marathi publishing fraternity at the NORLA Seminar held in Oslo (Norway) in September 2012 which was organised with the primary aim to promote Norwegian literature among other countries coupled with a cross cultural exchange of ideas within publishing.

Under Mehta’s aegis, the vision of the organisation was to be recognised as the only publisher who has worked in all the categories of digital book publishing while developing English book retail with new branches all across Maharashtra.

Writing a tribute for Mehta on social media, Vinutha Mallya of Publishing Next said, “A second-generation publisher–bookseller, he expanded the field of Marathi books and brought Mehta Publishing into the digital age. He keenly watched global publishing shifts and enthusiastically contributed to discussions on Indian publishing and its future. To us, at Publishing Next, he was a supportive friend and spirited cheerleader.”

In an interview with All About Book Publishing in February 2020, Mehta had said, “Our fiction titles sell more than other genres. For original Marathi books, we consider book sales of 3000+ in a year as bestsellers. And thereafter the book sales gain momentum. Some of our Indian bestsellers include Yayati by VS Khandekar (4 lakh+ copies), Swami by Ranjit Desai (three lakh+ copies), Vapurza by VP Kale (5 lakh+ copies), Sambhaji by Vishwas Patil (1 lakh+ copies) and Zombi by Anad Yadav (75,000+ copies).”

Regarding the market, in the same interview, Mehta had said, “Domestic market is definitely broadening. Export market is slow and mainly in eBook form but due to POD, we expect the export market to grow in future. The number of book distributors is decreasing but there is definite increase in online booksellers. Currently, sales are more from retail space rather than online channels but sales from online channels are also increasing. Supply booksellers are also increasing. The need of time is that individual publishers must have a chain of bookshops or 4-5 publishers should collectively set up bookshops even at taluka places.”

(Courtesy: Agencies)

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