HarperCollins India –30 years of an eventful publishing journey

HarperCollins CEO Anantha Padmanabhan talks to Indian Printer & Publisher about children’s books and new authors, the digital revolution in publishing and the philosophy behind its new office

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HarperCollins CEO Anantha Padmanabhan. Photo HarperCollins

In 2022, publishing major HarperCollins completed 30 years of business operations in India. Starting its journey way back in 1992, over the past three decades, HarperCollins India has carved out a niche for itself in the Indian publishing landscape – putting out between 180-200 books in the adult catalog and about 30-40 books in their children’s catalog every year.

More than half of the books published by HarperCollins are by first-time writers, benefitting debut authors who are getting a launch platform. The company, which also represents many other Indian and foreign publishers, is in the process of adding a few thousand new books over the next year.

HarperCollins India recently won the Publisher of the Year award at Tata Lit Live! –the second consecutive year and the fourth time it has won the award. The company also received the highest number of nominations in the category.

“This is our sixth Publisher of the Year Award. We were awarded twice by the Publishing Next Industry Awards, and four times by Tata Lit Live! It is a moment of great pride, and gratitude to our authors, colleagues and booksellers who have recognized what we bring to our audiences in India as a publisher. The HarperCollins India team is not only one of the most experienced in India, but arguably the most passionate and committed. I can tell you from personal experience that it is a team that really loves publishing books,” Anantha Padmanabhan, chief executive officer, HarperCollins, told Indian Printer & Publisher.

Focus on children’s publishing

The publishing major works with many printers in India and has stakes in both the trade and education businesses with complex production needs. Collins Learning is HarperCollins’ education imprint that publishes for the K-12 market in CBSE, CISCE and state board curricula in India. Collins UK publishes Cambridge-endorsed international curriculum, with books available for international schools in India.

“Our textbooks are taught in more than 11,000 schools in India with more than six million students learning from them daily. Collins Infinity is a fully integrated program that allows schools to teach our books online and offline,” Padmanabhan says.

“Books sales continue to show a very healthy trend – and we are selling a lot more than before. The sales of children’s books are at an all-time high and that is a welcome trend. Children who become readers at an early age are readers of the future, and will inspire more people to read. The education business, in which we are a major player, was affected by the prolonged closure of schools but has bounced back. We are seeing a big increase in private school enrolments,” he says.

HarperCollins India represents about 14 other publishers, including from India and abroad. It represents Juggernaut, Speaking Tiger and Navayana (Independent Indian publishers) and a whole range of international publishers – Oneworld, Harvard University Press, Gallup, Bonnier, Usborne and many more. “It is part of our strategy for India to bring the best books from around the world to readers in India,” says Padmanabhan.

“HarperCollins works within the group, our primary companies in UK and the US to take Indian authors abroad, and also work with English and foreign language publishers by selling publishing rights for other markets,” he adds.

Translations from Indian languages

Translations from Indian languages into English have been in the limelight in the last few years with Tomb of Sand, the English translation of Geetanjali Shree‘s Hindi work Ret Samadhi, winning the coveted International Booker prize. All five books in the JCB Prize for Literature shortlist in 2022 were translations. Translated works are gaining popularity as readers have started paying attention to such works following their impressive mark at national and international literary events.

Harper Perennial, presently in its 11th year, is HarperCollins’ imprint for literature in translation. One of India’s oldest and most awarded imprints, it has since published a wide variety of books from across Indian languages. At Harper US, an imprint called Harper Via features translated literature.

Padmanabhan says, “Our editors are always looking to bring in books that represent India – through its various languages and contexts. HarperCollins strives to ensure that our employees and authors represent a variety of cultures, diverse backgrounds and unique viewpoints that shape our world. We publish content that presents a diversity of voices and speaks to the global community. We promote industry and company initiatives that represent people of all ethnicities, races, genders and gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, classes, religions, national origins and abilities.”

The digital connection

There has been a metamorphosis in book publishing with a digital revolution as readers now favor Kindle and online reading platforms to read on the go. The Covid-19 pandemic spurred the demand for eBooks and audio books as physical bookstores remained closed during the lockdowns. In keeping with the trend, HarperCollins too is going the whole hog on digital.

“India is one of the most digitally connected populations in the world and it goes without saying that a big chunk of our time and resources go towards promoting our books and authors through all available digital mediums – our website, our award winning newsletter Harper Broadcast, our education newsletter Collins Broadcast, all our social media handles (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn) and other collaborative platforms. Our readers are present across many platforms simultaneously. So we publish across print, electronic and audio, and use all of them to promote a book,” says Padmanabhan.

Design with a purpose

HarperCollins is widely recognized and awarded for its splendid cover designs. “Our art director Bonita Vaz, who publishes books into Harper Design imprint, is always particular about our cover designs having a purpose – very high not just on aesthetic but also their ability to create a connection between a book and its reader. We have one of the most experienced teams in publishing and work with a lot of freelancers from India and abroad for our design aesthetics,” he says.

In 2022, HarperCollins was awarded the India’s Best Design Project 2022 by Kahani Design Works for its recent book, Mumbai – A City Through Objects by Tasneem Mehta, published under the Harper Design imprint.

The year 2022 marked another milestone for HarperCollins as it moved to its new Gurugram office, which has been designed with the pandemic-driven work culture in mind. “We knew that the post-pandemic world is going to look different, and that we are going to have to work differently. Colleagues will not only work from anywhere in the country but not everyone is going to be in office on all days,” Padmanabhan says.

Its new office, which is about half the earlier size, is a modern set-up, full of natural light, a lot of bookshelves and ‘hot’ desks. It is a space designed for better interaction between teams. “While we do have workstations, more than half the space is for collaborative meetings. We’ve removed all desk phones, encouraging people to walk across and talk to each other. There is no designated seating – so every desk is a ‘hot desk’. It is an office where we will have a lot of authors coming in. So we wanted a space where authors can work out of, if they would like to,” Padmanabhan concludes.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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