Economy of words
With rich content and competitive prices, Indian publishers of English books are making big inroads across the Gulf.
"India is the third largest English publication industry in the world after the US and Britain and our book exports to the Gulf are increasing every year," Anand Bhushan, joint managing director of New Delhi-based Pitambar Publishing, who is here to participate in the 18th Abu Dhabi Book Fair, told IANS in an interview.
"Of the Rs.4 billion ($100 million) worth of books (in English) that India exports every year, Rs.1 billion ($25 million) go to the Gulf markets," he said.
India's English publication industry has content and price advantages for global marketing, according to Bhushan.
"Yes, British and American publishers can provide quality printing material. But our books score in terms of content," he said.
"Also, our books sell because these are priced low compared to others."
He said the primary market for Indian publishers in the Gulf are the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)-affiliated Indian schools in the region.
"Our (the 32 Indian participants in the book fair) basic purpose of coming here was to visit the Indian schools here. Our books are prescribed in the Indian schools here.
"Lots of schools here are also buying our books for their libraries. Books on (Mahatma) Gandhi are in great demand," Bhushan said.
He added that children were buying books in large numbers with vouchers provided by the UAE government.
General secretary of the Federation of Indian Publishers Shakti Malik said that with the 32 Indian publishers participating in the book fair as a joint group they have been able to reap good dividends.
"The best part is that since we are participating as a group, the National Library of Abu Dhabi placed advance orders for a large number of Indian titles, which we brought along with us," he said.
Each of the Indian stalls is marked by the Indian tricolour and a colour theme separate from the rest of the stalls. He said the UAE government has provided special facilities for the Indian publishers participating in this year's fair.
"The UAE government has encouraged us a lot by providing a number of facilities. They have given us 30 percent concession in the stall rentals and even waived off our visa fees."
Among the major Indian publishers in this year's fair, which runs from March 11 to 16, are S. Chand & Co., Rupa, Full Circle, Diamond Pocket Books, New Age International, Orient Paperbacks and Pustak Mahal.
Kishor Narain Asarpota of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), organizers of the fair, said that special attention was being paid to Indian publishers this year.
"Last year, we had just two Indian publishers participating. ADACH authorities wanted more numbers as our books are very popular here because of rich content and low prices and I, as head of India marketing for ADACH, managed to convince the (Indian) publishers to participate as a group," he said.
He said that the presence of the large number of Indian expatriates in the Gulf nations make a good market for Indian publishers.
There are around 5.5 million Indians across the six Gulf nations.
According to Pitambar Publishing's Bhushan, the coming years augur well for India's English publication industry.
"Most former British colonies across the world with English as the common language are importing books from India," he said, adding that the price advantage is a major factor.
"Also, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's idea of making India a knowledge economy, we expect this will help our industry a lot."