Delhi Book Fair celebrates the business of books

It would be unfair to compare New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF) with Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s biggest trade show on publishing. To begin with, Frankfurt Book Fair is essentially a B2B event, whereas NDWBF came to existence with the express aim to foster reading habit among the general public, making retail sale of books its prime focus. Yet, in the recent years, NDWBF has been reinventing itself, not just to claim that it is Asia’s biggest book fair, but also to attract all s

25 Feb 2015 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

While doing so, the organiser, National Book Trust (NBT), India, an apex body under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, seems to have borrowed quite a few elements from the Frankfurt Book Fair, the gold standard on publishing marketplace.

So, this year, the New Delhi World Book Fair, which was held from 14 to 22 February 2015, at Pragati Maidan, saw a healthy participation of Indian book printers, in a space usually reserved for book publishers. We had the leading printers like Repro and Manipal, MBD and International Print O Pac, Sterling and Delhi Press vying for attention, not to mention other small-time printers.

While we are no longer losing our sleep over eBooks taking over printed books, Indian printers have now embraced the fact that to survive, one must diversify. One interesting market the printers are now exploring is the market of school education. In the last edition of NDWBF, Repro introduced ‘Rapples’, an initiative to supply digital content to schools. While MBD group is majorly into school textbooks, IPP has diversified into making school notebooks.          

The fair also hosted two exclusive business events for the book industry, the ‘CEO Speak’, a forum for publishing and ‘the Rights Table.’

Adding to its global stature, there was also a large participation from overseas players in a pavilion dedicated to foreign publishers. While Singapore was ‘the guest of honour’ country, the ‘focus country’ was Korea. Apart from the European countries, there were also participation from the Middle East countries, not to mention around 30-35 publishers from Pakistan.

Aside from the business of books, there were other assorted activities, including a showcase of art and culture from the Northeast states, in the theme pavilion, titled, ‘Suryodaya: Emerging Voices from North East.’ The visitors also got a chance to hear their favourite authors discuss their work at the ‘author’s corners,’ where well known authors in both Hindi and English, including Bollywood director Mahesh Bhatt, enthralled the audience. The author’s corners also saw release of several new books.  

While the focus remained the retail sale of books at a discounted price, the fair also had a dedicate pavilion for children’s content. The focus was on both education and fun, which attracted parents and their wards. There were also several workshops and activities for schoolchildren at the nine-day show.  

Among other events, NBT, in collaboration with Centre for Translation Studies, St Stephen’s College, New Delhi, organised a seminar on ‘Translation and the idea of India’.

This year, the organisers also introduced the concept of ‘best display award’ in four categories. The winner for the best display in foreign pavilion was Korea. Hachette Books won the award for the best display in English books category. Radha Swami Satsang, Beas, won the award for the best display in Hindi and Indian languages category, while Bharti Bhavan won the award for the best display in children’s books category.

According to JS Deepak, chairman and managing director, India Trade Promotion Organisation, who partnered with NBT to organise the event, the footfall this year at NDWBF was more than the last year, and the ticket sale was more than two lakh compared to last year.

The next year the show starts early, from 9 to 17 January 2016, and the guest of honour country will be China.

CEOSpeak: Print will survive
In the strictly by invitation event, ‘CEOSpeak Over Chairman’s Breakfast 2015’, organised by NBT, in association with FICCI, CEOs from the world of publishing and communication held out the view that while digital publishing is a great opportunity, print will never perish. In fact, the print medium will continue to grow and both will coexist.

The participants at the event included A Sethumadhavan, chairman, NBT, Virat Bhatia, president – IEA, South Asia, AT&T Communication Services, and chair, FICCI Committee on Communication and Digital Economy; Ameet Datta, partner, Saikrishna & Associates; Kim Kum-pyoung, director, Korean Cultural Centre, New Delhi; Kathy Lal, CEO, National Arts Council, Singapore; MA Sikandar, director, NBT; Rohit Kumar, advisor, Reed Elsevier; Karthika VK, chief editor, HarperCollins Publishers; and Bhanu Potta, advisor, World Reader.

The speakers expressed their concerns on issues like intellectual property, digital domain and the absence of ISBN in books publishers by small Indian language publishers. The representatives from the government said they are working towards creating a conducive policy framework for the publishing sector to flourish. Over 130 CEOs from the publishing community participated at the programme.

Rights Table: Initiating exchange
Insisting that the ‘Rights Table’ programme is an integral part of the NDWBF, A Sethumadhavan, chairman, NBT, said in the last three years since the programme was initiated, the number of participants have gone up by every passing year. The two-day (16 and 17 February 2015, at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi) event saw participation of 80 publishers from India and abroad, including the US, Canada, Tehran, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, among others, who engaged in B2B activities to sell and buy rights of books in different languages.

Repro offers innovative models on content diversification

The key is diversification, and Repro, one of India’s major book printers, knows this. At the last edition of the book fair, Repro had launched ‘Rapples’, a digital content delivery system for schools. As part of this, Repro offers pre-decided content for schools in a tablet.

Going a step further, this year, the company has come up with a new content delivery method, under which it promises to offers publishers ‘e-tail’ business opportunities both in India and abroad. It also promises publishers a ‘zero-inventory’ model of publishing, with the focus on print-on-demand.

“We are not publishers. We are printers. However, we have a huge repository of content that we have received from our publishers. With concerns for piracy, we keep the content safe,” said Pramod Khera, executive director, Repro. Now, the company wants to help the publishers find new avenues to market the content.

One way of doing it is to explore the growing African market. Repro has a solid presence in the African market, with 50% of the company’s profit coming from Africa. Its printing facility in Surat is dedicated to book to be delivered to the African market. Until recently, the African education institutes used to follow the US and the UK education system. According to Khera, the education content market in India is very strong, and it has a real opportunity for growth in Africa. In this, Repro can be a mediator between Indian publishers and the African market.

Another service that Repro is geared about is print-on-demand. As Repro has a strong depositary of content, Khera said, it can help publishers streamline their inventories. As publishers cannot foresee the demand for books, now, instead of printing more books and spending money on warehousing, the publisher can publish as and when a demand occurs. According to the Repro model, if a buyer wants to buy a particular book in an online retail site, Repro can collect the softcopy of the manuscript from its repository, print the book, and ship it to the buyer via the online retail store, all within 24 hours. This is possible, said Khera, adding that it is already an accepted model in the UK.  


GBO hosts 10 publishing nations
On the sidelines of NDWBF, the German Book Office New Delhi, hosted Globalocal 2015 on 12 and 13 February 2015 at The Eros Hotel, Nehru Place, New Delhi. The sixth edition of the event was aimed at the publishing and allied industry of India and abroad.

This year, with more than 150 participants, Globalocal offered a concentrated mix of panel discussions, rights and licences training, workshops, experts’ tables, business matchmakings, keynote presentations, with ample networking breaks.

At the two-day B2B meet, 10 different publishing nations came together and interacted with the key industry players from India, be it publishers, printers, digital solution providers, or distributors/booksellers. Publishing professionals from Germany, Singapore, Malaysia, France, Italy, Russia, Israel, Spain, the US, and the UK brought in their own contextual insights.

The Business Matchmaking, a format imported from the Frankfurt Book Fair, was tailored to match the business interests of participating companies in a concise and targeted way.

Carrying forward the business-positive tone, the two ‘power panels’, CEOs and academic publishing, with carefully selected panelists, from India and abroad, addressed the relevant trends.

The theme of the CEOs power panel was ‘Upward curve in publishing’. The panelists included Himanshu Gupta of S Chand; Vivek R of Flipkart; Emma House of The Publishers Association, the UK; Manuel Carcassonne of les Editions Stock; Karthika VK of HarperCollins India; and Smita Jha of PwC.

The academic publishing power panel had the theme ‘Higher education in the new age’ and the panelists comprised of Sugata Ghosh of Oxford University Press India; Ramesh Gaur of Jawaharlal Nehru University; Vivek Mehra of Sage Publications; Michael Healy of Copyright Clearance Center, US; Nitasha Devasar of Taylor & Francis India; and Sesh Seshadri of Lonely Planet.

Over the two days, there were also four insightful keynote addresses. The first was delivered by Irina Prokhorova, who talked about the publishing scenario in Russia. The second was by Sameer Shariff, CEO of Impelsys Inc, who focused on the future of the e-book delivery. The next keynote was delivered by Phillip Tatham of Monsoon Books, who gave the audience seven key points about the south-east Asian market. The last keynote was delivered by Amit Rotbard, a publisher from Israel.

In essence, Globalocal was the one-of-its-kind networking and training event for the book trade fraternity of India, placed right before the New Delhi World Book Fair.