Success stories from Indian translations

The Zubaan-Prabha Khaitan Foundation Translation Series update

(L-R) Anindita Chatterjee executive trustee of the Prabha Khaitan Foundation; Arshia Sattar, writer, translator, founder and co-director, Sangam House; Manisha Chaudhry, publishing professional, translator, and project head of the Zubaan-Prabha Khaitan Foundation Translation Series; Urvashi Butalia, founder and director, Zubaan; and Rita Kothari, writer, translator, and co-director, Ashoka Centre for Translation with published translations from the Zubaan-Prabha Khaitan Foundation Translation Series. Photo IPP

One interesting part of the Zubaan and Prabha Khaitan Foundation panel discussion on translation at Delhi’s India International Centre on 15 July was the success stories facilitated by the foundation’s Translation Series.

Manisha Chaudhry, publishing professional, translator and project head of the Zubaan-Prabha Khaitan Foundation Translation Series, said the response to the initiative till now has been gratifying as she shared several success stories that made a positive impact on the translation ecosystem.

For example, Tamil publisher Panmuga Medai translated the entire Northeast list of Zubaan into Tamil and published 500 copies of each of the books. The translations are selling well and generated buzz among scholars in Tamil Nadu, she said.

Insight Publica chose one of Zubaan’s young adult titles, Younguncle Comes to Town, a children’s storybook by Vandana Singh, and translated it into Malayalam. 80% of the first print run has already been sold.

Kavi Prakashana, a small independent Kannada publisher, has taken We Also Made History – Women in the Ambedkarite Movement by Urmila Pawar and Meenakshi Moon for translation. More than 300 copies were sold after the book release event, which was widely covered in the Kannada press.

The Zubaan Translation series

The Zubaan-Prabha Khaitan Foundation Translation Series is a collaboration between Zubaan, the Delhi-headquartered feminist publishing house, and the Kolkata-based Prabha Khaitan Foundation. As Indian Printer & Publisher has previously reported, the translation project aims to unlock rich content into several Indian languages simultaneously. As part of the project, financial support is given to the publishers of Indian language books for translating Zubaan’s feminist titles.

The joint collaboration is focused on empowering the lives of women and bolstering the growth of several small publishing houses across the country,” said Anindita Chatterjee executive trustee of the Prabha Khaitan Foundation at the panel discussion.

The initiative was launched in 2021 and has seen the publication of 35 books in 10 Indian languages. In the first round, Zubaan’s feminist writings were translated into eight Indian languages – Marathi, Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Bangla, and Punjabi while in the second round, Oriya and Konkani languages were added to the list.

The Translation Series rests on twin pillars. First, it hopes to positively impact the ecosystem of translations and second, the women authors and feminist writings from Zubaan go into different Indian languages and find new readers, said Manisha Chaudhry, publishing professional, translator, and project head of the Zubaan-Prabha Khaitan Foundation Translation Series.

The collaboration has worked with several small independent publishers such as Rethink Foundation (Punjabi), Kavi Prakashana (Kannada) as well as large publishers such as Pune-based Mehta Publishing House (Marathi), DC Books (Malayalam).

Robust translation market

Urvashi Butalia, founder and director of Zubaan Books, said, “English publishing and English writing so dominate the market that it came as a surprise to us to see the amazing, vibrant ecosystem of language publishing all around the country. Not just big publishers such as Mehta Publishing House, DC Books, Rajkamal Prakashan, Vani Prakashan, and others, but even small independent publishers because they passionately believe in the subject, dedicating their lives to publishing while doing a job on the side to support themselves.

The Zubaan-Prabha Khaitan Foundation Translation Series showed us how when you have a book in a different language, the kind of journeys it makes can be very different. We Also Made History – Women in the Ambedkarite Movement was originally in Marathi, and Zubaan published it in English. We received interest in this book from Kannada, Telugu, and Tamil. We had questions like ‘should you be translating from a translation?’ But then we thought if people are interested in the book, this is one way to get it.

And this book took off. The Telugu publisher who had done 500 copies of the book said her edition was doing quite well. She had been approached by an Ambedkarite group who wanted the book for their members – some 3,000 copies.”

It would have never happened had the book not been published in Telugu and had we agreed to the argument that a book should be translated only from the source language, Butalia said.

Stories like these give us an impetus to keep engaging with different languages and different publishing houses,” concluded Chaudhry.

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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