Interview – Ranjeet Pratap Singh, co-founder & CEO, Pratilipi and Niket Raj Dwivedi, Business head, The Write Order

Pratilipi's acquisition of The Write Order

Ranjeet Pratap Singh, co-founder and chief executive officer at Pratilipi. Photo Pratilipi

Priyanka Tanwar from Indian Printer and Publisher asked Ranjeet Pratap Singh, co-founder and chief executive officer at Pratilipi, and Niket Raj Dwivedi, Business head, The Write Order a few questions about Pratilipi’s recent acquisition of the publishing house, books published by The Write Order, Pratilipi’s journey as a digital literature platform and the rising demand for content in vernacular languages. 

Indian Printer and Publisher – Please tell us about the story behind Pritilipi’s conceptualization? 

Ranjeet Pratap Singh – I’ve always been an avid reader, having grown up reading comic books, classical and contemporary Hindi literature. I grew up in a small town near Rae Bareli, and English was not my first language, so I read in Hindi as a child. Only after I left my hometown to attend university did I realize that Hindi literature was not widely available throughout the country. 

I began reading in English at first, but I’ve always wondered why it should be so difficult to read in a language of your choice. India has many different languages and dialects, and I wanted to create a platform that allows people to access content and read in the language of their choice. These ideas were initially just musings among close friends, but they were the seeds that led to the creation of Pratilipi. 

Indian Printer and Publisher – What kind of content does Pratilipi provide to readers across different regions of India? 

Ranjeet Pratap Singh – We wanted to create a platform that would allow people to access content and read in the language of their choice. Currently, Pratilipi supports 12 languages; Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, English, Urdu, Punjabi and Odia. We fundamentally seek to democratize access to engaging and high-quality contemporary storytelling in Indian languages, as well as to remove barriers to access for both writers and readers. You can discover thousands of stories, poems, articles, magazines, novels, essays, and much more for free across genres. 

Indian Printer and Publisher – What was the initial vision behind setting up The Write Order? 

Niket Raj Dwivedi – To eliminate middlemen and give the writers an accessible platform to put their works out in the public and let readers decide whether or not their work is worth it. Usually aspiring writers used to get stuck in the slush pile of traditional publishers for months and never even get a reply. We wanted to democratize the publication industry while reviving the art of written literature in India.

Indian Printer and Publisher – How many full-time employees work in your organization? What is your annual turnover? 

Ranjeet Pratap Singh – We have around 170 employees as of now across Pratilipi Literature, Pratilipi FM, Pratilipi Comics, IVM, and The Write Order. 

We only started monetizing earlier this year. In the ongoing financial year, the company is estimated to do Rs 6 crore as operational revenue. 

Indian Printer and Publisher – What was Pratilipi’s primary strategy behind the recent acquisition of The Write Order publishing house? 

Ranjeet Pratap Singh – Since its inception, the self-publishing community has encouraged both new and established writers from a variety of backgrounds to pursue their passion for storytelling, providing users with access to a large and engaged audience.

For any first time writer seeing their work published in print is a huge milestone and something we hope to support writers achieve. Pratilipi, as a platform, enables us to spot talented writers and engaging content, and if we can streamline the process from identifying content to publishing it that can only be a good thing. 

The acquisition of the Write Order is a significant step toward Pratilipi’s vision of democratizing story-telling across languages, experimenting with new formats, and reaching new audiences. The acquisition will also help Pratilipi broaden its reach across a variety of categories alongside our in-house web series and audiobooks, Pratili now has a fully functional publishing arm that will assist their writers in having their work published in print. 

Indian Printer and Publisher – How are Pratilipi and The Write Order gearing up for the road ahead? 

Niket Raj Dwivedi, Business head, The Write Order

Niket Raj Dwivedi – We are focused on publishing and bringing out the hidden gems of India in print book format. You never know if the next Harry Potter or Game of Thrones might be hidden inside the diaries/laptops of young India just waiting for an opportunity to get out there and build a whole new ripple in the literary circle. 

Indian Printer and Publisher – What genres of writing does The Write Order cater to? How many books have you published till now? 

Niket Raj Dwivedi – We have published close to 200+ solo books from writers all over India and some abroad. The Write Order has explored multiple genres and categories ranging from Fiction, Non-Fiction, a lot of poetry collections, autobiographies, and educational books.

Sharp Shooter Baban by Ashish Kumar Trivedi. Photo Pratilipi

Indian Printer and Publisher – Tell us more about the kind of books readers can look forward to in the upcoming months. 

Niket Raj Dwivedi – Our readers can keep expecting a lot of poetry and fiction alongside some of the best works on Pratilipi being converted into print books. 

Indian Printer and Publisher – What hurdles did Pratilipi face in its five year journey as a digital literature platform? How did you overcome these challenges? 

Ranjeet Pratap Singh – Like many other user-generated content platforms, for years, we had to tackle the classic chicken-egg problem. To acquire a large reader base, it needed to onboard good writers and good writers would only join if the audience was large and relevant. Also, educating potential team members, investors, and the broader market on the problem we are solving – especially considering there weren’t many large user-generated content platforms in India back in 2015 was an early challenge we faced. 

Two major challenges that we are continuously working towards are on building the personalization engine since different people have different tastes and preferences and ways to solve content that shouldn’t be on the platform such as copyright violation, and hate speech. 

Indian Printer and Publisher – How did The Write Order cope with the setback caused to the book publishing industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic? 

Niket Raj Dwivedi – The pandemic brought to us a boom. Writers got the time to write, amateurs got the time to explore and hone their skills and everyone was looking for a platform to boost their morale. The Write Order has been growing significantly since then. 

Indian Printer and Publisher – How has storytelling evolved in the last hundred years? Do you think the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on the development of reading as a habit in today’s day and age? 

Ranjeet Pratap Singh – The purpose of establishing Pratilipi was to democratize storytelling. We believed that everyone should have access to content without any language barrier. Definitely, there has been a major shift and today we have stories across so many regional languages and we are happy to say that we were able to play a major role here. With increasing smartphone penetration, people have access to content now and they are consuming content more than ever now. Authors are exploring more genres to write on and readers are looking forward to reading newer things. Now, storytelling has evolved into newer formats and visual storytelling is on the rise. Even at Pratilipi, we are experimenting with newer formats with Pratilipi Comics, web series, and motion graphics. 

We hope Pratilipi has been a helpful source of creative rest with bite from lockdown, for both readers and writers. This seems to be supported by the numbers and there has been a large increase in time users spent on the app, going up from 43 minutes a day to 54 minutes a day.

Indian Printer and Publisher – There has been an unprecedented rise in demand for content in vernacular languages in India. Please share your views on the same. 

Ranjeet Pratap Singh – Both in our experience with Pratilipi and in our conversation with other authors and publishers, we believe that both reading and writing in Indian languages is growing much faster than English. In Pratilipi, languages like Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi and Telugu are growing over 2X faster than English. On Pratilipi all 10 of the top 10 highest earning as well as most followed writers write in Indian languages. 

Thank you for speaking with the Indian Printer and Publisher.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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