Penguin Random House is the world’s first truly global publishing company and therefore all of our international companies and markets are of great importance. India may be smaller than PRH’s US or UK markets but as a developing economy it is one of the key focusesand an area in which we are committed to growing and developing our publishing.
How has been your experience so far being at the helm of the Indian operations for PRH? What prompted the two publishing giants to come together?
Since our merger at the beginning of July, my focus has been getting to know all areas of our new company. Already acquainted with Random House India it has been my privilege to get to know the extremely talented staff and authors at Penguin Books India. I have been impressed by the passion and professionalism everyone across the company brings to their work and I am looking forward to working with all of them as a united Penguin Random House.
As Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle stated in his comments on the merger on 1st July, Penguin Random House is the first truly global trade book publishing company. As separate companies, Penguin and Random House performed outstandingly by every benchmark; as colleagues, Penguin Random House will share and apply the same passion for publishing the best books with enormous experience, creativity, and entrepreneurial drive. Together, Penguin Random House will give our authors unprecedented resources to help them reach global audiences—and we will provide readers with unparalleled diversity and choice for future reading. Connecting authors and readers is, and will be, at the heart of all we strive to accomplish together.
What major changes in business and culture do you foresee post this merger?
At this point the focus is not on change but continuity. Prior to the merger both Penguin and Random House were successful companies and so the approach at Penguin Random House globally is one of quality over speed. We will be taking time to analyse all areas of both our businesses before any changes in either business or culture are implemented.
What do you feel will be your biggest challenges now?
In the short term the biggest focus is getting a thorough overview of Penguin Random House in India. Following this period of analysis, our greatest challenge will be ensuring we maximise the talent, skills and expertise at our disposal to make sure we do the best for our authors and the book trade in general. We have to focus on making the transition to one company as painless as possible so our staff can continue with the excellent work they have already been doing.
How is India as a market compared to other international markets for Penguin Random House? How difficult has it been managing the expectations of the various global stakeholders?
Penguin Random House is the world’s first truly global publishing company and therefore all of our international companies and markets are of great importance. India may be smaller than PRH’s US or UK markets but as a developing economy it is one of the key focuses and an area in which we are committed to growing and developing our publishing.
The vision for Penguin Random House in India is shared across the company, so there hasn’t been a question of managing global stakeholders per se. Intricacies of every local market may need to be explained to those not working in them every day but it is more a case of informing, rather than managing.
Publishing is a much unorganised market in India. What should companies like yours do to change the market dynamics?
Distribution has often been a challenge within the Indian book trade so it is up to PRH to work effectively with all our customers – both distributors and bookstores and booksellers – to streamline this in a way which functions to ensure optimum supply of our books to market.
Fundamentally, we want to ensure the best possible sales for all our titles and so it is PRH’s responsibility to work to support all areas of retail – both physical and online – to get books into our customers hands as easily as possible.
How has the market evolved over the last 5 years? Do you feel that digital education is a force to reckon with or will it still take some time to be successful?
Over the last 5 years the retail landscape in publishing has changed dramatically. We have seen a huge shift in the way in which consumers buy books – both in terms of the purchasing of physical books moving from just brick and mortar stores to include online retail, as well as the entry of ebooks into the market.
Within this market news areas and genres of publishing have also blossomed. The lifestyle section, in which PRHI’s Ebury & Metro reads imprints are the leading publishers, has been particularly successful along with the rise of local commercial fiction.
Digital education is an interesting space and one that is just starting to grow in India. Penguin Random House doesn’t specifically publish into the educational market.
What kinds of innovations are required to keep up with changing market trends? In a price sensitive market like India, do you feel that it limits the scope of innovation?
Key to keeping up with changing market trends is understanding what our readers and customers want. Our editors therefore spend large amounts of time identifying new areas and topics for publishing and searching out the country’s finest writers and experts. We also work hard on connecting directly with readers through social media and online platforms to understand what they want, as well as to inform them about our new products.
Innovation doesn’t necessarily require large budgets and working in a price sensitive market doesn’t mean that we are constricted in terms of trying new things. Over the last couple of months alone we have done numerous publishing firsts in India, both in terms of our books and products and the way they have been promoted. For example, we have produced our first enhanced ebook – for Sudeep Nagarakar’s “It Started With a Friend Request”; we collaborated with Times Music and popular musician Shaan to release an album of music inspired by Ravinder Singh’s latest novel, “Like It Happened Yesterday”; a series of tie-ups marked the launch of Bollywood superstar Karisma Kapoor’s new book- My Yummy Mummy Guide: BabyOye.com (a leading online retailer of parenting products) will run promotional campaigns on their social media pages, run Google ads and organise a Google Hangout with Karisma. 92.7 BIG FM, a popular radio station, will also have Karisma Kapoor talking about the book on a show where she is the Radio Jockey; and we released Hitched: A Modern Woman’s Guide to Arranged Marriage exclusively with Flipkart – launched with a Google hangout interview with Ashwin Sanghi – and then tied up with shaadi.com to promote the book through their social media.
What kind of changes do you feel are required from the government to ensure a healthy growth rate for this sector in India?
Piracy continues to be a serious threat to the industry and we need policies to take up strongly the need to eradicate piracy.
Providing Education to the masses is also essential to ensure we have a growing reader base.
How does a company like yours take care of their talent requirements?
I firmly believe that PRH has some of the finest staff working in Indian publishing today and we focus very hard on retaining the talent that we already possess by providing the best working environment possible.
The publishing industry in India is quite small so when looking for new employees to bring to PRH we not only search within the existing industry, but also bring in people with relevant skills from other areas.
As part of a global company, there is also the possibility of sharing talent (and expertise) across our various regions.
How do you feel does the Search landscape need to evolve to suit the changing needs of clients?
I think that the key to serving the client most effectively is truly understanding their business and requirements for each individual role. Publishing is an industry that is evolving quickly and because of this it requires a whole variety of new skill sets in a number of different roles. Anyone assisting in finding people for their roles will need an appreciation of what the job entails and a vision to see how people working in other industries may be able to convert these to publishing.
Finally on an informal note, how does your average day look like? What keeps you occupied when you are not at work?
I am an early riser and like to start my day very early as our offices are located in Noida and Delhi and I happen to live in Gurgaon. So on the average, when am not shuffling between offices, I tend to spend a lot of the day on the road people watching and when not navigating traffic I spend my time at home seeing my kids grow and watching Liverpool FC evolve as a football club!