British Council & Art X Company launch ‘India Literature and Publishing Sector Study’

Identifies issues in taking regional Indian literature to global audiences

British Council
British Council India launches ‘India Literature and Publishing Sector Study.’ Photo Christin Hume on Unsplash

The British Council and the Art X Company today announced the release of the ‘India Literature and Publishing Sector Study’, a pioneering primary research project aimed at understanding the challenges faced by Indian publishers, agents, authors, translators, and industry bodies when making literature written in Indian languages more widely available to an international English-speaking audience.

British Council’s work in literature focuses on connecting UK writers and literary professionals with their international peers and thereby building trust, understanding, and increasing appetite for literature in translation. The extensive study, commissioned by the British Council and conducted by the Art X Company, brings together insights from 100 stakeholders charting the current publishing and translation ecosystem across ten Indian cities/states, to present insights covering eight focus languages.

The study closely examines the role of literary festivals and events, trends in digitization, perceptions of Indian literature in English translation abroad, the sector’s skilling needs and gaps, as well as its intersections with the National Education Policy 2020. The outcome of the research identifies opportunities for working and collaborating more globally, specifically with the UK, in order to promote Indian literature in translation, going forward.

Jonathan Kennedy, director Arts India, British Council, said, “Through our work in literature, we have always focused on building connections and understanding between literary professionals across the globe. Therefore, the main aim of conducting the research was to identify barriers to internationalization faced by Indian literature and publishing professionals and support the Indian literature sector which has suffered because of the global pandemic.

“Furthermore, some Indian languages are more represented in translation than others, hence through this report, the idea is to also help Indian literature in different and more languages reach foreign shores. Research and creative industry mapping are an important aspect of our work to facilitate informed decision and policy-making for strengthening the creative economy.”

Rashmi Dhanwani, founder and director, The Art X Company, said, “We are excited to work with British Council to bring this crucial research on India’s vibrant literature and publishing sector to light. India has 427 recognized languages, with 22 official languages, yet most Indian literature known globally has been written in English, with very little Indian language literature in translation making it to western markets. 

“The report identifies the various challenges faced by the sector and outlines specific recommendations for the publishing ecosystem and the translation ecosystem. The insights from the study have begun to trigger vital conversations amongst stakeholders, and our hope is to see the recommendations manifest as outcomes.”

The India Literature and Publishing Sector Study was discussed at the Kalinga Literature Festival in Bhubaneswar, Odisha on 12 December 2021, the first in a series of conversations taking place across the country and online. Featuring a line-up of voices from the sector, these conversations intend to spotlight key insights from the report to generate and carry forward vital discussions about the needs of the literature and publishing sector in India.

The research covered 10 target cities/states of Delhi, Rajasthan, West Bengal (Kolkata), Odisha, Assam (Guwahati), Maharashtra, Kerala (Kochi), Karnataka (Bengaluru), Chennai, and Hyderabad. The eight focus languages – Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada – were identified basis the smaller number of translated literature from these languages being available in the English language.

The executive summary of the report is available in 12 languages other than English, including Assamese, Bengali, Gaelic, Hindi, Odia, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Welsh, and Urdu. It can be downloaded here.

The British Council is the UK’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It works with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education, and civil society. Last year it reached over 80 million people directly and 791 million people overall, including online, broadcasts, and publications. It makes a positive contribution to the countries it works with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections, and engendering trust. Founded in 1934, it is a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. It receives a 15 percent core funding grant from the UK government. 

The Art X Company’s mission is to enable and articulate value for the arts and culture sector in India through data-driven insights, strategy-led impact, and audience outreach. A consultancy operating at the intersection of arts and access, Art X Company offers consulting, research, curation, audience development, and management services to the cultural sector in India. The Art X Company has worked extensively across India, and for a range of clients in the for-profit, non-profit and government spaces. The organization comprises a group of highly passionate arts managers, strategists, and researchers, with a presence in Mumbai and Bengaluru.

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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