Transcript: India’s Publishing Show Is Globalocal

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Interview with, Prashashti Rastogi, Director, German Book Office, New Dehli, India


Malcolm Neil, Director, Content Acquisition and Publisher Relations, Kobo, Inc.

For podcast release Monday, November 18, 2013

KENNEALLY: The world’s most populous democracy, India has over 1.2 billion inhabitants who speak dozens of languages, with Hindi and English the primary tongues. Economic growth, though not without recent challenges, is among the strongest anywhere. In 2013, India will enjoy at least 5% growth in industries and services, according to most estimates.

Welcome to Copyright Clearance Center’s podcast series. I’m Christopher Kenneally for Beyond the Book.

With the seventh largest national book publishing industry on earth, India produces nearly 100,000 books a year. Its English language book production places third, only behind the U.S. and the UK

In New Delhi, this coming February, the German Book Office’s GLOBALOCAL industry conference welcomes Indian publishers and their colleagues from Asia and the Pacific as well as publishers and technology vendors from around the world. GLOBALOCAL organizer and GBO director in New Delhi, Prashasti Rastogi, joins me now. Welcome, Prashasti.

RASTOGI: Hi, Christopher. Thank you for having me, and it’s great that we can talk about GLOBALOCAL and India on this platform today.

KENNEALLY: Well, we’re looking forward to the discussion. We’ll tell people a bit about your background. Prashasti Rastogi was born in India and grew up in different parts of the country, experiencing multiple cultures. She started her career in the IT services industry and, after a stint there, discovered her affinity to German language.

Prashasti Rastogi is currently the director at the German Book Office of the Frankfurt Book Fair in New Delhi. And Prashasti, GLOBALOCAL is not new. You have had several of these conferences over the last several years. And I wonder whether you can tell us first about the format – and what are your objectives exactly for GLOBALOCAL coming up?

RASTOGI: Sure. Well, GLOBALOCAL in 2014 will go into its fifth edition. Initially it started as a platform and CEOs’ roundtable where we tried to achieve a common platform for people to come together, exchange and talk about the industry which this side of the world was completely lacking.

And gathering up from the trends, etc., we chose a theme every year where we could bring in the international experts and the key decision makers from India to talk about where the progression in individual markets has been and what we can do together.

Over the years, we saw that there has been a constant need not only to exchange ideas, but also to do business, because this side of the world primarily has not been so aggressively in the B2B marketplace as Frankfurt and the other western counterparts have been.

Therefore, GLOBALOCAL in 2013 was revamped and made into a mini-Frankfurt, I would say, where we created a multi-format platform where we tried to bring together people still on the roundtables, so that they get to interface with each other, but there was also a lack of a format of matchmaking, where people from different parts of the value chain could come together, exchange ideas and co-create and collaborate.

So we set up something called matchmakings, which is a targeted one-on-one business meetings within a carefully curated group of participants matched as per their business interests.

Then of course the South Asian markets were primarily domestic markets, so people also felt a need of understanding rights and licenses. So we also incorporated a rights and licenses workshop, and we were lucky to win Lynette Owen, who’s the copyright director at Pearson Education in the UK to come and do workshops for us.

KENNEALLY: So this is an interesting evolution in the conference itself. And I wonder whether that parallels what’s going on in the book industry at large. You were saying before that the local industry hadn’t had much of a chance to come together to share ideas and to find common ground. Is the development of the industry and the development of GLOBALOCAL kind of in parallel?

RASTOGI: That’s very correct, because South Asian markets were more or less seen as dumping grounds, if I were to put it very crudely, and more of a sellers’ market. Slowly and steadily, they have developed into also a buying market, because people have realized how vibrant the industry is. So definitely opening up has also paralleled this trend.

Secondly, within Asia and within India itself, there was a realization that there is no common platform for publishers from local languages to discuss about what is happening in their spheres.

So GLOBALOCAL also evolved into a platform where they could meet their counterparts and peers from within the same market and understand what possibilities exist within their own markets, like translation rights, for example. India, as a country with 23 recognized languages, can also exchange a lot with each other.

KENNEALLY: Right. Well, now you already mentioned Lynette Owen is going to be joining you in February there in New Delhi. Who else have you planned for speakers and guest presenters?

RASTOGI: We of course are happy that we have Copyright Clearance Center and HP as our partners, so definitely we are happy to have Michael Healy and Winnie Hung (sp?) also sitting together on our roundtables and talking to people. Apart from that, we are also trying to win key decision makers from Brazil and from Singapore.

KENNEALLY: In all of this, Prashasti, the German Book Office is playing a really critical role, and we should remind people, of course, that the GBO is the sponsor of the Frankfurt Book Fair and something called the Frankfurt Academy. Can you talk about the work that the GBO itself is doing in India?

RASTOGI: GBO is, as we all know, the India establishment of the Frankfurt Book Fair, but it also happens to be a joint venture with the Federal Foreign Office of Germany and the Frankfurt Book Fair.

So GBO right now in South Asia, to be precise, has a dual mandate. (A) We have the mandate of furthering German literature and collaboration with Germany, with India and South Asian markets.

Apart from that, we also engage extensively into the internationalization and professionalization of the South Asian markets in the field of media and publishing. That is why we bring together such platforms as GLOBALOCAL, where people from the Indian markets meet the counterparts from the western branch of the trade.

KENNEALLY: What’s interesting about GLOBALOCAL is that it’s of course – and it’s implied in the name – both global and local. And you’ve been mentioning some of the interesting aspects of the local Indian marketplace. But what makes Indian – or India, rather – an attractive market for foreign book publishers today?

RASTOGI: Well, India is a very, very vibrant economy, a very vibrant culturally rich country. And that definitely reflects also in the publishing scene. If I were to say that the demographic dividend that we are enjoying right now, with a largely young population, also fuels the reading population – the amount of population that is available to understand and appreciate literature.

There is growth in the education sector also. There’s a constant growth happening in that market, which is why the educational (inaudible) of publishing is flourishing here.

Then we have 23 recognized official languages. That increases a huge amount of translation. From one into 23 could be a ratio that one could look at if one is translating from a foreign language.

Then 150 million Indians are Internet users. That means an increasing amount of digital pervasiveness and adaptation to reading online. So the content mania that is going on, if I were to put so, is currently very interesting for people to look at.

KENNEALLY: Right. Well, certainly the revolution in digital publishing is happening around the world. It’s interesting to discuss how it’s affecting the Indian population, which you say is a very young one and growing and developing quite quickly. And I think that’s a great moment to bring on our second guest today, Malcolm Neil, who is director of content acquisition and publisher relations for Kobo, based in Melbourne, Australia. Malcolm, welcome to Beyond the Book.

NEIL: Good day, Christopher. Thanks for having me on.

KENNEALLY: Well, we’re delighted that you can join us today, as you will be joining Prashasti at the GLOBALOCAL conference coming up in February 2014. You’ve been to GLOBALOCAL in the past. We’ll tell people, briefly, that you’ve had a wide and varied career in the book industry, both on the bookselling side as well as in publishing. And your most recent roles include CEO of the Australian Booksellers Association and communications director of REDgroup Retail, which was owners of Borders Asia Pacific.

Malcolm’s current role as director of acquisitions and publisher relations for the global e-book retailer Kobo sees him at the vanguard of Kobo’s push into the Southeast Asian and Indian markets. And I guess we’ve caught you between plane trips, Malcolm, to have a chance to hear about your views on all this. And Prashasti was just speaking about the ways that access to digital media around India is really helping to develop the book publishing industry. And I’m sure that’s what you see from Kobo’s perspective. So talk about that briefly, please.

NEIL: Well, for Kobo we were entering the market really at the starting phase for India. So in India it’s – look, it’s a massive market, but it’s also an incredibly fragmented market. And I think the one thing that came out of my experience at GLOBALOCAL was that India was ready for digital reading but wasn’t quite doing it yet. So I don’t know whether that answers your question, but it certainly speaks to why we’re there.

KENNEALLY: Well, it certainly speaks to also the challenges that lie ahead. As you say, it’s sort of ready but not there yet, so there’s a lot of development. But certainly the speed of development in the industry and indeed in the Indian economy is quite dramatic. Prashasti was speaking about that earlier. So you’re anticipating a real immediate pickup of e-book reading in India, I would imagine.

NEIL: Yes. I think it’s not overly optimistic to think that growth in India in the digital sphere will be much faster than in other markets, because it matches the growth in, say, tablet purchasing, mobile phone use, the spread of the 3G and soon to be 4G sectors in the mobile broadband Internet.

And so alongside that also you’ve got one of the few publishing markets that’s actually in growth. I think somewhere around 10% last year, 15% the year before. And, you know, those numbers are the envy of almost every other publishing market in the world. So the market, while it’s a nascent market for digital, that growth pattern will quickly bring it into the fold.

KENNEALLY: Well, indeed. And Prashasti Rastogi was telling us about the format of GLOBALOCAL and the emphasis on networking. Can you talk about that? What was your experience like in previous years? And why are you returning for 2014?

NEIL: Well, I guess today business in India – you really have to be in India. And to do business with the right people, you really have to be introduced by the right people. And I think that’s what GLOBALOCAL do best. It delivers an instant network for you. So for someone coming from outside, although, admittedly, the multinational publishers all have arms there, and we all have reach through those, but to reach into the independent Indian publishing scene, to understand Indian publishing and then Indian reading from a cultural perspective, it’s just a real kick-starting kind of conference. And from that conference, I built some fantastic networks, traveled to quite a number of cities and also made some wonderful friends too.

KENNEALLY: Well, indeed. And Prashasti Rastogi, we’ll bring you back on. You are the GLOBALOCAL conference organizer and director of the German Book Office there in New Delhi. We’re having this global conversation about GLOBALOCAL, speaking with Malcolm Neil, there in Melbourne, and you in New Delhi. And I wonder whether you can comment on the point that Malcolm just made, which is really important to be on the ground in India in order to get your business moving forward.

RASTOGI: That’s correct, Chris. Malcolm rightly put it, it’s highly fragmented, and it’s multi-layered market that we’re talking about when it turns to the Indian market, because a large part of the sector in Indian publishing is still unorganized. So it’s very people intensive. And although the digital permeation in India is quite high, but still there is a constant need of a face-to-face platform to interact with each other and learn and know about each other.

And because of our biblio-diversity, it also makes the markets very complicated, because it’s difficult to understand what’s happening in various languages. And although there is a large part – a large chunk of English publications, which is definitely overall, but still the regional markets are still very strong in India.

And to make those personal contacts and know who is where and who could be a great partner, I think the competence of GBO New Delhi plays a great role in putting together a platform like GLOBALOCAL, where we can hand pick people and facilitate those contacts, which, as an outsider, might be difficult to understand, as it might be very overwhelming.

KENNEALLY: Well, indeed, I can imagine it would be. And Malcolm Neil, there, at Kobo in Melbourne, what about what happens when the conference ends? Your relationship with the German Book Office there in New Delhi continues throughout the year, I would imagine. You’re looking to them for continuing assistance, not just for bringing everyone together for a nice opportunity to network.

NEIL: The networking was nice, but you’re right, over the last sort of year I have had occasion to contact the German Book Office, and Prashasti and Shabnam there have been very helpful. They’re well networked into the Indian publishing scene. And again, as facilitators, they’ve been very helpful just in establishing that connection.

Obviously, Kobo has other means of research and other connections. But from a broad publishing perspective, to have an organization like that to call upon to make those linkages has been very useful.

KENNEALLY: Well, and Malcolm, I wonder if you could help us understand a little bit better about some of the more idiosyncratic aspects of the Indian marketplace. So you’ve had a chance to really get to know the place better from a book publishing perspective, can you share an insight or two with our audience – that, should they be coming to GLOBALOCAL, they should be prepared to do X or Y or they should be thinking about a certain topic?

NEIL: I think to do business in India, you have to be open to cultural otherness. So you can’t go there with a closed mind or an expectation that the way you do business is the way to close a deal. Indians are very open to talking and to discussing things. But to really be successful there, you have to understand the pace of things. And that pace can change regionally as well. So doing business in Delhi, for example, might not be done – you might not be doing it quite the same way as you are in Chennai or Bangalore, for example – or in Goa, where I had the pleasure of going to a conference a few weeks ago.

KENNEALLY: Well, but that sounds familiar, because, you know, when we speak about America, there’s certainly a different approach to business and to life between Boston and New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco. So that seems very familiar. And indeed, India is just that kind of a country. It is a subcontinent, of course, Prashasti, and, you know, enormously varied as you move around the country. So that must be a challenge for people coming to India from outside.

RASTOGI: That’s correct. And that is why we curated something called the Exclusive India program. So Exclusive India targets exactly this kind of audience, who are looking for doing business in India and find it challenging to understand this market. So through Exclusive India, we touch upon the two publishing hotspots in India, that is, New Delhi and Chennai, and we curate a program where we try to meet the entire value chain with a variety.

So we go to small independent bookstores, we go to large-format retail, so that they understand distribution. We go to pre-press and digital solution providers so that they understand what is happening in the digital landscape side of things. We go to small and family-owned publishers, because they coexist very strongly with multinationals like Penguin Random House in India, and we understand their formats. We try to target some edgy publishing houses so that the vibrancy of the market comes out.

And so it’s like a B2B trip curated according to the profiles of the internationals who wish to participate and understand this complicated landscape and do business and find partners here. It culminates into GLOBALOCAL, where you have the world in front of you in those formats where you do activities together and have the chance to take it further.

KENNEALLY: Well, indeed, it’s an inviting and attractive opportunity to attend GLOBALOCAL, coming to New Delhi, India in February 2014. We’ll have all the details on our Website, And we appreciate chatting today with Prashasti Rastogi, who is the director of the German Book Office in New Delhi and the organizer for the GLOBALOCAL conference. Prashasti, thanks so much for joining us on Beyond the Book.

RASTOGI: Thank you, Chris. It was quite an interesting conversation here. And GLOBALOCAL, as the name says – we are America, India and Australia. So it’s a good start. Thank you.

KENNEALLY: Indeed. Now, we’ve certainly enjoyed bringing together those several continents in one conversation. And joining us from Melbourne, Australia, we’ve had on the line today Malcolm Neil. He’s director of content acquisition and publisher relations for Kobo. And Malcolm, thank you again for joining us on Beyond the Book.

NEIL: And thank you, Christopher. I really enjoyed it. It was a great pleasure.

KENNEALLY: Beyond the Book is produced by Copyright Clearance Center, a global rights broker for the world’s most sought-after materials, including millions of books and e-books, journals, newspapers, magazines and blogs, as well as images, movies and television shows.

You can follow Beyond the Book on Twitter, find us on Facebook and subscribe to the free podcast series on iTunes or at the Copyright Clearance Center website – Just click on Beyond the Book. Our engineer is Jeremy Brieske of Burst Marketing. My name is Christopher Kenneally. For all of us at Copyright Clearance Center, thanks for listening to Beyond the Book.

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